Underworld Trip


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Rating: 3.7/5 (83 votes)
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PsychotronicUnderworld TripI know what you've been pondering at the back of your mind: "Mario dies a lot, right? What if, instead of instantly reappearing at the beginning of the level, he had to earn his reincarnation by traveling the realms of the Chinese underworld Diyu, being judged by the kings of Yama?" Well, here's a game about that very thing!

Underworld Trip, a collaboration between Yoshio Ishii and Yossa, is a moody platform challenge with graphics made out of the largest pixels ever engineered by mortal humans. This story is similar to Terry Cavanagh's Don't Look Back in theme and style, but it draws on a different mythological tradition and lays on the atmosphere much thicker.

There are 8 tricky levels and multiple endings, some of which are quite disturbing in a low-resolution, leave-the-horror-to-your-imagination way. It's a short adventure, and some of the obstacles flirt with cheapness, but there's a nice variety of classic platforming goodness here, and it's always a pleasure to see a new piece of work from Nekogames.

Play Underworld Trip

46 Comments

I didn't bother finishing. This game commits too many sins of bad level design.

Hazards that come out of nowhere and don't give you a chance to dodge (I'm looking at you, meteor at the very end of the volcano level).

Starting the player off on a tiny platform so if they're still holding right after they restart they die again.

Poor air control so once you're in midair you're helpless if you made a mistake in your timing (glares at the swords, the spikes, the jumping fireballs, etc).

Leaps of faith: One forgivable, one not so much. One you simply have to leap as far as possible, the second is onto a moving platform which moves offscreen sometimes so you don't know what to do.

I'll take your word for it that it's an interesting and symbolic game, but I'm not happy with it.

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Ithmeer Author Profile Page May 17, 2009 6:38 PM

I enjoyed it, but it was far too short. Only took me around 10 minutes. I liked Don't Look Back a bit more than this one because it wasn't quite as easy as this one. Nice find yet again.

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I could be wrong, but there seems to be 7 endings, depending on which gate you enter at the end.

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I agree with Aegeus. The jumping mechanics were so odd that it took many deaths on the fireball level to adapt to it. In the air, your horizontal speed doesn't change when you release the forwards key, so you have to either make a perfect jump or try to scoot backwards before you land. It's just messy.

I was disappointed by the ending, and am not motivated enough to play through it again to see the other endings.

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I agree the jumping required a soft yet deliberate touch, but I enjoyed it enough to play through several times.

It was just frustrating enough to give satisfaction when you manage to clear a level, and yet none of the levels were long enough to make failure feel unbearable.

The variety of perils you face made each level feel fresh and different.

I also enjoyed the very different cultural perspective, as this was very likely inspired by Don't Look Back.

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I really enjoyed it. The style was great and I didn't think the gaming mechanics were as bad as some of the above posters make out.

This is one of more and more indie games coming out these days with a focus more on art than on amusement.

I would like an interpretation of it's meaning though - anyone?

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ganondorf champion not logged May 17, 2009 8:23 PM

I have an idea. Since I really don't want to play again everybody most chose a door and say whats behind it in spoilers

1st door:

blue demons impaling humans that appear to be without clothes on metal spears. All that insane platforming just for eternal damnation. Yeah.

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Liam - take a look at the wiki page that Psychotronic linked to in the first paragraph, I think that describes a lot of what you're seeing in this game.

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ganondorf champion not logged May 17, 2009 8:35 PM

3rd door:

green sky over a mud plain. I'm all alone. Is this a good or bad ending?

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Very cool! But not so cool that I would play it 8 times just to see all of the different poorly-rendered "endings".

I have to say I think it seems to be a trend on these comment boards that people sometimes say a game is poorly made when it's hard... I think we take for granted that many of the play mechanics that we think are necessary for "correct" implementation are really just convention. Take "air control", for instance: according to Newton's First Law, there should be no player control once you're already in the air. Any control you do get is basically a design choice or a gift.

Ultimately, the game was totally playable, though it did take a little tedious repetition to get all the levels down... you couldn't really one-shot any of them unless you got pretty lucky. I guess I just hail from a gaming era in which that sort of play was the norm. I'm glad not all games are like this now, but people should recognize that it's not a programming failure, it's a design choice, and it's not poor design, it's just design you personally don't like. And you're perfectly entitled to that opinion.

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Gate 5 (lowest one)

Exact same as 1...

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jnlouie May 17, 2009 10:35 PM

I think if you know how to get past each level, it starts to get pretty simple. I was able to get through the whole game with 2 deaths total. Just takes a little experimentation. Also, about the endings...

I think they're random because I went into the third gate and it showed what I would imagine to be the "happy" ending rather than the green sky as ganondorf mentioned. I think this also because I went into two different doors and got the same ending.

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2nd door:

you are in some kind of desolate landscape surrounded by sprawled-out weird blue creatures, who appear to be pregnant.

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hikari no sakura Author Profile Page May 17, 2009 10:49 PM

Ugh, this is platforming hell - literally. Not one for "casual" (read: bad) platforming skills like mine.

The idea is interesting though, portraying the Chinese/Buddhist Hell concept in a platforming game. Although why can you die in Hell itself is beyond me...

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I don't see the character as dying on failure, but rather put back to the beginning of the level to go through the same (hell) again and again until atonement (success) is achieved.

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Did anybody else have a major problem with the game changing speeds at odd moments? I kept finding that my character sped up, and the controls became much, much more twitchy, when the screen was not scrolling, at the very beginning and very end of levels. Frustrating as hell on the platforming levels, when I was mid-leap-correction to a final platform and found myself barreling at warp speed instead of the slow-and-dreamlike speed at which the rest of the levels came.

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scottique - Could it be that you had other applications open at the same time, or other browser tabs open, or any other windows that may be vying for CPU time?

Sometimes when I'm running a lot of things in the background, Flash will pause slightly on me like that.

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RexiaXIV May 18, 2009 12:17 AM

I gave it a 4/5 in the beginning because this game was pretty interesting and I didn't have much trouble. Once I got to the

meteor and the fireball

stage (stage 6) I had a lot of trouble.

It was incredibly frustrating because you had to be really exact and the platforms were small. I better stop playing. ._.; The quality was pretty interesting though and I didn't find the sound annoying. I'm glad I can redo the stage if I die.

*OKAY, CALMED DOWN A BIT*

I do not think that this is a bad game. It is hard later on, but it's a pretty interesting idea expressed in a unique way. A tad hard to understand what's going on if you don't pay attention, but it's okay.

Even though one level made me want to punch the screen after dying 25 times, I think it's a decent game and I'm glad you put it up. I'm just really tired and I'm not playing my best. xD;;
If things were switched a bit (like taking out the unpredictable things. I'M TALKING ABOUT YOU,

EVIL METEOR THAT KILLS RIGHT AT THE END OF THE STAGE AND EVIL SWORD THAT STABS ME WHEN I JUMP ON THE LEDGE AT STAGE 1

), this game would be more playable.

Scottique: I never had that problem. O_o Sounds like lag?

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Difficult jumps with small margins for error aren't really all that unfair: you know what you have to do with no surprises that kill you randomly like critical hits or invisible blocks.

Leaps of faith on to small moving platforms a screen below are unfair, but unlimited lives can help with sudden traps you didn't know of before: it just turns the game into a matter of trial-and-error (which can be annoying to some).

The game sounds frustrating, but ultimately enjoyable. Are large pixels a workable medium for the motif they had in mind?

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Anonymous May 18, 2009 1:26 AM

Another ending (top door furthest to the left, after LOTS of dying):

There is a hellish landscape with dismembered bodies and body parts all around, and a huge 8-armed red demon wielding several swords.

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Anonymous May 18, 2009 2:22 AM

It's a timing game, with unfamiliar physics - left/right accelerate you instead of instantly changing velocity. You also seem to skid a bit when you land.

I really enjoyed the faux-res graphics (blocky graphics with fine movement). It makes it feel like a tiny, self-contained universe to me.

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after playing i wanna be the guy this game feels like a vacation
Oh and on the last gate, yes the very right game it seems like im under the sea watching giant Chinese words

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The "pregnant-looking blue guys" are probably Pretas. They're not pregnant, they're hungry.

I think this is a vital clue to understanding the game's ending - not what determines which ending you get, but certainly what we're supposed to be looking at. You get reincarnated into one of the Six Realms: the Pretas realm is one such realm. There's also the Hells, or Naraka, the realm of Beasts, the realm of Asuras (demons), the realm of Humans, and the realm of Devas (gods).

The one with the demons impaling people on spears is likely Naraka, while the one with the field of dismembered corpses and the eight-armed figure is the realm of Asuras (the eight-armed figure is pretty much your typical depiction of an Asura).

Though that doesn't account for eight endings total. Maybe some screenshots could help? As it just so happens, I can read (or at least recognize) kanji...the captions that appear in the endings could explain everything.

(The ones at the start of each stage say something like "Day X of Seven", where X is the stage number. Written in kanji, of course.)

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Anonymous May 18, 2009 5:26 AM

Maybe the ending is determined by:

Which level you die in the most?

Wanted: Arty games with actually good gameplay.

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zbeeblebrox Author Profile Page May 18, 2009 6:10 AM

Completely disagree with the assessment that the jumping controls are "bad".

The trick is to jump first, then hit forward. That's how you get full control of jumping movement. It's not immediately intuitive, but it works perfectly fine once you figure it out, and in a way, exactly fits the theme of the game. It's kinda cool, actually.

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Stepanov May 18, 2009 7:45 AM

Endings don't seem to be determined by what door you enter.

1st attempt:

The battleground with the naga thing

2nd attempt:

The start of super mario brothers lol

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The height of your jump depends on how long you press down the UP key. I time small jumps (and avoid overshooting) by just holding forward and releasing the UP key just after one-third of the distance to your target.

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I ended up

on a field surrounded by what I think were gray pigs. Realm of animals, maybe? I did get killed by those stupid birds a lot that time.

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Anonymous May 18, 2009 12:12 PM

I've played this thing many times through and I still can't find the actual pattern of the endings.

I do know that if you go through without dying, you will end up in "sky road" (heaven) where there are pink flowers and two buddha looking silhouettes in the background.
The other endings I've encountered are:

the "human road" which is the start of Mario.
the "hungry ghost road" which is the the blue monsters with the belly
the "ashura(?) road" which has the red multi-armed monster which I assume is Ashura
the "animal road" with the gray pigs

there is also a glitch where if you jump as far as you can to the right at the spot right before the game stops you to take off your clothes in the second stage, your character freezes up and you have to restart after the thing takes your clothes.

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Anonymous May 18, 2009 12:25 PM

It does seem like there are six endings based on the six realms of Buddhist reincarnation:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Six_realms

I've seen all six, but am still not sure about the mechanism for determining which one you end up with. My guess is that it has to do with the meaning of each realm and how you die.

For example, when I died 50 times off the opening ledge in stage 4 and when I died 30 times jumping into the birds, I ended up with the animal realm both times, which according to the wikipedia article, "is based on strong mental states of stupidity"

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jnlouie May 18, 2009 12:32 PM

I think it is based on deaths. I didn't die at all twice and I managed to get...

...to nirvana or something like it...I think... it was all yellow and baby blue with two brownish figures in the background

It almost seems as if the gates don't really matter since I went into the first one, then the second one both with no deaths and got the same ending.

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I didn't think the platforming was too hard. You get harder platforming than this in the first 10 minutes of any SNES platformer.

I also always appreciate games that incite research. I couldn't play two minutes of the game before getting a feeling that I want to know what all this is about. Now I know what Diyu is. Cool.

What I didn't appreciate is being forced through the game 8 frikkin times to see all the endings. Two, three, ok, but eight? Come on. If someone could post the pics or at least descriptions of all the "endings" that would be cool indeed.

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There's a spoiler on the game page about the endings:

There are 6 endings and 6 gates.

If you manage to pass the game without dying you will get the "TEN DO" ending, regardless of the gate.

If you get killed by less or equal then 5 times, you will get the "JIN DO" ending.

If you get killed more then 5 times, then gates 1-4 each give their own ending (JIGOKU DO, GAKI DO, CHIKUSHO DO, SHURA DO). The remaining two gates will give you a random ending from those four.

Now if someone could explain all the levels and all those DO's in detail..

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Yeah, you guys are right. Terrible level design. It's way too hard. In fact, it'd be much easier if they took the gaps out between platforms, and got rid of all the birds and fireballs and stuff. That'd clearly be a much better game.

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LOL. Finally someone talking sense! :D

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ganondox May 18, 2009 3:22 PM

Jigoku do is the torture demon ending.

Chinkusha do is the green shy ending.

Unless they are out of order.

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Brandon May 18, 2009 11:42 PM

I didn't find it that hard, except for the jumping. But it did feel like they wanted to make a platformer, got bored halfway through, and decided to make it "ironically bad." The only thing that looked like they tried was the music.

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Yeah, I was gonna point out the "Spoilers About Ending", but it seems a bit more explanation is still needed. Thank God I played The Journeyman Project 3: Legacy of Time. :3 (Its description of the Six Realms is just about the only thing it says about Buddhism that you don't have to take with a grain of salt. It's DESIRE that causes suffering, not IGNORANCE. :P)

Right, onto the explanation. One thing that the ending spoilers does NOT mention is the name of the final stage: "Inka Ouhou", "Karmic Retribution". Which should probably have been a clue. ^_^;

Miss 0 Times: All doors lead to Ten-Dou (Deva-gati), Heaven (or the realm of the gods).

Miss Less Than 5 Times: All doors lead to Jin-Dou (Manusya-gati), the Human Realm.

Miss 5 Or More Times: The exits are as follows:

Door 1 (far left): Jigoku-Dou (Naraka-gati), Hell
Door 2 (top-left): Gaki-Dou (Preta-gati), the realm of the Pretas (hungry ghosts, known as Gaki in Japanese)
Door 3 (bottom-left): Chikushou-Dou (Tiryagyoni-gati), the realm of beasts.
Door 4 (top-right): Shura-Dou (Asura-gati), the realm of the Asuras (or demons).
Doors 5 and 6 (bottom-right and far right): Randomly selected from the above four.

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Anyone got the Ten Do ending?

Btw, Jin Do is:

The first screen of Super Mario Bros. :)

Also, the only level then is constantly stopping me from Ten Do is the meteor one. I still haven't found the fool-proof way to pass it without dying.

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Ah, the power of posting. The Ten Do is:

All shiny and white, with purple flowers in the "foreground" and two floating yellow angelic figures.

I think its kinda the least interesting one, at least for the player. The big nosed dude is probably enjoying the lack of horrific things, though.

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You'll notice that the first thing you hear upon starting the game is the death music from Super Mario Bros. ^_^

I remember once trying an online RPG called Legends of Kesmai that took more or less this approach to dying. You didn't respawn, you reincarnated. And you had to fight like hell to do so. :P

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Mh, in fact, I found the game kind of dull.
Once you got into the jump physics, it was not that hard (yeah, yeah, spikes, some random obstacles, but c'mon, all you have to do is to keep the right button pressed, jump sometimes and sometimes break in mid-air withe left button. Since the obstacles appear random, you will usually get through the level in 1 or 2 times) and also pretty short and repetitive.

Plus, all I get in the end is a dull image and nothing else? Without any indication that I might want to die less often to get a better ending? Sorry, but that is nowhere near a rewarding ending, which makes the game even more meh than it is already.

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what's the connection to don't look back? i don't really see any similarity, apart from the graphics and the fact that both are platformers.

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the frustation is greater than the wish to see the ending(s).

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Got the Ten do ending :D I think I had a lot of luck with the meteor level

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