I can say without doubt that Escape from the Underworld is the best Indie Metroidvania to ever be made in MS Paint. Not exactly a bold statement, but a true one. What the game’s art lacks, it makes up for in clever ideas. Well, okay, clever idea. Singular. But it’s a good one!
The game begins with your character, an angel, walking in a peaceful field. You quickly find a village with MS Paint People shuffling around. It would be a disservice to ruin what happens next, but the short version is that you get stripped of your powers Metroid-style and dumped off in the titular underworld. It’s pretty great, and if nothing else, you owe it to yourself to download the game and play the first few minutes just to see what happens.
The surprising opening is easily the best moment of the game. Despite peaking early, the game itself is not all that bad. Let’s address the elephant in the room: the art is rather crappy looking. There’s not much you can say there. It’s worth noting that this game was created for the website IndieKombat.com. Developer Banov only had a month to complete this game, while another developer had a month to complete another game (which then “face off” and people vote for whichever one they liked more). Maybe he could’ve cranked out something better looking, sure. But I don’t blame the guy. A month isn’t a lot of time to conceive, plan, and then create a game. Something had to take a hit and it was the art. The shoddy art never gets in the way of the game being fun, so it’s kind of irrelevant. The music in the game, limited though it may be, is pretty good as well.
There’s not a helluva a lot else to say about Escape from the Underworld, to be honest. It’s as by-the-numbers as a Metroidvania can get. You get a map almost immediately and use it to navigate a fairly small world. Occasionally, there are spikes. They hurt. You go through the various poorly drawn areas and fight simplistic looking enemies while regaining your former powers. You use your powers to access new areas and get even newer powers, and so on. If you’ve played any Metroid titles or any of the more recent Castlevanias, you know what to expect. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. It’s fun for what it is, even if it’s not terribly original (aside from it’s opening). Plus, it has the honor of being the best piece of media ever made with “escape” in the title.
Well…okay, good point. Escape from the Underworld may not be all the remarkable of a game, but it’s still worth playing. The game is extraordinarily short, lasting somewhere between 30 minutes to an hour. Come on. 30 minutes? You’ve got 30 minutes. 30 minutes is all it takes to experience what is in essence a smaller scale Metroid story arc. You start off all-powerful, lose it all, gain it all back (and then some), and defeat the final boss. There’s some cool music, and the opening is really surprising and fantastic and I am trying SO HARD not to spoil it. Does the game stand out in any particular way? No. Is it my Game of the Year? No. But the hour I spent playing it was fun and it was free. What the hell else do you want?