Under What? Visual Novel Indie Game Review
Under what? is a visual novel created by Dan Gartman which tells the tale of the death of a fisherman in a comedic way while retaining a deep and powerful narrative. The game which is available for free to download on Itch took me exactly 6 minutes to complete. I believe I will remember this game for a long time to come because it’s art and user interaction contribute to it’s story rather than just complement it which makes it even more powerful.
Under What Feedback
I adore this game so, in order to retain journalistic integrity, I’ll start with my main criticism. It’s dialogue is obviously not written by someone who’s first language is english as the syntax is peculiar. However I’ve decided that, after my third playthrough, that this really just adds culture to the game.
While reading through some of it’s 140 reviews on steam (87% positive) I found that the major criticism is that a philosophical question asked in the dialogue doesn’t mean anything however the fisherman actually says this himself. This is the point of the game as I explain in the next paragraph.
Let me go into artistic over analysis mode for a moment. One of the main themes of this short game is the inevitability of death. As in all text adventures the player clicks forward however with this game your choices don’t matter. They simply unlock further dialogue options but all options eventually carry on the story without effecting it. While this could just be a dev wanting to get a polished game out quickly, I feel this is similar to how there’s nothing we can do to stop death and I think that while he probably wouldn’t care the fisherman had accepted that by the end.
The art is truly intertwined with the story in not one but two ways. It helps to create more powerful scenes for example when the fisherman falls it happens on a smaller, vertical canvas. This makes it feel far more.. lonely, this ofcourse represents the character of the fisherman at the time of his death. While there are only 2 characters, the other is presented equally vividly as an old friend of the fisherman with a sense of humor which perfectly contrasts with the grumbliness of the old man.
In addition it creates humor such as the other character being a talking fish which creates a sense of irony. This image also contributes towards the idea that we are all equal in the end as we all die. This game certainly has some very philosophical themes to it’s story line.
The most superb thing about this game is that it stands strongly just as a visual novel with fantastic framing and a unique artstyle as you can see in the image below.
The soundtrack is rather mysterious but also in a strange way rather calming which complements the game nicely because it is equally mysterious.
As mentioned this game is not easy to interpret and most would say I’m over interpreting it. However, I believe that the fact that this has multiple possible meanings is simply a compliment to Gartman’s writing.
If you have 5 minutes this is a great experience that I certainly reccomend.
Dev’s Twitter: https://twitter.com/danygartman OR
Dev’s Website: https://fireart.games/