You may not have heard of developer One Hamsa yet, but once you wrap your fists around the controls of their newest title UNDERDOGS, this scrappy indie studio is sure to catch your attention in a big way. As the name hints at, UNDERDOGS tosses players into the pilot seat of a hulking mech, or “Rilla” as they call it, then kicks off a robot underground fight club that would make Elon Musk proud.
Yep, it’s a mechanized boxing match down in the gritty underbelly of this dystopian future city. But One Hamsa injects their signature flair into the action with physics-based brawling where your real-world swings and uppercuts directly control the battle-bot.
So limber up those arms, because to take down the killer robots in this rogue-like arena fighter, you’ll need to give as good as you get. From the teased glimpses so far, it’s clear One Hamsa is ready to go a few rounds with the heavy hitters of VR gaming. But does UNDERDOGS have what it takes to come out on top? Let’s step into the ring and find out…
Escaping to the Last Bastion of Humanity
The backdrop for all this high-octane robot boxing is a dystopian future where AI has taken over and the last vestiges of human civilization have hunkered down in one final city, aptly named New Brakka. Our heroes are two scrappy brothers trying to flee the robot overlords and make it to this final outpost, but the only passage is through competing in the illegal underground mech fighting pits. So the narrative thrust pushes you ever forward as you battle your way closer to New Brakka and sanctuary.
It’s a simple premise brought to life through gorgeously gritty comic book cutscenes between fights. These storyboards mix stylish painted artwork with photos of the two brothers, helping further build out these characters and make you root for their success. The voice acting also lends authenticity to these two unlawful combatants. While the plot overall sticks to the tried and true formula of “big tournament to save the world” it’s orchestrated with such oozing atmosphere and attitude that it feels fresh.
What’s more, the consistency between the look and feel of the cutscenes with the interactive arenas creates impressive worldbuilding immersion. As the thumping synth soundtrack kicks in and the lights of the arena power up, you instantly buy into this whole battlebot fight culture that’s grown out of the ashes of humanity’s lost dominance. One Hamsa makes it easy to get lost in this grimy future they’ve constructed, eager to keep throwing fists if it gets our scrappy crew one step closer to freedom.
“Get your adrenaline pumping with our Gassed Up review. Follow the high-speed chase through London’s criminal underworld. A story of redemption, fast bikes, and even faster lives.”
Steel Fists Bring the Pain
The core gameplay loop of UNDERDOGS will feel familiar to veterans of the rogue-like genre. You battle through procedurally generated arenas, taking on waves of enemies before facing off against a final boss stage. Rinse and repeat. But the devil is in the details of each mechanical fist pound and rocket powered punch One Hamsa has cooked up.
The fights themselves are intuitive chaos, thanks to control mechanics clearly inspired by the Ape adventure Gorilla Tag. You grab and grip the two joysticks inside your mech cockpit to sync the arm movements of your Rilla battle bot. Dodge left, swing right, uppercut and leap across the arena by simply doing those motions with your own arms. This tight fusion of player and machine makes reflexively bashing bots as natural as swatting flies. Well, killer robot flies with gnashing metal teeth anyway.
The pace alternates between these physical flurries of pugilistic mayhem and slower periods to upgrade weapons, buff stats, and repair your damaged mech. These RPG-esque decisions add variety and long-term strategy to your build. Do you want tank strength or agile speed? Long range plasma cannons or brutal metal cleavers up close? There’s mech loadouts and playstyles for every type of fighter.
The enemies you face run the gamut from quick agile pest bots to hulking heavyweight champs that hit like a Mac truck. Bosses in particular will test your coordination and reaction time as you learn their patterns and openings. Luckily any damage you sustain between matches can be patched up with spare parts and scrap metal. But avoid too many haymakers and you might find yourself limping into the next fight at less than full strength.
Through it all these physics-based battles create kinetic clashes that really sell the feeling of guiding a multi-ton war machine through the gears of mechanized war. It’s easy to lose yourself in the piston-pump action One Hamsa has crafted. So strap in and get those arms loosened up. Time to brawl!
The Agony and Ecstasy of Randomized Mayhem
Part of the addictive push and pull of rogue-likes is the random factors that keep each run unexpected. UNDERDOGS leans hard into this slot machine appeal with the myriad ways you can trick out your mech between matches forming endless loadout possibilities. The procedural generation means no two bouts will ever be the same.
The shopping list of weapons, perks, parts, and upgrades seems endless. Do you want a power fist or laser chainsaw? Shield boost or damage buff? Agility perk or strength upgrade? The choices available after each arena match shape your strategy on the fly. This also means some randomized rolls will favor your Rilla, while others can leave you limping along with glitchy cannons and a busted knee joint. Such is the gamble every mech jockey takes.
An extra mode added outside the main campaign also speaks to the depth of customization possible. Skirmish lets you take any unlocked weapons and parts into timed arena survival battles. So that super OP combo you stumbled on once is saved for your amusement when needed. It’s a nice outlet between story runs.
Because the underlying foundation of 360 degree physics fisticuffs is so viscerally pleasing, One Hamsa knows players will be back for more. New enemies, surprise modifiers, and an ever-changing repertoire of gear keeps the replay compulsively tasty. There’s always the hope just one more successful run will unveil an elite weapon or badass exoskeletal upgrade that takes your mech to the next level. Hardcore rogue fans will surely be back here as much as the underground fighting pits.
The procedural possibilities combined with engaging core mechanics amounts to a wicked one-two punch of entertainment. UNDERDOGS has that blessed “just one more run” aura about it which speaks to fundamentally solid game design. The randomized chaos reveals itself in thrilling new ways while never losing the physical and fun mech combat at its heart.
A Feast for the Senses
It’s clear One Hamsa put care and attention into all aspects of UNDERDOGS’ presentation because both visually and audibly this thing sizzles. The gritty, graffiti-esque art direction stands out from the usual shiny futurechrome aesthetics of most sci-fi. Bathed in moody oranges and neon hues, the grungy fight pits and mechanical beasts who inhabit them feel alive. Extra props go to the comic book stylings of the story beats with a dazzling fusion of vibrant paintings and photographic character art.
These graphic sensibilities extend into the 3D gameplay as well with impressively detailed mech and enemy models bringing a palpable sense of atmosphere. One can almost smell the oil and burning steel. On a technical level, the frame rate impressively holds up even when the action gets intensely chaotic. Only an occasional hitch or stutter creeps in to mar the lovely visual fluidity.
The audio supporting these brawls also punches way above its weight class. Sound design elicits all the appropriate metallic crunching and hydraulic punching such mechanoid tussling suggests while my surround sound system had fun with the cavernous acoustics of the arenas. The synth soundtrack finds that sweet spot between grim industrial grind and pulse pounding hero music to drive the action forward. And a tip of the hat to the voice actors lending genuine personality through the battles and cutscenes alike.
Across the board, One Hamsa nailed both style AND substance with UNDERDOGS’ presentation, crafting a dystopian future that assaults the senses in all the right ways. A fantastic realized vision dripping with personality that sucks players into each and every metal on metal match-up. The possibilities of VR visual splendor find themselves wonderfully realized here.
More Mayhem on the Horizon
As it stands Out of the box, UNDERDOGS already delivers hours of explosive robo-boxing action across a slew of imaginative enemies and ever-changing randomized runs. But based on developer interviews, One Hamsa is far from done expanding this scrappy fight universe.
The team teased upcoming support for PvP battles allowing players to finally pit their custom Rilla builds against friends. No word yet on the structure but one can easily imagine bracket style tournaments with global leaderboards or even 2 vs 2 team rumbles. The possibilities are wide open and wildly exciting.
Even without competitive multiplayer, there remains ample room to grow the current campaign model. Additional arenas set in decaying cityscapes or compact storage warehouses could offer environmental variables to enhance tactics. More enemy classes running the gamut from four armed luchador bots to lithe assassin mechanoids wielding energized whips would pad the bestiary.
And the procedural loot/upgrade system lends itself perfectly to continuing progression with new part sets, weapon types, and pilot perks layered in post-launch. One Hamsa has crafted such a strong core framework here that UNDERDOGS could expand for months if not years down the road.
While definitely a complete package on day one, the future looks promising for UNDERDOGS to stack new ideas and content on top of an already stellar robot wrestling foundation. Here’s hoping One Hamsa continues backing this metallic slugfest well into the future.
The Champ Has Entered the Ring
When all is said and done, One Hamsa clearly has a heavyweight contender on their hands with UNDERDOGS. It swings into the burgeoning VR rogue-like arena with an impressive 1-2 punch of fantastically realized presentation and intensely kinetic physics-based combat. Getting lost for hours in the grimy underground mech fight clubs proves an easy feat.
While it follows the procedurally generated structure of many genre staples before it, the limb-flailing battles sell a raw connection between player and machine unmatched in current VR offerings. Couple this with the sinister style dripping from each comic book cutscene and hard synth soundtrack, and UNDERDOGS enters the battle royale with confidence and polish.
Fans of heavy metal slugfests surely have a new champion to rally behind. But the possibilities still feel endless for One Hamsa to build on these firm foundations in exciting ways. With a willingness to push VR experimentation and expand the universe they’ve crafted, UNDERDOGS deserves every bit of attention and acclaim thrown its way. And suggests its scrappy creators still have plenty more rounds left to go.
So all you armchair mech jockeys and rogue-like enthusiasts searching for a new obsession, look no further. UNDERDOGS awaits with meaty metal mitts hung high, ready to bump fists and throw down. Step on up for a riveting ride at the bleeding edge of VR innovation and physicality. Where every clash and explosion earns that sweet taste of hard fought victory. Let the battle commence!
In the end, UNDERDOGS knocks it out of the park by delivering intensely satisfying robo fisticuffs fused with CCaa compelling dystopian backdrop. The physics-based battles truly shine as a showcase of VR innovation and immersive action. Smart expansion of the procedural fights via RPG elements and customization add plenty of replay value to an already addictive core. And the top notch presentation across the board, from graphics to game feel, bring this grim future to vivid life. For the sheer visceral thrill of its kinetic combat, the potential still untapped in its gritty universe, and an overall polish well beyond its indie studio origins, I'm giving UNDERDOGS a knockout rating of 9 out of 10. This rogue-like ring king may still have some fights left to climb into the pantheon of all-time VR greats. But as it stands now, this scrappy title has "future champion" written all over it.
- Innovative and extremely responsive motion-controlled combat
- Great roguelike elements provide high replay value
- Impressive visuals and audio fully immerse you in the gritty world
- Physics-based battles feel intensely visceral and satisfying
- Only two main arenas so environments can feel repetitive
- Story and characters are a bit basic and underdeveloped
- Occasional bugs, crashes and performance issues