Searching for eggs Under the Warehouse.
So I don’t really know what I just played. Quirky and weird? Yes. Engaging and fun? Less so. This is a game that seems to revel in being weird at the expense of being an arguably good game. Whilst there were elements I enjoyed, Under the Warehouse feels more like an art project with some game mechanics strapped onto it rather than a piece of interactive entertainment.
You start by answering a phone that directs you to meet someone in an alley. Following the paths and solving a simple puzzle brings you before a child who asks you to find a mysterious colourful egg from the basement under a nearby warehouse. No further explanation is given, so off you trot to follow the bidding of Weird Alley Kid. Upon arrival, you’ll be in a foyer where solving a couple of simple puzzles will allow you access to the warehouse proper so that your search can begin.
At its core, Under the Warehouse is a puzzle game where you need to find the appropriate items to unlock the next area and move forward. Interestingly, nothing is explained to you and you have no objective markers, meaning you have to mentally keep track of where you’re trying to get to and what’s preventing you from getting there. This is a nice throwback to older puzzle adventure games where you actually need to think rather than being pointed in the right direction.
The problem is that after the initial couple of puzzles, things become really quite esoteric. There’s a door that you can’t open because it’s frozen. The logical assumption is to melt the ice using fire. You may find that you can light a candle on a birthday cake so perhaps that could do the job, but it won’t. The actual solution is to set fire to a rusty key that you have and then use that on the door. Many of the puzzles are quite convoluted, leaning into the mad logic that old adventure games might have had, something that I often describe as “guess what the dev was thinking puzzles”.
Others are far quicker and simpler though. There’s a vicious dog blocking your path — don’t worry, there’s no death here — so you might think you need to distract it with a bone. Luckily, you can find one conveniently lying around and merrily carry on. There are wild difficulty swings with these puzzles that really put me off. Even more irritating is that a lot of these puzzles require you to find items that aren’t terribly easy to spot amongst cluttered environments. Interactive elements often blend in with what’s around them, and only truly bizarre things really stand out. A big machine with eyes and a mouth is a great example of something I could see easily, but a trapdoor on the floor of a messy, convoluted office area is much harder to spot. I’m not asking for everything to be highlighted, but things need to be clear enough for me to not need to scour the whole environment. Luckily, some of the characters you speak to will give you enough of a hint to work out what to get up to next, but this is hardly reliable. I don’t have a problem with challenging puzzles, just so long as they make sense.
Those characters can be quite fun to interact with though. When I describe this game as weird, I really do mean it. The warehouse is a strange place, with all sorts of things going on. There’s an escaped giant slug, a huge man there to help shift boxes, and no one actually knows what’s in any of the boxes or why they’re even working there. I won’t spoil too much, as some of the oddities need to be seen with no preamble to get the full impact of them, but if you do decide to give Under the Warehouse a go, you’ll have moments of amazement and confusion at some of the things you come across.
The visuals have that low-poly look from the PS1 era that’s quite popular right now, and I think it’s quite fitting with the experimental feeling nature of the game. They aren’t gorgeous, but they are thematic, so I’d argue they work well. The music is nice too, but you’ll hear the same looped track more than a few times as you explore. I’d have liked a few more sound effects too, just to enhance the ambience.
What I could have done with less of though, were the bugs. This game broke for me on one occasion, forcing a restart when I used a battery to start a machine working, only to return to it five minutes later to find the battery vanished with no way to get a new one. Then on my restarted playthrough I found a couple of the puzzles had already been completed, whilst others hadn’t. It was odd and more than a little annoying to have to reset my progress. Still, this is arguably a fairly short game, so catching up on that progress didn’t take a huge amount of time.
Under the Warehouse is a hard recommendation. It’s certainly one of the more unique puzzle games I’ve played, up there with the likes of Paratopic in terms of strangeness. It’s just that the weirdly convoluted puzzles let it down somewhat. Suppose you want something utterly different to anything you’ve played before though. In that case, this is certainly worth a look, even more so when you consider there are four endings to see — with a nice way to skip the early stages and get to the ending decision once you’ve finished it once. Just be prepared to wander the hallways for a while as you get your brain in gear.