Below feels like a remnant of video games before the internet. A time where secrets were shared on the school playground rather than an online forum or twitter. It’s a game that for better and for worse, forces you to only use your brain and wits to figure it out. Those with the patience will prosper on the adventure while those that don’t will most likely stay in the first area. Below starts off in one of the most bizarre openings that will probably turn off a bunch of people from the get-go and that’s going to be the trend for the game. You see upon starting, you spend a solid 5 minutes doing nothing as a camera zooms in on your character’s boat arriving on an island. From a creator’s standpoint, it’s an interesting way to show just how small you are in a large world but as a player, it sure didn’t need to be 5 minutes long. It can be a rough start. Once you finally get to the island and can move around, you’re left to explore and solve its mysteries.At its core, Below is a roguelike survival game with some rpg elements. You arrive on the island with a handful of tools like a bow, a lantern, and a shield, your basic necessities. However, you’ll have to deal with the basic troupes of any survival game, a thirst and hunger meter that you have to keep up with. Luckily I didn’t find them to be that intrusive to become an annoyance, so long as I stocked up on water near rivers and on animal meat, I was good to go. That’s actually where the crafting system comes into to play. Along with food, you can craft together items for your adventure out of the items you in the world. This is all done at campfires that also act as teleporters that illuminate the world for you. To activate them you use crystal bits from the monsters you defeat. In a way, it’s an endless cycle that fuels into each other, a metaphor that I think parallels Below’s game design. I mentioned that it was a roguelike and that’s because the interior design of worlds are constantly changing every time you die.When you respawn to the island, you aren’t the same explorer but a new one arriving for the first time. You can find your old dead body and pick up what you lost. The structure of the underground labyrinths will stay the same but their interior layouts will not. Those are the basics of Below but generally, gameplay comes down to exploring and figuring out the game’s puzzles. The fusion of those basics with having to solve puzzles works at times and others times they create frustration. For example, your lantern is a big necessity for puzzles and if you die a handful of floors deep it can cause a big problem. You’ll respawn as a new explorer without your lantern and if you haven’t set up teleporters where you died then you’re out of luck and need to make that long trip again without a lantern. You can see how that can get frustrating if you don’t have the item that shows you were one hit kill traps lie.Of course, I can understand the want for challenge and difficulty in games but when a game like below literally hardly tells you anything, it leads to frustration and punishment for the player falling to traps that weren’t explained. Parallel to these moments are realizations of satisfaction when you finally figure out how to open a door that can lead you to a whole new terrain and further on your adventure. Ultimately Below is a very challenging game that will test your critical thinking and patience. It can both provide a challenge that’s fair and one that’s overbearingly frustrating for the sake of just being difficult.I think that’ll be the problem for a lot of gamers that don’t have the patience for it, not to say their grievances don’t have any merit. For those with the patience, you are rewarded with some puzzles and fights that’ll only further pique your curiosity but with some bumps along the way. It’s a set up that I think could have been done better but I also understand it’s purposely trying to be as vague as possible and I think that’s most apparent by the games very “what the heck does this all mean” ending.When The Legend of Zelda was being designed by Miyamoto, his inspiration came from exploring the nearby forests and caves in his childhood neighborhood. That sense of wonder and adventure captivated and influenced him to create what would become Zelda. 32 years later, Below recaptures that feeling for me. It creates a world that as an adult, makes me feel like a kid exploring the famous neighborhood cave, filled with legends and rumors. The wide camera angle took a bit to get used to at first though, especially with a long 5-minute opening that acts as a zoom in to it.However, after playing Below this whole weekend, I see the stylistic choice behind it. It helped reinforce the idea that I’m but a spec of dust in this world. The feeling was encompassed throughout my expedition as I dived deeper into the trenches. These caves and the gloomy world was presented beautifully in some of the best use of atmospheric lighting I’ve seen.A thick haze covers the inside of the caves as your dim light warms the patches of grass you walk through. As you trail along the dusty mountain path, you’ll see a puff of dirt come off your boots. There’s a radial tilt-shift over everything too that helps keeps you in focus as you explore the darkest crevices of the world. Accompanied by the wide camera view, I love the stylistic look of it all. Now I played on Xbox One X for my review and that means I was able to get a sharp looking 4k presentation. It certainly made everything pop more despite the very dark art style behind everything. Regular Xbox One gamers will have to settle for 1080p. If you’re playing on PC, you have a bit more freedom with your presentation although, at the moment, you’ll see Xbox button prompts despite playing with a mouse and keyboard.The developers have acknowledged this though and have said they’re going to patch that up soon. Like its visuals, Below doesn’t slouch when it comes to its audio design and music. More often than not, you won’t be greeted with music but rather the ambient noise of the world around you, a stylistic choice that I think helps pay a feeling of isolation while exploring. Scurrying through the tall blades of grass on a mountaintop, you’re not greeted by a peppy symphony or melancholy tune but rather the sound of a thunderstorm chasing you.As you take a break inside the caves you can make out a symphony composed of the stream of water by your side, the embers of the campfire illuminating you as you put down your backpack for a rest. It’s lovely and nails the tone. When music does play, like when you’re crafting together items at a campfire, it all seems to sync up together. The sounds of me selecting different items to fuse together along with the guitar strings in the background, sound beautiful. Like a nice closing a long day of exploring. It’s one of the more prominent tracks for Below with a lot of the other songs not being as memorable mostly because they start to blend in with the ambient noise of the world. Below is a game that recaptures the feelings of adventure and curiosity that many of us first felt playing video games before the internet. It’s filled with wonder and mystery that at times had me going on loops trying to figure where I messed up in my inductive reasoning.Figuring those puzzles out was a ton fun but also lead to moments of frustration when Below just trying to be vague for the sake of being needlessly difficult. It’s that up and down ratio that causes a few bumps along the beautifully presented journey. I give Below a 7.5 /10. Thanks so much for watching my review, if you liked it then consider sharing it around and subscribing. I upload new reviews on the latest video games every single week! You can also find my gaming usernames and social networks in the description down below. Hope you all have a great day and keep on gaming! .