Game Review – Undertale

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Long ago, two races ruled over the Earth: HUMANS and MONSTERS. One day, war broke out between the two races. After a long battle, the humans were victorious. They sealed the monsters underground with a magic spell. Many years later…

Can you show mercy without fighting or running away…?

Well, this game has officially consumed my life, so I thought, why not review it?
Undertale is a puzzle RPG that’s has adorable, cute, memorable characters, great humor, and an amazing storyline.

…it’s also the best horror game I’ve ever played.

Oh, on the surface it looks cute and innocent and you wouldn’t suspect it of having anything particularly dark in it.  But there is some nightmare fuel in this game, let me tell you.  But… we’ll get back to that in a little bit.

You play as… HUMAN.  A child who has fallen into the underground, the world where the race of monsters have been banished to.  At the start of the game, it asks you to “name the fallen human”.  They constantly refer to the human as they/them because I guess they wanted it to be gender indeterminate so you can truly feel as if you are playing as yourself – be you a male or female.  Androgynous characters for the win, am I right?

Shortly after you fall into the underground, you meet a new pal.  His name is Flowey – Flowey the Flower!  He’s so happy and friendly that he’s going to help you out and teach you about how the world down there works and- oh he just tried to kill you.  And this is when you get your first taste of nightmares.

BUT WORRY NOT, GOAT-MOM COMES TO RESCUE YOU! A kindly old lady named Toriel comes and shows you around and basically shows you the inter workings of the game mechanics (her name is Toriel, she wants to be a teacher/tutor. Like tutorial, get it? puns, this game’s full of ’em)

Eventually you have to leave Toriel to embark on your adventure.  But you’re not alone, you meet new friends along the way.  Like these two dorks, the skeleton brothers Sans and Papyrus (the smaller one is Sans, the taller one is Papyrus.)

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Font jokes. Get it?

While Sans introduces himself as a friend, his brother Papyrus will be seen as an enemy… at first.  His sole goal in life is to capture a human and bring it to the King for reasons that have yet to be explained.  But, as you quickly find out, and as Sans points out, “He’s not dangerous, even if he tries to be.”  The first time he sees you, he runs away rather than attempting to capture you because he’s determined to capture you by stumping you through not-so-difficult puzzles.  And this is when you truly see what this game is all about.  Plus there’s all the dog enemies that want nothing more than to be pet.

This may be a world of monsters, but none of the monsters are particularly scary (unless you count bad puns as scary).  Most of them are cute and adorable and even though they enter into a fight with you, they’re not actually meaning to hurt you, they’re just being them, doing silly things like… flexing.  So why would anyone ever want to kill these adorable monsters?

This game is unique in that it has multiple ways to play.  There’s the PACIFIST run, where you don’t kill anything at all which is the path to the true ending, and then there’s the GENOCIDE run, where you kill everything and everyone and you are guaranteed to have a bad time.  There are also various neutral runs you can do, killing or sparing specific characters, also befriending specific characters.  What you do will affect the ending ever so slightly.

Allow me to talk about that nightmare fuel again.  Remember our old pal Flowey the Flower?  Well, he’s been checking up on you throughout the entire game, though if you’re not quick enough you’ll probably miss him because it’s only if you go back a screen and you can just catch a glimpse of him disappearing into the ground.

*SPOILER WARNING*
At the end of the game, after fighting the King of Monsters, Asgore Dreemurr, Flowey will come and kill him and take his soul, along with the six human souls that Asgore had collected in an attempt to break the barrier between the underground and the surface to wage war on humans.  Flowey takes all of these souls, laughs evilly, and then forces your game to shut off.  When you turn it back on, your game save has been corrupted and then Flowey deletes it entirely before you’re faced with his final, horrifying form.  Let’s just say it’s akin to the Giygas boss battle from Earthbound.  Nightmare fuel.

The worst thing about this boss battle is that you’re gonna die.  A lot.  Flowey saves your game so he can “kill you over and over and over again for all eternity”.  Every time you die, the game shuts off.  The game is no longer messing with you as a character, it’s messing with you as a player.

Oh, that’s not enough nightmare fuel for you?  Why not try doing the Genocide route?  In the genocide route, you kill everyone.  And I do mean everyone.  To achieve this route, you have to keep going around getting as many random encounter battles as you can and killing all of them until you’re finally met with a random encounter that says, “But nobody came.”  It’s at that point that the music turns dark and eerie and you realize that you have killed everyone.

As Sans says, “If you keep going on the path you’re on now… buddy, you’re gonna have a bad time.”  It’s a bad time, let me tell you.  When you get to the end of the road just before facing Asgore, you have to fight Sans.  He is the hardest boss in the entire game, throwing his most brutal attack at you from the very start which, if you don’t act fast, will kill you in five seconds flat.  As of writing this post, I have yet to defeat him.  And I honestly don’t feel bad about that.

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Can you blame the guy? You did murder his brother after all.

This game messes with your emotions in ways no other game before has done for me.  The fact that it breaks the fourth wall so often (and in clever ways, not just “lol we’re talking to the audience/referencing something real” ways like many other things do) helps bring the horror of it out.  In the genocide run, they tell you it’s not the character doing this, it’s you, the player.  And why?  Because you’re a coward who’s too afraid to go out and kill people yourself, so you want to watch other people do it for you.

Never have I played a game that gets so deeply under my skin, making it crawl at all these awful parts and making me feel dirty for the choices I’ve made.  This is why I say it’s a truly great horror game.  It is a literal psychological horror experience for the player, not the character.  And it’s brilliant.  I wish more games would do this sort of thing.

But.  If you’re not into the horror, just do the pacifist run and everything should be happy.  Well, until you get to that final boss at least.

Also the music is great and amazing and spending that extra money is definitely worth it to get the soundtrack.

Overall, Undertale is one of the greatest game experiences I’ve ever had.  There is so much replay value, it gives me so many emotions, and I don’t think I’ve ever been so attached to a game before that I can remember.  (To the Moon is a contender, but not quite to this level.)  If you haven’t played Undertale, or watched someone else play it on YouTube, I highly recommend going and doing it now.  You won’t be disappointed.

…unless you are, in which case shame for you.

There is a secret within this game.  A phantom haunting known as Gaster.  Rarely you may encounter gray NPC’s who will speak about him as the old Royal Scientist.  Rarer still you may encounter a door that leads to some… thing, that many believe is this W.D. Gaster.  And then, there’s the hidden message in the Wing Dings font about his discoveries.  It is believed he is related to Sans and Papyrus in some way (either brother or father).

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Beware the man that speaks in hands.

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