You might not get a game that expands your concept of what “games” can be every year, or even every other year, but this is one of those years.
I became aware of Undertale about a month ago. Prior to that, I had only seen it come up in passing on my Twitter feed, mostly a few years ago when the Kickstarter was running. The look and feel of it was something simple enough to at least try, and my friends hyped it up well enough.
Since last month, I’ve had the honor of both playtesting and playing the release versions of it, and, although I have piles of unfinished games in my home and Steam library, I’ve already played through it completely twice, with plans already for a third run. For me, as an adult with little free time to dedicate to the RPG genre of games, I could easily worry about time consumption — if this game weren’t the perfect length for someone like me (about 6 hours, 10-ish for completionists). And Undertale makes the most of that sweet, sweet time, especially if what you love doing is talking to characters, solving puzzles, dancing with slimes, consoling ghosts, and much more.
See, Undertale is a game where “no one has to die” — one of the rare few games that takes the weight of your actions and treats them both realistically and appropriately. Your underground journey among a world of monsters can eschew violence entirely, even when it’s demanded of you. (And, as with reality, doing so is infinitely more rewarding.) Each monster is different. Each interaction is personal. Every problem can be solved, with time and effort.
Some of the following may be regarded as spoilers
This game was basically made for me. Stylistically reminiscent of cult classic EarthBound — funny, cute, dark, sometimes tragic — it’s easy to get into and easy to play, being relatively simple while shockingly deep. Its battle system will continue to surprise you, and the puzzles are fair even for people who aren’t puzzle fans (such as myself). Don’t take my word for it — play the demo! If you love the demo, you’ll definitely love the game — and it only improves from there. Its writing holds nothing back, with fun and intimate character dialogue, surprisingly sharp uses of the 4th wall, and a very distinct overall tone. Undertale will more than likely exceed your expectations.
I don’t want to say too much more because every moment with the game is precious, but:
- The game will make you cry baby snotty tears
- The game will make you laugh until your lungs and face ache
- It’s practically robbery at $10 ($18 for the OST bundle)
- The music is fantastic (especially the boss battles)
- You’ll want to play it 3-5 times all the way through
- You’ll especially love it if you’ve spent any significant amount of time on social media in the past several years
This game has made it obvious that you don’t need to turn to AAA first-party console-based titles to see the medium of games expand. At its core, it manages to maintain sincerity and heart through all its bizarre events. Please play this game with determination.
PS – I’ll probably follow up with a spoiler-filled analysis post once I finish the game one more time, and after it’s been out for a while – because there’s so much in the game that’s worth talking about.