“The following is a guest review by The Green Screen Mage.”
Undertale, Undertale, Undertale. The little indie game that stole my heart. I have to say that I have tried writing this review a couple of times now and kept putting it down. This is not just one of my favorite games, but one that touched me in a way that a game hasn’t in a really long time. I didn’t want to write something that didn’t do it justice, but I couldn’t figure out how I wanted to write it and what I wanted to say. That was until I had a talk with our own Well-Red Mage about (surprise, surprise) Batman v Superman.
You may have noticed he’s a bit of a DC lover. We have a long history of agreements and disagreements in regards to the comic universe. One thing we did agree on though is that the new Superman just seemed to lack the one thing about him in both movies that always made him stand out and endeared him to me and that was hope.
In this time of heroes having to compromise, antiheroes, heroes fighting heroes, they take away that part of Clark, and even Bruce, who still cares about the people they’re fighting. We see countless times in the past that these two heroes find every way to end the fight without killing, because they still see the humanity of what they’re against. Hang on, this will segue into a game review.
Today we have these badasses killing the villains and saving the day with a witty one liner. We have them losing all hope of winning and finding it at the last second. We have them taking down organizations, getting revenge, righting wrongs, and so on. What we seem to be lacking is that hero that can still have compassion for their opposition. One who can look at their enemy and still see the good in them. Dark and gritty isn’t a bad thing, but we don’t have to remove all hope for the future, for the people their saving, for their villains, and for themselves to achieve that.
And then you come across a game like…
The game where no one has to get hurt. That’s a paraphrase for the games original tagline back when it was just a kickstarter. Toby Fox created this game that you can go through without killing a single soul. You play a small human who falls into a world inhabited by monsters. There are skeletons, spear wielding armored warriors, killer robots, beastly amalgamations, a murderous king and you don’t have to kill a single one of them. You can and, in some cases, that’s the easier route, but unfortunately easy isn’t synonymous with right.Despite it’s pixelated appearance, Undertale creates a world that you can easily get completely immersed in. Every NPC has it’s own unique personality that can help you defeat them or befriend them. The music can quickly and easily get you into different head spaces from moment to moment. The world around you has so many hidden gems and unique puzzles, while also not being overwhelmingly huge. The goal of the game is for the human to get out of the monster world and back into their world. You navigate through puzzles, meet monsters, engage bosses, and discover some dark truths as you work to meet it.
Depending on how you decide to play through this game, the ending of it will vary, similar to the last game I reviewed, Until Dawn. There are three routes you can take, the Pacifist Run, the Genocide Run, and the Neutral Run. Pretty obvious, the Pacifist means no killing, Genocide means all of the killing, and Neutral falls somewhere in between with slight variations to the ending depending on how many and who you kill.
I will fully admit, when I play games where you have to go down a light or dark path, I usually lean towards the light side. During those games, there are moments when you’re faced with an opponent that is so infuriating or a bystander that is just so annoying that you just can’t help but go dark side. I did not find that the case in this game. Okay, maybe a little bit right at the end. It’s just that last boss that makes losing that perfect Pacifist Run almost worth it.
Unlike a lot of games, you can take the time to get to know your opponents and find ways of sparing them rather than just hacking your way through monster after monster to get that experience or to up your LV. From the biggest bosses to the littlest henchman, you have that choice to find another way around them, talk to them, compliment them, make puns, flirt, make pasta. No one has to be the villain of this story. But that’s your choice.
The 8-Bit Review
I’ll admit this isn’t one of the most graphically stimulating games on the market, but that doesn’t make the visuals bad by any means. Graphics may be improving every day, but there are reasons people go back and play old 8-bit games (“Amen!” -TWRM). There’s something endearing and innocent about the look that plays very well into the story in Undertale. It can remind people of a time when they were younger and, dare I say, more hopeful.
Those character designs tho!
Music is something that can truly make or break a game and, in this case, it makes the game. It can pump you up for a battle, fill you with dread for what’s to come, force you laugh uncontrollably, bring tears to your eyes, and just help the flow of the game from one area to the next.
Along with the visuals nodding back to classic games, the audio does as well and there are plenty of moments that will bring up memories of old Mario, Sonic, Metroid, and I’m sure other games while still managing to be it’s own unique entity.
The gameplay is very enjoyable. There are times where it’s so easy that it’s a little ridiculous and there are times where it’s so hard you are going to want to throw your entire computer. The puzzles throughout your environment have a huge variety from tile puzzles to placing objects in the correct order to moving through lasers and even a Team Rocketesque arrow room. They all vary in difficulty, but are quite fun to get through.
Now to the battling. Battles themselves can be a puzzle too and, depending on what path you take in the game, the way each character battles you and how you defeat them can be vastly different. A character that was the easiest to defeat on one run, may become the most difficult battle you have ever faced and vice versa.
It is a turn based game where you can choose Fight, Act, Item, and Mercy, during your turn. When the opponent attacks, the player controls a small heart that they move around to dodge the enemy’s attacks. Each enemy has a different attack style and a different way of defeating or befriending them. If you’re going through the Pacifist run, you have to work through and figure out which way of acting will allow you to spare the monster and sometimes even acting won’t do the trick. If you’re going into battle to kill, well you’re gonna have a bad time. The controls are fairly simple and solid throughout the fighting, but you have got to be quick with that keyboard.
Undertale revolves around a lone human who is trapped in the monster world and trying to find their way out all while avoiding being captured or killed. You meet goat mom, a pair of skeleton brothers, a rather fishy foe, an anime loving scientist, fluffybuns, and a flower. They’ll either become your best friends or your worst enemies. Choose wisely.
Can you use the arrow keys on your keyboard? Do you have a Steam account? Do you have 10 dollars? If you answered yes to all of these questions, you are good to go! Aside from some quick reflexes, the game is not that difficult to master. There are no overly complex controls, ridiculous amounts of gadgets, or crazy tricks you need to learn.
There are definitely moments in this game where you could spend a good couple hours trying to figure out one part and you’ll want to chuck you’re CPU, but there aren’t an overabundance of them. This game has fun puzzles and interesting bosses, but it is by no means something that will make you give up on playing games for a week. (*cough*Arkham Knight Riddler Trophies*cough*)
When it comes to games with different endings, they tend to be pretty replayable, because who doesn’t want to see what else they can do with their players and their favorite NPCs? I personally haven’t beaten the game on Neutral or Genocide run, but I have watched someone beat the Genocide route. Going through it on Pacifist and Genocide makes for two vastly different environments. The once cheerful and upbeat music and characters are either replaced with much darker ones or are gone all together. In all honesty, if you can beat that game in a Pacifist run and still want to do a Genocide run, well good luck with that. You’ll have a fun time with sans.
Be warned. I have heard, if you do a Genocide run first, the game won’t let you complete the True Pacifist run. It will remember what you did.
This game is by far one of the most unique games I have ever played. From the gameplay to the variety of endings, it has a very new and refreshing feel to it. It’s not often that befriending monsters can be the key to beating a game, but here it is. It’s also not often a game remembers what you did in previous playthroughs. If you do something you regret, restarting the game won’t always work. And, if you’re stuck on certain bosses, they just might remember how many times they’ve killed you and throw it in your face.
When there are so many games that have you slaughtering hordes of monsters for experience points, it’s nice to see a game where you can refuse to do that. You can take that chance to learn more about who you’re fighting and if they’re really all that bad in the first place. You can choose to stay at level one and tough out the hard times, because there’s more to this world than mindless monsters. Don’t worry. There’s always the temy armor if it gets too hard.
My Personal Grade: 10/10
I haven’t played a game this good in years. I got interested from a Let’s Play channel, Game Grumps, who encouraged people to play the game first, before watching them. After a couple episodes, I had to. I beat this game within a week and it was an emotional rollercoaster from start to finish.
I will be honest though, I have not beaten the game on Genocide mode. I couldn’t bring myself to kill all the monsters I had become friends with. I watched the same Let’s Play channel beat it on Genocide mode and it was as heartbreaking as I thought it would be. But don’t take my word for it, I encourage you to play it on your own first. See how the game makes you feel and choose your path.
When so many stories are revolving around our heroes failing or having to compromise or only using their muscle to get through situations, it’s nice to have games like Undertale where the hero can make a different choice, where you can befriend those who try and kill or capture you, and where leveling up isn’t necessarily a good thing.
“that’s right. you have something called “determination.” so long as you hold on… so long as you do what’s in your heart… i believe you can do the right thing.” – sans
Aggregated Score: 8.8