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a Game Review

By James Hoyle
On November 3, 2015

If you're looking for a game that goes against what has become the cliche of modern gaming, Undertale is the game for you! 
Photo courtesy of

Before I begin this review, let me preface it by saying that this game gets an unmitigated recommendation. It is 10 dollars on Steam right now, and it will likely be many gaming publications’ Game of the Year. It is also a game best experienced without any sort of background or prior knowledge. Therefore, I urge you to go download it and enjoy the journey and then come back to this review. So go. Go buy it. Like right now. Away with you. Be free. Don’t worry, I’ll wait for you. 

Are you back? Was I not right in my recommendation? Then again, telling someone to go buy something because “it’s good” is hardly a fair critique. But don’t say I didn’t warn you about spoilers. Undertale is perfect example of how graphics alone do not make a worthy title. Life is Strange, for all its technical wizardry, does not have the depth of writing this game has. Undertale, made by one Toby Fox, starts out simply enough. You are a young boy Frisk. A long time ago, monsters and humans lived together in harmony until a war broke out between the two races. Humanity, in possession of mightier souls than the monsters, drove them deep into the depths of Mt. Ebott, sealing them away with a magical barrier. Monsters that pass through it can never return to the surface. Frisk, exploring Mt. Ebott, falls through the barrier. Thankfully, a bed of golden flowers break his fall. When he comes to, he encounters a smiling sentient flower, a monster named Flowey. Flowey lulls him into a false sense of security and tries to kill him, but is stopped by another monster named Toriel. Toriel, seeing that you are new to this world, takes you under her wing and treats you as her child while you recuperate from your injuries. She then tells you that as a human, your soul is strong enough to traverse the barrier and return to the surface. From here, your ultimate goal is to somehow make it to the monster capital of New Home and pass through the barrier located in the castle of Asgore Dreemurr, the King of All Monsters. 

How you get to New Home and what you do while getting there is entirely up to you, but you should know that choices have consequences. Every encounter in this game can be won through non-lethal means, and the game will attempt to make you feel guilty if you kill anything. Frisk, being in possession of a strong human soul, can easily overpower almost any monster underground. But if the player goes around slaughtering every monster, then they will stop appearing, as the player has murdered every last resident of the underground. By the end of the game, the player has the option of restarting and undoing all the evil that they did. Even doing this though and making things right, the game will constantly remind you in this second playthrough that you carelessly and thoughtlessly murdered over 100 rational, thinking beings just to get ahead. However, if the player spares the monsters, then there’s a chance they can become friends. By becoming friends with the locals, the player learns that the monsters have a culture, an economy, and they every single one of them has hopes and dreams. No one is one note, and all of them have backstories and are carrying emotional baggage. By subverting the well-established gaming trope of slaughtering everything in sight, Undertale not only makes a statement on how willing humanity is to demonize something they do not understand at first, it also makes a gamer rethink every game they have ever played. For instance, think about all the enemies a typical Mario game has and then think about how many are killed. Did they really deserve to die? What kind of lessons are we learning from video games really if killing is okay as long as it helps us achieve what we want? Why are we so quick to label something as monstrous if the only difference they have is in opinion? Last week, I said that games need to mature as a medium to be taken seriously. Undertale, with its subtle humanist message of tolerance and love and the consequences of acting without thought, does what many games can only dream of: elicit emotion from me. By the time I finished the game, I was in tears. 

That is not to say that I was not in tears during the game, though. I was. But they were tears of laughter. For all the somber undertones that the story has, the script never takes itself too seriously. The cast of characters is some of the funniest I have seen in any game. From the skeleton brothers that deliver bad puns (aptly named Papyrus and Sans) to the nerdy lizard scientist who loves anime and has a secret crush, each character has many layers and are very fun to interact with. It is Dad jokes and bad puns, and it is glorious. The dialogue fits the appropriately old style graphics well. Coupled with a soundtrack that fits the mood perfectly, and you have a game that is more than meets the eye. 

 This same humor detail is seen in the combat system. Each action involves a little two dimensional shooter minigame. Through this feature, whole battles can go by without even taking a single hit. As said earlier, no monster has to die, though since they are naturally still bitter about the human/monster war that trapped them underground, the monsters have to be understood before they can be spared. This makes battles engaging without the need to grind for levels. Indeed, this game can be completed at level one. 

I have been a gamer since I was eight years old. My first console was an original Playstation my family won at a school lottery. I keep a running tally of games I finish on Facebook (the tally currently sits at 205), so I can safely say that Undertale is quite simply unlike any game I’ve ever played. I wholeheartedly recommend it to anyone and everyone. A game like this comes around maybe once every ten years. Download it. Play it. Savor it.  

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