Undertale (2015) video game review
Undertale is a 2D role-playing video game by indie game developer Toby Fox that was originally released in 2015 for Windows, eventually moving on to other platforms such as the PS4, Nintendo Switch, and Xbox in 2016, 2017, and 2018, respectively. The player controls a human child who has fallen into the “Underground”, a rather large area that is under the Earth and separated from it by a guarded magical barrier. The objective is, of course, to make it back to the surface, encountering bizarre monsters and creatures and skeletons along the way.
The gameplay will be familiar to anyone who enjoys 2D side-scrolling games and the mechanics that go along with it. You control the human child, moving through the Underground and encountering monsters, puzzles, and battles as you work your way through all the different areas there are to explore. Upon encountering a monster you are (usually) given the option to fight , flee, or befriend. In addition, if you choose to fight you are given more options during the combat to continue fighting, Act (which lets you view healthbars or talk to the creature), or (if you are winning) to spare the creature and flee. All of these choices and the way you interact with the strange inhabitants of this world impact the game and change it, creating different storylines and endings depending on the choices you’ve made. This makes the game completely replayable, giving you the option to go back and try to find the other endings. Each time you finish the game and start over, the choices you made in the first game and the way it ended also impacts your next replay, creating almost unlimited possibilities.
This game throws so many curve balls at you it’s hard to keep track, especially given the different options and the information it often chooses to conceal from you, leading to unforeseen consequences and the desire to go back for more. At the risk of spoiling anything, I’ll stop there and just say that this game has some of the absolutely most unique gameplay elements that I’ve ever seen (in my very limited gaming experience, so maybe this isn’t saying much, but if you’ve played the game I’m sure you’ll agree with me).
The story, like the gameplay, is so odd that it is hard to know what to make of it. Of course there are plenty of games with a similar scenario, where you as a player are stuck in some area and are trying to find your way out, whether through puzzles or battles or searching for hidden items. However, past that it is unlike any story in any game I’ve played or heard of. The interactions with the creatures and conversations with the NPCs are so different that they caught me off guard and consistently tossed aside all of my expectations. Okay I know I’m being vague, but this is a difficult game to review because it is best played if you have no idea what to expect, so just know that it is a fairly simple story that will keep you guessing and probably laughing or shaking your head right up until the end.
The designs in this game are so creative and unique, like the rest of it, that it just adds to the level of strangeness that Fox has embedded in his world. From the creature designs to the world itself, it fits perfectly with the tone and the unsettling feeling that the game does it’s best to immerse you in. Add to the visuals the audio and the story, and you have the perfect mix of creepy and absurdly fun to make up the setting.
So when it comes down to it, Undertale is by far the most original game I’ve ever played. From the dialogue and creature designs to the gameplay and the music, it all works together beautifully to create the perfectly odd and entertaining world of the Underground, which will most likely leave most players going back for more. Obviously, this game will not appeal to everybody, and honestly it’s not one of my all-time favorites. Being a massive fan of open-world games with more focus on the exploration and action, the replyability doesn’t appeal to me as much as it undoubtedly does to others. However, the focus on storytelling and dialogue is a big draw for me as a film fan and amateur writer who can appreciate how much work went into it. All in all, I think it’s definitely worth a play through if the humor, originality, creativity, and storytelling are elements that you look for in a video game.
Not being very experienced with reviewing video games, I don’t really want to give it a set rating, but if you’re looking for my thoughts I’d say a 6-7/10, leaning one way or the other just depending on your personal preferences.
Thanks for reading this review, if you enjoyed it keep your eye out for more coming soon! And if you’d like a more in-depth, spoiler-filled review of Undertale, let us know in the comments!
-review by Rachel Grosselin