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Undertale Review

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Undertale is a game that is hard to ignore if you are a retro gamer.  It strikes me as a bit of the hipster’s version of an SNES title because it seems to check all the boxes that get several communities pumped up as well as intrinsically embracing what is great about contemporary retro.  Couple that with the fact that it was almost completely created by one person, Toby Fox (who had art help from Temmie Chang), and there’s no doubt Undertale is an achievement.  None of this really matters for a review, though, which forces the critic to look a work right in the face and give his or her opinion.  Is Undertale a one-man-band achievement that results in one of the most impressive indie titles that hearken back to the days of 16-bit?  Sure, but that’s all left to award ceremonies and Fox’s peers to decide.  Is it the “must play” retro game that garners all the glittering prizes and game of the year nominations from my peers?  Perhaps not.  While I can admit to being entertained by the title – especially the very notable fourth wall breaking aspects that you almost never see coming – Undertale is weakened by the zeitgeist and harmed by the fact that no one on the Internet can just let you play a game anymore.  That game, while great, leaves more to be desired.

undertale_introUndertale began to make waves with the Earthbound crowd and while it’s not quite as heady and definitely not even a fraction of the length of those titles, Undertale does grow from those roots.  Personally I was never all that fond of the series (although I have not yet played Mother 3), but the humor was undeniably charming and Undertale embraces and builds upon that humor in spades.  You play as a character named “the child” who is given a name of your choice and skates that line of androgyny just enough that your avatar can identify as whatever they want.  An introduction explains that there are two worlds, the humans and the monsters, that have become separated from one another and whenever a human enters the world of the monsters they become corrupted and never escape.  As your quest begins, you start to learn that the irony of this is that monsters aren’t all that bad and much like humans just have a wide spectrum of personalities and behaviors.  The theme is hammered home when you discover that interactions with monsters are just that, interactions, and just because video games have taught you that fighting is the only way to go that you have a slew of other options.  From this point on you journey into the world to behave as you wish and reap the consequences of quite literally all of your actions along the way.

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Written by Fred Rojas

January 11, 2016 at 11:00 am