July 11, 2019 at 11:29 PM #814
Rating: 4.0 – Great
Bemusing, but incredibly intricate and lovingly made
I felt compelled to play this game after its recent release on PS4 after seeing the critical acclaim and several Game of the Year awards it won on PC in 2015. On paper it wasn’t the sort of game I’d usually like, but I kept hearing how you had to play it to understand Â¨C but that it really was just that good.
It’s certainly got a charm about it that endeared it to me from the off. The characters are all supremely eccentric but likeable, and the story is interesting. The music too reeled me in and made the Undertale world an enjoyable place to explore.
You can tell straight away that this isn’t a game that is going to bow to conventions. You immediately learn not to trust anyone, and that all isn’t as it seems. You are encouraged, or at least given the option, not to kill the enemies that you encounter, but talk to them until they no longer want to fight. Doing so plunges you into a mini-game where you control a tiny heart in a small box, and have to avoid attacks that come your way. It’s a simple premise, but actually quite difficult.
Having opted to take the pacifist route through the game, that was pretty much the extent of the gameplay I faced. While each enemy does come with their own unique attack, I found the mini-game to grow tiresome fairly quickly, and that did hamper my enjoyment of the game. Trial and error becomes a factor, and some attacks seem so impossible to avoid that it all just becomes a case of stocking up on healing items time after time.
It’s a game in the ilk of Dark Souls, that will give you clues and hints about where to go and what to do (specifically in terms of side-quests/activities, in which I’ve since learned I missed a few) and also in terms of story (which I have also learned in hindsight is far more deep than I ever imagined). You get just enough to send you on your way, and then it’s up to you to fill in the blanks and go off the beaten path to discover more. In-game I tried my best to explore as much as possible, but it’s fascinating to learn afterwards about all the things I missed and what they mean in the greater scheme of things. Though it’s frustrating that certain aspects of the game are so obscurely hidden that you wonder how you’d ever have found them, I don’t mind games doing that as it then expands the game into a universe that can be theorised on and discussed. Having watched several Youtube videos, it’s mind-blowing the care and consideration that clearly went into every aspect of the game.
Which, in the end, I think is what makes this game such a unique and memorable experience. I only wish that the gameplay had had a bit more about it when opting away from combat and choosing to spare the monsters you encounter. There were other little niggles as well; such as the lack of explanation of what items do once in combat, so I was often just taking a punt on a random item and hoping it gave me sufficient recovery. Also the character walking pace was annoyingly slow when having to backtrack, especially considering this is a game that encourages you to talk to previous characters and re-visit areas to see what’s changed/what’s new.
I can understand the praise Undertale got, and I do have a soft spot for these games that break beyond the video-game tag and almost become works of art, that offer something beyond simple button mashing to shoot/fight/race etc. Undertale was clearly very lovingly made, and it does show. It may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but for the six(ish) hours it lasts, it’s absolutely worth playing.
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