Undertale is one of those titles that were thrown at us by various people saying we really needed to check it out because it was hilarious, filled with fun and cool things, and that dedicated players would have various secrets to discover, such as alternative endings. It was compared to Earthbound and how it saw beauty in the mundane, weird in a Suda51 kind of way. However, after the first few hours, Undertale in no way felt as though it covered these areas.
It focused on classic RPG-style gameplay with experience points, shopkeepers, and block puzzles, but without the interesting edge, similar to the last level in Braid. Then, there are the hilarity claims. While the skeleton men were funny-looking, the comedy itself was not really hitting.
As for the alternate ending praises, after just a few hours of playing, the task of completing the game multiple times for the sake of seeing a different ending started to seem daunting to us. However, our first impressions somehow converted into quite the opposite.
As we continued to play, our perspective of Undertale went from slight disappointment to growing enjoyment. This was largely to do with the game’s structure and detail.
The storyline is based around a man that managed to fall underground into a world of monsters that were placed there by humans, and a magical barrier was all that kept them there. Naturally, the plot includes a storyline about the escape of the monsters, but you will also encounter mysterious machines when roaming the ancient caverns.
The visual aspect of Undertale is similar to that of Mother. The design is quite simple, with dialogue, character, and environment painted in garish colors to give the game a retro look. The characters produce pixelated white portraits when in combat mode; although the visuals of Undertale do not cause a feeling of restriction, as the limitations were purposely imposed in order to be stretched out on occasion.
While the gameplay is similar to Earthbound, and the combat mode starts with a menu, the game shares very little with Earthbound. You have four options: Act, Fight, Item, and Mercy. Act allows using special actions, Fight activates a time-based mini-game, Item allows switching equipment and using items, Mercy allows you to run away or give monsters a chance to run off.
Upon taking action, a white box with a heart inside appears. You must keep the wave of enemy attacks from hitting the heart, and this can become a real challenge. The game does have a unique and complex battle system, but it is not all about combat, it can be used to tell a story, or humorously, as the attacks vary from raising obstacles to funny gags.
During the first few hours, the only thing we saw was a unique combat system that produced occasional jokes and twists. Our intention was to beat it once and watch the alternative endings online. It wasn’t until we saw the first spoiler video that we decided we didn’t want to go that route.
Undertale took some time to get to feel its full effect, but eventually we grew to love it. It is not perfect, but not many games are. The humor could have been better, and the pacing could have been improved too. If you are the type that enjoys a more strategic battle system, then this may not be the game for you, but if the battle system isn’t a big factor, it is worth checking out.