Undertale: All this and dating Papyrus
Updated: Jul 21
For those who follow me on social media (which you really should do here, here, here and here). You might get the impression that I have a....crush on Papyrus the skeleton. (I don’t really, that would be extremely childish which I am most certainly not). But I have to confess that this silly crush speaks volumes to the sheer brilliance of Undertale’s writing. Where going on a wholesome date with skeleton is simply one of many memorable moments in a great game. I love Undertale like many other reviewers and people. Undertale is one hell of an experience.
(I will try to not talk about spoilers without reason) . One upon a time, after a war between humans and monsters (where the latter lost the war and were imprisoned underground as a result) a lone human child accidentally fell down a hole while exploring. Thus begins an odyssey to find a way home while encountering a number of strange and wonderful characters along the way. The narrative has a rather sweet fairy tale air to it (at least at the start) . However like many great stories a complex story seeps into focus, involving the desire to break down the magical barrier and the involvement of humans in the break down process. Friends get made and alliances are formed all thanks to the power of friendship.
I have played Undertale two times now. First one was a natural play through (where I killed some without knowing that there was another way through and suffered great emotional trauma as a result). This playthrough has been a true pacifist route. The game knows every single thing that I did in each playthrough. From whom I killed in the first run (reminding me of it) to how it shaped my interactions with them. Undertale tears the forth wall to pieces and has fun with what it can do with the video game medium in both story, character and gameplay interactions. Undertale has so many memorable moments with so many unforgettable characters involving the forth wall that it would almost impossible to list them all. The conveniently placed lamp however I can say is a moment of hilarity, almost Shakespearian in it’s comedy. Also Toby Fox made a cute yellow flower actually intimidating. Flowery is an amazing villain whose power transcends the forthwall. He is terrifying all while saying things like “Howdy” like some demonic plant based Mickey Mouse.
Now about dating Papyrus:
Warning for some minor spoilers:
While the date with Papyrus was memorable Undertale has something special. Something that a lot of games tend to sometimes try and not do particularly well (at least recently) has been interactions of romance. Such examples can be seen in the encounter with the two guards where you have to make one of the guards confess his true feelings to his fellow guard bro. Another one would be the date between Undyne and Alphys. They all feel human. They are not dolls designed to get brownie points on the internet (Mass Effect Andromeda or Apex Legends for instance). But they are people with personalities, who they love is not completely core to their character. (Alphy is a massive nerd and brilliant scientist. Undyne is a softie underneath a hard military shell, deeply loyal to her king. ) Toby Fox made characters who happen to be what they are rather then one dimensional stereotypes. Where Bioware and Respawn failed Toby Fox succeeded. It shows a level of writing that the former two simply do not have. Toby Fox, by writing great characters has made the seemingly monstrous...human.
Combat is standard menu driven turn based combat at first. Fighting is pretty straightforward with pressing enter at the right time. The opponents attacks come in the form of bullet hell. Where you simply have to dodge attacks until the turn ends, it’s not for everyone and I have met some people who are put off purely because of this mechanic.
Personally I consider it rather easy. As long as you keep your wits about you and keep moving you should be fine. I should stress that I am not very good at dodging and I still died far too many times. But I would not say it is particularly difficult because it is easy to find a safe spot away from the projectiles. Bullet hell might be one of Undertale’s somewhat unique selling points gameplay wise but I would not say it is the most unique aspects. It is the addition that no one has to die.
The literal power of forgiveness:
Combat is not the only option, if you decide to not be a monster and kill everyone (like I did this time). The other option is to find a way to befriend them. The ‘act’ tab allows you to try certain behaviors which may or may not endear them to you.
Then the game becomes a puzzle-bullet hell mix where you have to at best find a way to get yourself out of combat or at worst to simply survive for a set number of turns until the opponent has a change of heart. I love how the enemy reacts to your kindness in combat. How the projectiles sometimes just miss because one of the guards is too distracted by the rippling pecks of his colleague , sometimes they are too torn up by the unnamed child’s kindness and endless ability to forgive. On a personal note this game made me cry quite a bit because of how well it creates emotion with its feature of forgiveness.
Exploring the land of monsters:
Undertale’s level design is very linear (in keeping with games such as Earthbound that inspired Undertale). However that does not mean it is bad or boring. Quite the opposite in fact because of the tight pacing, you will always be on the move, going to a new place and meeting new people. You can backtrack (sometimes you will have to get health items) but rather then detracting it enhances the experience by making the world feel more alive through repeated interaction.
Some bad things?
I am not sure how much of this is a flaw but I dislike that you cannot sell items expect in only one hidden location (Temmie village) . It is annoying that there is a sell option in each vender but they all refuse you. Like it is some joke. This can hurt new players who want to sell stuff they don’t need for money but have no idea where to go in order to do that. I remember that being the case in my first play through.
Art style and graphics:
Undertale has some of the most beautiful pixel art out there; it stands with such titles as Stardew Velley, Owlboy and Chrono Trigger. It’s simple (at times rather limited in animation) but clean, crisp and pleasant to behold. There is nothing wrong with the game here.
Undertale is beloved by many critics and gamers and I am no different. I cannot stress how much I adore this game. How much it has impacted me as a person or just as a piece of entertainment. It is a work of artistic genius from a writing and gameplay stand point. Undertale is one of the best games I have ever played.