I think like a lot of people who had a quick look at Undertale when it was released, I was very close to giving it the short shrift. Another indie game with a retro styling, this time in an RPG outift, ho-hum – its not that I don’t like the retro styling (quite the opposite in this case) but it’s just become the ‘safe’ thing to do – but of course I’d be a fool to judge a book by its cover.
Happily, Undertale isn’t safe. It takes its inspiration from various different RPGs but with an obvious nod towards Earthbound in its artistic style and humour, but chooses to lovingly lampoon the genre while adding its own creative ideas which add to the experience. Just like by Until Dawn mini-review I won’t go into a lot of detail as it really is best to go in cold, but don’t be surprised to see your expectations challenged.
What I will comment on is the charm of the world; charm is one of those words that get bandied about a lot by people like me trying to explain why I liked everything so much but in this case I do feel its truly applicable. The world and character designs may just look like a child’s creations in MSPaint, but there’s personality behind each of them which adds depth to their two dimensions. Toby Fox, the game’s creator, has done an excellent job with the world but an even more stellar one with the soundtrack. Again styled around the chiptune era but with modern flourishes, the variety on offer is very impressive and numerous pieces are ridiculously catchy without being annoying – if Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture didn’t come out this year, this would easily be my favourite soundtrack of 2015.
Elsewhere, the battle system may be one of the most interesting I’ve come across in an RPG, mixing menu based actions with at first simplistic 2D dodge/shooter sections when you’re attacked and are unique to each enemy. And that’s not even mentioning the fact that fighting isn’t your only option in battle; again, each enemy has unique actions you can perform at, with or to them which means you may not have to kill the enemy. It’s probably a one-and-done system in that it’s something if used again in the future you’d be expecting and wouldn’t have the same impact, but here it works very well.
As for the game’s weaknesses – well, it does go on a little too long. Only by an hour so but you can feel a very slight drag in the middle part of the game. And that’s all I have really. I can see some people being put off by the visual style, and perhaps some of the references in the game aren’t quite as punchy as I’d have liked them but this is me being really picky. Overall, I had a great time with Undertale. It’s intelligent and witty and does characters better than a lot of AAA titles. Highly recommended and definitely game of the year material.