Beneath the Earth: Undertale (Review)

Undertale is a 2D top-down role-playing game that was released for Windows and OS X in September 2015, for Linux in July 2016, PS4 and PSVita in August 2017, Nintendo Switch in September 2018 and finally for Xbox One in March 2021.

In the game, you take control of the character of a young girl who has fallen down a hole and landed in a place called the Underground. This area is beneath the earth’s surface and is separated from the human realm by a magical barrier. The main character aims to get to this barrier and escape this underground realm and return to the human one. On your travels, you meet various monsters, some nice and some not so nice, that will want to fight you. You have the option to either fight back or perform other actions to eventually be able to either spare the monster or flee from it.

The combat system involves navigating a heart (your soul) through mini bullet-hell attacks (think space invaders). How you approach these monsters impacts the story as a whole and determines whether you’re doing a pacifist run (sparing all that you fight) or a genocide run (killing everything in your path).

So, Undertale, yeah, well.

I’d seen a fair bit about this game for a few years but had never gotten around to playing it. It’s only now that it has been put up on PS Now that I finally played it. And now I have, I’m not sure what to think.

First off, let’s talk about the graphics. Despite it being in old-school pixels, it looks pretty decent. Yes, some of the elements look like I’ve drawn them in Windows Paint, but I think that adds the charm. As much as some things look like this, there is plenty more that looks extremely well designed. The characters in both manner and appearance are unique and not something that you’d see anywhere else. At first, I thought it looked a bit sh!t, but as I played it, I grew to admire the design more and more.

Now, the story. Honestly, I don’t think I have any words to describe it, other than confusing. When you’re first thrown into the Underground, after being attacked by a sentient flower (yes, I did just say that), you meet a character named Toriel. Toriel seems nice enough to start with. She helps you through the first few puzzles and seems to genuinely care about you. But then you realise that she is trying to keep you there with her, and she doesn’t want you to escape. You quickly find out that many of the monsters below wish to stop you from reaching the magical barrier. As you go through the game, battling or sparing your foes, you meet talking skeletons, a weird scientist that looks across between a dinosaur and Lisa Simpson, a crazed knight and a killer robot. All of this adds to the confusion as you’re never quite sure who’s on your side and who to believe. Having gotten to the end of the game, I still don’t think I’m any the wiser of what the hell was going on…but I enjoyed the ride.

Confusing as the game is, the story drags you into it, and you find that you have a need to find out what’s going to happen next, and so you keep playing.

Undertale isn’t a long game – it took me around 3 hours to finish it – but you could easily spend longer as you talk to all of the characters and explore every inch of the Underground.

So having said all this, what are my thoughts on the game as a whole?

Well, it’s pretty good. I was a bit dubious about it, to begin with, and wasn’t sure I was A. going to play it, and B. enjoy it. But I’ve done both.

As always, for those of you that enjoy a trophy hunt, Undertale has pretty obtainable trophies, and if you’re on the PS4, you can get the platinum without even finishing the game! For the last trophy (reaching the second save point in the core) I will just say this…hang around and the path will open.

All in all, I think this game is really good. Of course, some elements could be improved – sometimes the combat is a bit confusing, some of the sprites could look a little better (namely, the main character that you control. But the story is great, and the music and sound are top-notch – even if the music is the kind that bores its way into your soul and will remain with you forever.

I’m going to give Undertale an 7/10, and I would recommend it, especially if you have a PSNow subscription. It’s well worth taking a bit of time to play through.

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