Adventures in Undertale or Why This Game Consumed a Week of My Life

In case you haven’t figured out from some previous post(s?), I am an avid gamer. I particularly like the well-developed narrative in RPGs. I find them to be like interactive books. While watching TV can be somewhat passive and reading a book can be somewhat active in terms of engagement and focus, I think RPGs can fall somewhere in between. As far as games go, RPGs in particular really drive home this idea of reader as audience as performer:

What you do and how you respond can alter the path of the game, but at the same time you are responding to how the game communicates to or at you. It is this delightful push and pull effect.

So this brings me to Undertale:

Everything is snails, cinnamon, and butterscotch.

This indie game is not a graphic masterpiece by any means, but the richness of the narrative and characters make up for its bit-like detail. Then again, and maybe this dates me, but I find something utterly charming and nostalgic about a game that functions on a NSEW grid; 3D is over-hyped.

Like the trailer states, you don’t have to kill anyone in this game. In fact, the game, if you choose to kill, in some ways punishes you by withholding critical information about the game world. The game is also designed to not forget, even if you overwrite your last save file.

No, seriously, fuck this guy.

Don’t trust this asshole.

Flowey (featured above) is the first creature you meet in this new world. He’s also one of the few characters who knows exactly what you do even if you reset the game. And he reminds you of your trespasses. Through him and a few other interactions with other characters, the fourth wall breaks down. You the player become you the character and a whole new depth of interaction becomes possible within the game. The characters you encounter become more than just bits of data on the screen.

Toriel reading a book on snails.

I have so many favorite characters from this game, I can’t choose just one. Each encounter is unique and each character offers something new to the world’s mythos. The game functions on a high level of pathos via text and music. Though sometimes simplistic, the music also appropriately sets each scene.

The video above plays during each encounter with these guys:

Greater Dog

Dogamy and Dogaressa

Lesser Dog

Of course, while the music provides levity and playfulness, it also evokes a sense of urgency and determination.

In short, this game drew me in and captivated me for a whole week. I played it at home and at work (shhh, it’s a secret) because I wanted my true pacifist ending on my computer at home, but I also wanted to see what would happen if I decided to hack and slash in true RPG fashion. About half-way through my murder monsters run, I started to feel really bad for the characters because I remembered how happy they were from my on-going pacifist run on a different computer. That should tell you something about how strong the game’s pathos effect is.

But now it’s over. I finished the game. I got the best possible ending, and I was even warned that if I reset the game all that positivity would be lost to the ether and my newly made friends would go back to the way they were–less happy. So now I’m sad because I don’t get to interact with them anymore. If you’ll excuse me, I’m just going to lay here for a while and contemplate life.

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One thought on “Adventures in Undertale or Why This Game Consumed a Week of My Life

  1. […] I’ve been thinking a lot about Undertale. And I know I broke it down in a previous post… Sorta. During the last post I was concerned with spoilers, so I didn’t really dig too […]

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