Autopsy: Undertale

Jack Coles brings the salt with this crucifixion of the indie darling from Toby Fox; fans of Undertale beware...

Jack Coles
12th November 2018
Image Credit: IGDB

It’s difficult, being a white male with a contentious opinion. Merely voicing it provokes annoyed braying from the vocal majority, but for what it’s worth, I think scientists should rule the world, Italian food is better than French food, trebles are just awful, and Undertale is the most overrated piece of media since The Beatles.

Undertale isn’t bad, let me just say that right away. It’s just a bit of a mixed bag. Let me just rattle off the bits that I like so we can get to the fun, sardonic bits. 1) I like the music, although the sound quality’s a little low, 2) the little twists in the gameplay are fun and inventive, and 3) the writing is generally solid.

Now for the bad parts. Which one shall we go for? Well, the gameplay is a fat, juicy target. It’s… not great. The idea works on paper; avoiding attacks with little bullet-hell minigames while trying to either kill the enemies or make them go away somehow. In practice, it means that two enemies will combine their attacks to make a clusterfuck that goes one step beyond chaos theory.

Undertale isn’t bad... It's just a bit of a mixed bag.

Other bugbears mount up. It uses pixel graphics, which give me a headache, and the fact that they’re in black and white half the time does nothing to alleviate this. The final boss’ appearance and attacks literally made me feel nauseous. Additionally, backtracking to buy healing items or talk to NPCs is a chore because your character moves like a snail going to a French abattoir. I don’t care if your game is as deep as an ocean if I’m navigating it with concrete overshoes.

And my fucking lord, the user interface. Not usually something most critics are harsh on since it’s largely just there but it takes something spectacularly bad for it to get a mention. And Undertale’s UI sucks more balls than a bubble tea enthusiast. There are no tooltips, the character information is practically useless, and there’s no way of easily comparing armour and weapons. It’s just awful to navigate.

Perhaps my biggest issue with the game is that the joke setup is a bit wonky. How these things usually go is that you spend a bit of time establishing a core idea before knocking it over and making hooting noises. This happens half the time in Undertale.

Undertale’s UI sucks more balls than a bubble tea enthusiast.

At other times, the joke is ready and standing as soon as you arrive before it gets knocked over, such as one segment at the very beginning which is clearly meant as a Pokémon parody. If you’ve played Pokémon before, it’d probably work. Personally, I’ve only played half an hour of one of those games, so it had the air of one of your friends telling you an in-joke from their days at primary school and then getting huffy when you didn’t find it hilarious.

I suppose what I’m saying is that Undertale has some nice ideas, but executed badly, like Archimedes was.

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