For today, Hoju has decided to step beyond his usual realm of tabletop wonderment to bring you a review of 2015’s most darling of an indie game, Undertale.

Undertale takes place in a world that is both semi-cohabited by humans and monsters.  For reasons told at every start-up, the monsters have been banished into a physical netherworld beneath the mountains guarded by a mystical vale.  One curious little person accidentally falls into the “Underground.”  You will then guide this little human on an adventure back to the topside of sunlight, grassy fields and air pollution, all the while navigating and trying to avoid the scary (or not-so-scary) beings that dwell within the dark realm.

The overall 16-bit presentation hearkens back to computer based RPGs of yester-lore with what seems like a clever throwback at first.  Undertale never results to nostalgic pandering though, with its self subjected color palette, ambiance and music.  Oh the music… Not since Halo, have I ever wanted to purchase an entire OST for a video game.  Yes, it’s that good, and all the more impressive considering the same dood who designed, created and built the game from the ground up, also freaking composed it!

On top of the already remarkable layers of cake, you will often realize that feelings of sentiment, in subtle ways or pure reactionary explosions, can and will occur.  I’m still stunned by the fact an indie game can be so moving.  I laughed, cried and even peed a little bit from fear!  It made me question the trustworthiness in the characters I encountered, counteracting my biases of typical NPCs.  Two catalysts that make this game and its characters tick, with which trust in yourself and the characters plays a huge role:  choice and emotion.

Every single turn there is inevitable going to be some decision you are going to have to make that may have profound benefits or consequences.  The choices you make will inherently, for better or worse, impact the entire environment and how the characters see you.

You first encounter Flowey, a talking flower and…you know what?  Let’s skip Flowey altogether. You will see why once you boot Undertale up.  Asriel, a motherly and sweet anthropomorphic goat, holds your hand through a bit of a tutorial and prologue, setting the environment for what lays beyond her humble and cozy abode.  Your inquisitiveness will no doubt overpower your resistance to leave.  By this moment you will have a basic handle on the controls and understanding of how the game will operate.  You will meet many a creature along your journey and they will all have distinct personalities, adding to the soul of an already stellar experience.

You must be wondering about quarreling with random “enemies” that pop up?  Well, this sets you up with an elaborate turn-based combat system with your soul being attacked by a bullet hell of random projectiles. You have the option for most battles to spare your “enemies.”  You can effectively spare all of your “enemy” encounters in the game, administering a pacifist ending.  Of course, you do have the option to go into full rampage mode and destroy everything in your path.  Just remember the impression and consequences and trustworthiness of your in-game folk.

The game can be purchased through Steam for around an affordable price and is, by far, one of the best indie experiences I can think of in quite some time.  I can still remember dozens of moments where I was in such awe that it made me wonder how a game that seems so simple on the surface can have such a profound, lasting sense of heart.  The morality system and wicked sense of humor do not hurt either.  This game will, indeed, fill you with determination.


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