A critical exchange on “Undertale”

I recently finshed playing Undertale after reading numerous comments about it being the greatest game ever made, and that I simply have to play it to understand its brilliance.

I have played it and I still do not understand its brilliance. Against my better judgement, I took to Twitter to share my thoughts on the game and to ask others theirs. I struggled to get much explicit feedback on the game other than “you don’t get it” or “if it’s not for you that’s fine but don’t spoil it for others” and even “your comments are damaging children who like the game”.

One fan – Alex – however did offer to send me some detailed insight into why he enjoyed the game so much, so I asked him if I could post it here, along with my response.



There’s a few reasons why people like the game so much; the humour – as you’ve mentioned, the nostalgia, the story, the “bullet-hell” and the metagame mechanics are just a few notable things.

Some people find the dry humour to be their kind of funny. The easy puns are, well, easy like bad dad puns. There’s oh-so-many bone jokes to be made about skeletons and Undertale certainly isn’t lacking in them. Personally, I laughed at a couple of them but over-all the humour aspects of Undertale are like any kind of comedy sketch, not everyone finds the same joke funny.

Some people love the game for the nostalgia aspects. The art style is one of the most notable points, and the creator took a lot of inspiration from classics such as Mother 3. The music is another point, mostly being chip-tune stuff with some modernisation thrown in.

For the story, the use of meta is another thing people tend to like. With the saving and loading mechanics found in almost every game made these days actually being a plot element, it helped add another layer to the game that isn’t often expected in this day and age. In the final boss fight of the first run, Flowey actively mocks you if you’ve managed to make it all that way without saving as it means he didn’t have to overwrite your save with a copy of his own. For the genocide run, you permanently taint any following good endings if you manage to complete it – that also being a reason why people suggest playing it in a particular order.

On the subject of the genocide run, that’s where the bullet-hell aspect of the game truly makes its debut. The pacifist and neutral runs are relatively easy in terms of difficulty, but the two main bosses of the genocide run are some of the most notable bullet-hell fights. If you want a challenge, I’d advise googling “Undertale final corridor genocide save”. The music fits the fight pretty perfectly too, which is nice.

Anyway, I’m not entirely certain on how biased or unbiased this description was, but it wasn’t designed to try get you to play more of the game, just to give you some thoughts as to why people like it without the whole “DAN UR LITERALLY HITLER BECUZ U DUNT LIKE UNDERTALE” bullshit most fandoms spew out. I’d quite happily go into further detail and geek out over videogames with ya, but I could do with more than 5 hours sleep before college tomorrow.

Keep on keeping on, dude.


I don’t know why people are describing the humour as dry… dry means subtle, sophisticated humour. Stuff like “identify yourSMELLF!” or “oh no, the dog’s tail is actually a fuse, it’s a bomb!” is about as un-dry as you can get. It’s the kind of jokes I would have made in the school playground if I was overdosing on sugar.
I can see the point about the nostalgia and the retro look, but there are hundreds if not thousands of games with this 8 bit retro aesthetic.
The meta is interesting, although has been done before more interestingly (Stanley Parable for example) and I didn’t see it adding the enjoyability of the game… it seems more like a thing for people to use as justification as to why it’s clever. But I don’t see it as clever – it’s very easy to break the fourth wall and there’s a good reason why writers don’t do it 99% of the time – it’s jarring and breaks the suspension of belief that they are supposed to have built up.
The bullet hell bits, they did get better throughout the game as they became more challenging with different layers and strategies. I don’t really have criticism of those sections.
So yeah… I went into Undertale with people telling me “you just have to play it to see why it’s so amazing”, and with it being the top rated game on Metacritic… I was expecting something that would feel really special. But there was nothing in it that I haven’t seen done better in other games before. I WANTED to love it, to feel how these other people seem to feel when they play it, but I was just left frustrated and disappointed, which is why I took to twitter to vent.

Thanks Alex!

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