Every review for Toby Fox’s Undertale seems to somehow impart a deep seeded conviction that this truly is one of the most emotional, clever, unexpected games of all time. That conviction is so powerful that by the time I metaphorically pulled this title off the shelf and gave it a good dusting (months after I got it as a much wanted gift), the idea that I was going to be blown away by this little indie game was all but a concrete expectation. That hope only grew when, after falling in love with “His Theme” when it was used as a backing track behind some Overwatch voice lines, I found Undertale’s soundtrack to be incredible in its own right.

Perhaps by osmosis, I had come to respect the vague, sacred secrecy the community held around the game’s details. But it wasn’t until I fired it up for the first time that I realized I’d never even seen a screenshot of Undertale before, and it was honestly a jarring experience. Playing on my 3000x2000 Surface Book display, Undertale loaded as a little box of pixel graphics that only occupied a ninth of my screen, and it took me a solid amount of Googling to figure out if it even had a fullscreen mode (it does, press F4). Once it was big enough to actually see, it was a whole other struggle to figure out how to control stuff, as Undertale offers you no real tutorial whatsoever (arrow keys to walk, and Z, X, and Ctrl for pretty much everything else). In fact, the initial feeling I had was one of deflation; this supposedly perfect game was actually a time machine back to the days of pixel art and text-based RPGs with a bad on-ramping experience.

And that brings us to the paradox of Undertale: in order to give it all the praise it deserves, to show off all the things that make it both sharply witty and warmly endearing, and to convince a newcomer to push past the honestly confounding first 10 minutes of play, I’d have to spoil a little of the game. And that is something I should absolutely not do. Because realizing what Undertale is, living out the experience of a truly beautiful game revealing itself to you in the subtlest of character dialogue, and feeling your assumptions about how it should be played slip away — all of this must be yours and only yours.

So have a little hope, press on, and stay determined. You’ll be so happy you did.



Video Game
Release Date
September 15, 2015
Joshua J. Daymude
Joshua J. Daymude
Assistant Professor, SCAI & CBSS

I am a Christian and assistant professor in computer science studying collective emergent behavior and programmable matter through the lens of distributed computing, stochastic processes, and bio-inspired algorithms. I also love gaming and playing music.