“It’s ex­actly my sort of game”

Fi­nally board­ing the Unde rtale hype train


When Un­der­tale came out back in 2015, so many peo­ple told me that I would love it and that it was EX­ACTLY my kind of game that I lost all de­sire to even boot it up. Partly that’s be­cause of a con­trar­ian “I will not be pi­geon­holed” streak. But it’s also be­cause some­times, when so many peo­ple are talk­ing about a game, it’s hard to sim­ply play it and en­joy it. One ad­van­tage of wait­ing is that if I’m not play­ing a game, po­ten­tial spoil­ers wash over me—if the names and places have no mean­ing I’ll usu­ally for­get them by the time I ac­tu­ally get around to play­ing it. I also don’t read ar­ti­cles about a game I’m wait­ing to play (un­less I’m edit­ing them). That urge only sets in once I have my own opin­ions, and I’m look­ing to ei­ther chal­lenge them or see how other peo­ple re­acted.

And so I fi­nally in­stalled Un­der­tale, spoiler-free and gen­uinely cu­ri­ous. I’m mildly an­noyed to dis­cover that I love it so far, and it’s ex­actly my sort of game.

Right now I think I’m about a third of the way through, and the big­gest sur­prise was how much hu­mor there is to revel in. When peo­ple rec­om­mend me games, they tend to pick out walk­ing sim­u­la­tors or arty projects. While I find games in both gen­res in­ter­est­ing, those rec­om­men­da­tions tend to be both very hit and miss, and very much from the se­ri­ous end of the spec­trum.

Un­der­tale, though, has great comic tim­ing and some won­der­ful char­ac­ters. It also seems to have a real un­der­stand­ing of how the player will re­act to par­tic­u­lar mo­ments. One ex­am­ple in­volved text on a sign­post. I pressed Z to read what it said, closed it, and moved on. Those kinds of key presses are quick, with the words only reg­is­ter­ing af­ter you’ve closed the text and started to walk away.

In­side joke

Un­der­tale ex­ploits this by putting some­thing un­ex­pected on one of those signs. When you re­open the text, in­stead of al­low­ing you to con­firm the mes­sage it tells you, “Yes, you read that cor­rectly”. It’s a tiny touch, but helps ex­plain why I love Un­der­tale. It can an­tic­i­pate play­ers and, if it does—if you and the devs are on the same page—it nudges the mood from de­tached com­edy to more in­ti­mate friendly ban­ter.

A puz­zle car­pet has ex­cel­lent comic tim­ing.

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