En god vän gav mig Undertale i julklapp. Inte sedan Portal har jag hört talas om ett så kritikerrosat spel – Yahtzee Croshaw, en spelkritiker som gjort sig känd genom att besinningslöst slakta även spel han tycker om, gjorde sin recension i fem ord: “Undertale is a good game.” Självklart var jag tvungen att spela det. Ganska lätt avklarat förvisso, det här är inget hundratimmars-epos som tar över ens liv, hela spelet går att plöja igenom på en eftermiddag eller två. Istället är det berättelsen och de många okonventionella inslagen som får det att stå ut från mängden. Jag har gjort mitt bästa för att inte avslöja något kritiskt, men du som är spoilerkänslig bör läsa försiktigt, eller inte alls – Undertale blir faktiskt bättre ju mindre man vet om det i förväg.
Undertale is an interesting game. Not because it offers particularly good gameplay, graphics, or because it’s challenging – but the simple exterior hides a surprisingly engaging and complex story, told in a way that defies convention and makes Undertale stand out from the endless brown goo of mediocrity that the Steam store occasionally resembles. It styles itself like a JRPG but it really isn’t one, taking every opportunity to subvert existing tropes and play with the format.
Unfortunately, the brilliant writing makes the lacklustre gameplay stand out all the more, because it quickly becomes a chore that you must plow through in order to get to the next parcel of story. And then again, because the game withholds some (story-critical) content unless you go through it at least twice, or manage to hit all the critical flags on the first run – probably impossible without a walkthrough.
Undertale prides itself on being a game where nobody has to die – which is represented in each battle by the option to “spare” the monster. This option only becomes available after certain actions are taken, and so is a mini-puzzle in itself, but the solutions are often obvious and so most battles can be resolved in seconds, especially if the same monster has been encountered before. When attacked, you are faced with a short “bullet hell” minigame, where you must dodge incoming projectiles of various sizes and shapes. There are enough variations on the formula that this doesn’t immediately become tedious, and some of the later battles can be quite challenging.
The graphics, as I’ve mentioned, vary from simply bad to acceptable; the game is presented in faux 8-bit – that is, blocky graphics in variously low resolutions, but with high resolution effects. There are a number of art shifts throughout, which are used sparingly but effectively, typically in expectation of a major event. The excellent soundtrack also contributes greatly to the ambience and helps set the tone of each encounter.
Apart from the story, what I think makes Undertale stand out is how it plays with itself as a medium. Actions such as saving, loading and even exiting to the desktop are woven into the story in a way that few games have ever even tried. Restoring a save file to try something different, you may find that NPCs still remember your actions from before, although this mostly affects dialogue.
While I still don’t feel that Undertale quite lives up to the hype, I’ve come to overlook its faults and appreciate it much more after seeing the whole story through to the end. It delivers a unique experience and a story that manages to be emotionally engaging while still delivering a lot of laughs. And you’ll be filled with determination.
Mitt betyg: 8/10.