Even amongst the shooters that flood the market every November, there is a little game that is being claimed as the best-rated PC game of all time:<em> Undertale</em>.</p>
Alice in Wonderland is an easy comparison. A child falls into an underground world of monsters and is trying to find their way home. The game is simply an odyssey through this strange wonderland, and the absurd logic the monsters run on. It is both adorable and somber, comedic yet hiding darkness.
Of course, Alice in Wonderland was not rendered in old-school video game graphics that remind me of sitting with an old Nintendo console as a kid. Nostalgia helps the experience along, like the way a black and white movie still possesses qualities worth using even to this day.
The major thrust of the game is the nature of your choices. The little heart that is your cursor is YOU, your Soul, the “culmination of your being.” They aren’t even being mystical at that point; the cursor really is the representation of your will in the game, in any game.
Anyone who has walked through the tall grass in Pokémon will be familiar with the main gameplay of Undertale. You’ll randomly encounter monsters during your adventure. When that happens, you see an animated sprite representing your current target and a variety of abstract options to choose from: Fight, Act, Item or Mercy.
Froggits, frog monsters for whom “life is difficult.” Vegetoids, sentient carrots that insist you should have a healthy meal. My personal favourite are the Temmies: little cats with dog ears that seem to be constantly vibrating, and are often trying to “glomp you.”
These “fights” are exercises in comedy, with a variety of increasingly absurd actions you can take. Flex at the bodybuilding seahorse until it flexes itself out of the room. Complement the depressed ghost until he decides to make a hat to impress you. Hum at a Shyren, and you can become friends, start a band together, get famous, go on tour, and then sadly, go your separate ways.
These are all real examples of encounters in this game. Few games make me literally laugh out loud like this one.
You can attack these enemies as well, just like you’d fight the countless enemies in any other game.
But why would you?
A paragon of motherliness, Toriel, takes you in during the first section of the game. She tells you not to fight the enemies, just to wait for her to scare them off, or to engage the monsters in some strange conversation to convince them to leave.
And that’s the major hint. Maybe you don’t have to kill anything.
Think about it. If you saw some kid walking around slaying monsters in a monster’s world, you’d think they’d be some crazy murderer.
It’s that interesting twist on the unspoken rule to just kill everything in sight in some games. What if you didn’t? What if the fact you even went along with such a rule said something profoundly awful about you?
As mentioned before, you can get out of fights through absurd comedic actions. Isn’t murdering creatures like that kind of screwed up?
Behind the comedy is the potential for tragedy.
You can be a pacifist. Or you can commit genocide.
Sometimes there is someone that is adamant about keeping you from progressing. Will you somehow be able to win a battle without killing them, trying every possible option? Are you willing to die to do that? Or will morals take a back seat to survival? Is it impossible to get through the game without slaying a single monster?
Being a pacifist, in-game and in life, is hard. Maybe it’d be easier just to kill things in your way instead…
What do you want to do? And what does that say about you? Play Undertale and find out. That’s the key appeal of video games really. The essence of a video game.
Undertale was developed primarily by a single man. While people surely will pick up the next Call of Duty or Fallout, take a moment to give 10 dollars to the people really trying to tell their own story using this wonderful medium.