O frabjous day! Callooh! Callay! I bring you the best of tidings, dear reader. The one and only indie game masterpiece Undertale is now playable on Xbox. To make these tidings even greater, it is also available on Xbox Game Pass. You’ve probably seen its memes, you’ve likely heard its music, and there is a big chance that you’ve seen its internet fame and thought, “Jeez, what’s the big deal?” If this describes you, then, against my better nature, I advise you to stop reading, go turn on your Xbox, and immediately play the phenomenal wonder that is Undertale right now.
Developed by the one man army that is Toby Fox, this charming little RPG begins as your character takes a fall into an enormous cavern. It is here, in the underworld, that you meet, battle, and speak with the monsters that humanity sealed away long ago. Returning to the surface can only be accomplished by embarking on a quest to challenge the enigmatic monster king, and overcoming any obstacles that stand in your way.
If you’ve ever played an RPG before, this doesn’t sound too different. Monsters, battling, dialogue, yadda yadda yadda. One of the greatest beauties of Undertale, is that it completely expects its players to be familiar with the tired tropes of the genre. You’ll meet skeletons, but they won’t be wielding battered shields and rusty swords. They’ll wear hoodies, superhero costumes, and you’ll go on a date with one that loves making spaghetti. You’ll have to disable spikes by pushing rocks onto pressure plates, but one rock may move on its own and verbally question your actions. Where most games go left, Undertale goes up, right, down, forward, and back. It has the most authentically unpredictable and hilarious twists on standard video game conventions you’ll ever see.
This delightfully screwball approach to the world stretches into every other aspect of the game. Characters are goofy, distinct, and honestly written. Though the game’s visuals are an incredibly simple 8-bit style, Toby Fox’s constantly clever animation combines with his writing to squeeze every last drop of personality out of the entire main cast. These are characters that you’ll remember long after you’ve finished playing. Not only for their fantastic one-liners, but the way that they can carry you all the way from out loud laughter to the brink of tears. “Tears?” I hear you hypothetically thinking, “Where did that come from? So far, this was sounding pretty lighthearted.” Oh, you have no idea. I’d never spoil a single speck of this game for the uninitiated, but rest assured when I tell you that for every ounce of delightful whimsy, Undertale has a gut-busting sucker punch of unparalleled drama lying in wait.
To make said sucker punches even more suckery, is the fact that they are always your fault. I can’t even begin to fathom the enormous amount of work that Toby Fox went through to create the bevy of meaningful player choices in this title. One little decision here or there can have completely unexpected repercussions down the line. However, they never feel cheap or out of place. Rather, everything you do lends to the idea that the world of Undertale not only continues to exist even when you aren’t playing it, but that you ultimately hold its fate in your hands.
Many of these choices you’ll make are within the game’s combat system. Since it is an RPG, you can attack and kill any character you enter a battle with. When it’s your opponent’s turn to attack, you’ll have to dodge a series of bullet-hell projectiles. However, you also have the option to talk your way out of things. You can give monsters gifts, complement their outfits, challenge them to flexing competitions or dance offs, cook with them, or, if they’re a dog, pet them. Each peaceful way out of a battle is hidden through context clues and lines of dialogue, so you have to work hard in order to find a polite way out of fighting. Or, of course, you can mow down anyone in your way. The choices, and their consequences, are yours.
Those familiar with morality systems in games, might be thinking that Undertale, like many other games, has a good and bad ending and that’s it. Yet, it is so much more nuanced than that. There are multiple endings, but the endings aren’t where you see the huge differences. Your interactions with every character and how they respond to your choices throughout the breadth of the story are so varied that it feels as if the game is talking specifically to you rather than obeying lines of code.
Without a doubt, the biggest highlight of the game is its intricately woven story. There isn’t too much I can say without spoiling it, but I can say that each portion of the story is taken to new heights by the massive masterpiece of a soundtrack. Also created by Toby Fox, there is a song that matches the emotional and comedic resonance of every single thing you’ll see. Ever wondered what it sounds like when you fight a spider having a bake sale? How about when an annoying dog absorbs a rare artifact? What about when you have a climactic, fourth-wall shattering battle against the *REDACTED* that has sought to destroy the *REDACTED* *REDACTED*? There is a pitch-perfect song for each one of these events, and many more.
There are few games that I would recommend to absolutely everyone. Of course, Undertale will be that much more hilarious to those who have a history of playing games, but even non-gamers will find that there is so much to love in this one of a kind marvel of a game. From its charismatic characters and stupendous story to its meaningful gameplay and incredible soundtrack, Undertale on Xbox is a titanic accomplishment that not only ignores the ideas of what makes a video game, but redefines them.