Well, look what the cat dragged in, eh? Gone for three days without so much as even a whisper? Now I know how my mother feels, being left all alone by her scumbag son, not even calling her up to see if she checked herself into rehab.
I’ve been on break for the past three days, for two reasons: one, staying up every night working on this gallery would turn me into my mom, and two, to see if anybody would even care if I was gone. It was a social experiment — a real social experiment, not the psychological abuse you see on YouTube labeled as pranks, and I found out that nobody around here is sucking me off. The nerve!
I only got one comment after I vanished off this website, and that was on the day that I planned on returning! And I sure won’t have any after I’ve posted this — my views dropped off faster than the difficulty curve for Bastion, obscure foreshadowing ahoy. I could have killed myself after seeing something shocking. I didn’t. If I ever kill myself, that would be the day! But I didn’t, and it would make so little of a difference to any of you. Yes. You.
Trust me, I feel worse than you, my scumbag friend, for spending three days doing jack shit is no way to spend three days. I spent it all playing indie games, learning about ancient history, whoring out some German flashcards in an effort to cut down on the hundreds that I’ve amassed in Anki, and occasionally doing some long–strength pushups in an effort to impress all my stuffed toys. Not that it would matter; they sure aren’t going anywhere, at least until I die of muscle atrophy.
Living your life idly is for those who had already spent their lives in the labour of good work and self–improvement and may finally retire happy. Even then, so few artists ever truly retire, just because of their built–in desires to help others find some meaning in their lives as well. I spent a good minute, a good minute, looking at myself in the mirror, and thinking: “I sure could use a trim.” And then fifteen minutes later I looked at myself for another minute and think, “What have I done to earn this laziness?” The answer, of course, was nothing.
So let me make a little postmortem, and not those boring–as–shit postmortems you might find after, say, the Cloudbleed information leak from the company that advertises 35% market share (share of what I don’t bloody know) who has been a consistent pain in the side of Tor users for years now, good riddance that those cunts will forever have their reputation smeared with that leak.
Here’s four paragraphs each about every game that I played over the past three days. If you’re worried this is turning into Froghand, don’t. Froghand didn’t have pictures.
If you haven’t already checked this game out, let me make it really simple for you: don’t. It’s not that it’s a bad game, or that it morally offends my entire being. It’s actually a decently–constructed game that would only offend the crankiest of all cranks, maybe because you can choose a mixed–species crew. It’s certainly engaging, in that way that playing poker for six hours and seeing all your money drift away is engaging. But I cannot recommend this game because I had started it up at 20:00, and found myself up until 02:00.
It’s one of those games; a roguelike. A game where your success is largely arbitrary and is simply an illusion of anything you do, with progress coming fast, each event being a roll of the dice, and with enough investment that you want to get bitter revenge on the next go. This combination makes it extremely addicting, even more so adding in the potential to do something cool like suffocate the entire enemy crew, set the whole ship on fire, or just board them and kill them all. These methods are also reliant on how lucky you are with your weapons, money, and crew, furthering the addictive potential.
Time for another law, called the “Speedrunner’s Constant.” As you get more familiar with gameplay, a realisation occurs: good gameplay pleasantly surprises you with its hidden depth (like Deus Ex and Super Mario Galaxy), and bad gameplay annoys you with flaws that only become apparent as you play them (like Hotline Miami and Super Smash Brothers). This is a game that splits down the middle: as you slowly realise the cool things you can do, you also realise that your ability to do them is extremely hampered by the unreliability of gameplay, including the bizarre decision to include traveling to nodes that have absolutely nothing in them. That’s exactly the type of thing I like in my games: wasting my time and doing jack shit.
Overall, it’s the type of game you play for a couple of hours before you realise that all the good parts of rooting–tooting space–shooting combat is severely overshadowed by the many flaws, such as the lack of crew automation, periods for up to two minutes every two minutes where all gameplay stops and you wait for your crew to heal and do repairs (which you’d think they’d do during fast travel), the overreliance on chance, and the lack of a consistent narrative to make the game worth checking out. It’s a game you’d play in an airport to kill time — nothing more, nothing less.
I can’t give this game a fair and unbiased (hahaha) review, as I have yet to play it in a proper way. When loading it up with Wine, the program and not the drink which I am banned from possessing due to my ability to mix drinks that qualify as biohazardous weapons, the main menu kept scrolling down like it was a teenager on Tumblr trying to hide their Princess Luna porn, which happened to me in high school once but nobody noticed me so that still makes me Gucci, mane.
At first I thought I triggered an obscure anti–piracy mechanism, which didn’t work as I pirated it anyway, only to do some research and find out I was alone in the game telling me to go fuck myself. Everything else worked fine, so smashing that mfing button at the right time, to which I was greeted to a old–lady–looking fairy dressed up like the administrator of a whorehouse waking up an unremarkable moe girl who squealed in Japanese and had “Ohayou” translated as “G–g–g’d’morning!” At which point I rolled my eyes, took a swig out of my non–alcoholic bottle, and knew it was going to be one of those games.
But I’ve played worse games whose translations were butchered to Hell and back, like Paper Mario 2 erasing the alleged transgenderism of the alleged Vivian (which the Super Mario Wiki had one hell of an edit war over). I’ve even played games — well, read mostly — like Cherry Tree High which I still think of extremely fondly even if it was a bit coyly self–aware of the type of people who would play a game about Japanese high schoolers making friends with each other. I decided to give this game a chance… and then they told me I needed to find things for my shop. To sell. Which I apparently opened up despite not having anything to sell with it.
Recettear. This is not how business works. You do not open a shop unless you need a shop. You can make a product without needing a shop. You do not need a shop if you do not have a product. You dense. Mother. Fucker.
But in all honesty this is a game I would have liked to play, if I didn’t realise that it was constantly registering down and right inputs, which would make gameplay a down and right bitch as it made menu navigation before. I think the reason I even bothered to play this game for weebs is because Mr. Enter gave it an off–handed recommendation, and he hasn’t steered me wrong yet. Except for Bojack Horseman, which was a show about a very sad horse who has no friends, is rude to everyone he meets, learns nothing, and wonders why he’s a very sad horse. Smart show for smart people. I give it four sad hooves out of four sad stars.
For those of you who thought I was taking the piss by saying Hotline Miami has bad gameplay, keep those buckets at bay, and lend me your ears. This is the type of game where if you have any serious involvement in games, you at least have some image in your head of. Beat–up animal masks, gratuitous gore, cryptic quotes, seizure–inducing backgrounds, music more needlessly aggressive than your dad, and that hot–hot–hot Outrun pink–and–blue aesthetic. It’s a glorious arthouse game that pushes the limits of pixel–art violence, and its appreciation is well–deserved.
I wanted to play the original, because I was the type of guy who preferred Left 4 Dead over the second, before my balls dropped out of my neck. Sadly there was no music thanks to Game Maker fucking everything up again, so I decided to play the Linux port of the sequel, which is the only way I would ever consider buying anything under copyright — holding it hostage. Not coincidentally, here’s hoping the crack of Nier 2 comes out soon, because a gay Finnish dragon recommended it. Dragons have shit taste, so it’s a good thing Yahtzee also recommended it.
Chances are you already know why this series is good, as the ideas in your head explain. So I’ll focus on the flaws. (1) Off–screen enemies are a common complaint, because there are few things worse than failing because of something you couldn’t reasonably expect. (2) For gameplay which relies on getting into a pattern — taking out the right guards at the right time — the randomness of the AI, your bullets, and which objects you can shoot through make combat needlessly frustrating; in a game like this they need to be predictable. (3) I’m okay with doors existing, as they do just as much as good as harm. What I don’t like is having to either wait for a pile of enemies to get up so we’re forced to see who can shoot eachother first, or spend two seconds each on a takedown, during which one of their friends can hit me in the head. Is it really so hard to let me shoot them while they’re down?
These may sound like minor issues, but considering how they make up 100% of the gameplay, they add up faster than your mom’s booze bills. This is the reason why I couldn’t enjoy the hard mode of the game, which absolutely relies on consistently, and yet the bullet spread is random. May I ask why my bullets do not shoot where I aim? Because of these problems, the gameplay is more a connector for the fascinating story, characters, and level design — including an astonishing–yet–rushed ending that would make a threequel pretty damn difficult. Basically, here’s my recommendation: play it once, twice if you don’t want to read the plot summary on Wikipedia, and enjoy the sights (sounds pending investigation) because they’re incredible. More than that and it will too annoying for you to bear.
This is one of those games that you play every few months to remind yourself just what the hell all the fuss was about, only to find even more niggles with it than you did the last time. It’s one of those games you’d find buried on itch.io in the under $10 section, given a lot of heart and soul and some neat ideas but overall is like driving a car very slowly down a highway and watching as each part cartoonishly shoots out of its place and all you’re left with is a chassis and four rims. If that analogy was true it would at least have better production values, which makes it even more sad when I have to break its little heart and say that the whole experience was kind of a wash.
Fans of Froghand will know that taking the piss out of Undertale is a running gag, for two reasons: (1) it’s an easier target than the broadside of a barn, and (2) for about six months after it came out it filled me with a combination of dread and envy, and then I realised what it was like to be a basement dweller so I just tempered off of that. Dread because those in the “furry–lite” subculture, who look and sound like furries yet are against calling themselves that, were saying it’s better than Jesus, not that Jesus set any standards for game development. Envy because somebody made millions of dollars off of this trite, which younger me (who was thirteen obviously) found so shocking and appalling that he completely missed that hundreds of people are millionaires for incredibly stupid reasons, such as Garfield being a capitalist shill. Jim Davis, those who set a low target should not be commended for hitting it.
I’ve matured since then. Matured a lot, actually. Despite nobody saying that Garfield stopped them from killing themselves or it was the most beautiful thing they’ve ever read in their life, that doesn’t stop Paws, Inc. from making a billion dollars a year. Practically, Davis is rich off his ass, and it is undeniable that wealth brings power and privilege. The creators of Undertale are dramatically less wealthy, though have the tradeoff of many blokes considering it bigger than… well, let’s not say Jesus, the boy needs his rest. Daft Punk? Garfield? Just pick any celebrity and you’ll get a rough ballpark of how big they consider the thing to be.
I can discuss how its “subversion” of RPG tropes is fundamentally dishonest because Undertale isn’t an RPG so much as it’s an adventure game. I can say how the entire plot revolves around contrivances, things happening to you instead of because of you, everybody acting like idiots, and running themes like “determination” making no sense within the context of the story and appears to be a cynical effort at branding rather than anything meaningful, for determination shows up out of nowhere and just sticks with you despite offering nothing meaningful to the plot.
And I can talk about how its morality system is fundamentally flawed where it wants you to feel guilty for fighting creatures that rewards you for killing them, as well as the big twist at the end where it turns out your experience points aren’t actually experience points but are instead something else, which strikes me a bit like the Jokes Clown coming out of the bushes and yelling “Gotcha, dumbass!” despite the final boss (well, one of three, but spending another eight hours to reach them is fucking nuts) having very big muscles and would have used them to wipe the floor with you had you not wiped the floor with his subjects. I mean the real final boss, where Frisk goes back home, not the fake one after where he has to play Touhou to reach the exact same conclusion.
But I’m a pragmatist. It initially sucks, believe me, seeing that most of your views about the world are dead wrong, and yet find peace in realising that the remaining views must be correct, and this helps you make even more sense of the world. I see the cause of a manipulative game, and the effect of weak–minded people being manipulated by it. I see the cause of it being highly recommended by these people, and the effect of it selling like gangbusters. I see the cause of its enduring reputation, and the effect that it has removed any honest discourse as to what, in the world, this game is, and would be, to the uninitiated.
Well, I’ll lay it out to you, for I gain nothing by lying and much by being honest. It is a game with moments of brilliance inbetween constant filler, where things occur to you for no conceivable reason with a sense of humour that was dated even on its release, and the impregnable smugness of the game for thinking it’s much more clever than you when it is, in reality, one foot above the mainstream and 39,999 feet below games that actually were clever, such as Bioshock, LISA, and ULTRA ADHD, which is one of the only good things to come out of Israel hardy–har.
The gameplay sure is nice. It’s got that satisfying back–and–forth where you dodge bullets and then have to time your attacks to knock the bitch who dare cross your path the fuck out. There’s also what I affectionately call pussy mode, where you can do a series of actions to stop fighting, though why anybody would use this when you stop the exciting bullet–hell gameplay and go back into the braindead puzzles and story is beyond me. It sure as hell better be nice, because that’s the only good part of the game, and even then Undertale finds a way to bog it down with unskippable dialogue that blathers on about the power of friendship and how violence doesn’t solve problems, in stark contrast to the way history usually works, which would be a good time for a piss break if you didn’t have to manually scroll past it, that cheeky cunt.
The story is a complete wash, and even after playing it three times, I still had no idea what it’s going on about. It’s one of those rare breeds with a story that is both nonexistent and yet incredibly dense — the “Lost” Law of Storytelling. I thought it was a pretty clear proposition at the start: get to the surface and kill the big king who won’t let them leave, bosh. Then it turns out he wants to let them leave, but you have to die, which isn’t happening so you kill him instead. This is an extremely simple plot that was told so ineptly that I had to look up the plot summary to figure out what it was banging on about; in a game where “show, don’t tell” is a carnal sin, you’ll have to forgive me if inbetween the references to anime I missed a sign that explained the symbolism of the Seven Crystal Stars that opens up The Thousand Year Door.
I suppose that’s the big problem, isn’t it? I’m not one to talk bad about graphics, so long as they don’t get in the way, but even I had to take a step back and say “Christ, this is uglier than I remember,” which the game makes up for by tweening the limbs and the end result is a demented marionette show. The music is functional, if a bit forgettable in that elevator music way. I don’t know why everybody thinks Megalovania is the tits when it sounds like “At Doom’s Gate” had too much sugar.
In fact, most of the soundtrack alternates between trying too hard and popping off for a smoke break; it’s one of those albums which wants to be something greater, but is stuck within the confines of the game which created it. Chaos forbid somebody tries too hard — after all, most problems occur when people don’t try hard enough. But it’s when you smash the guitar on stage, light it on fire, piss and shit on it, and have hate–sex with the smoldering remains that I start to wonder when U2 went downhill. Do not be afraid of “less is more, and the opposite of more is better.” Of course I don’t need to tell Undertale, a game which cannot handle less of its story or having more of its gameplay, because Undertale has buried its head in the sand and is writing a quirky melody titled ”OwO got meh head in teh sand >:3“.
I really do wonder what’s going to happen with Undertale. I have no qualms that it will consistently be praised despite its flaws, because gamers are terrible and will give awards to a puddle if it’s marketed as a rags–to–riches indie success story and somebody drew a goat in the dirt next to it. Actually, everybody is terrible and we should all cap ourselves, and by “we” I mean you, and by “you” I mean those who think Earthbound still holds up.
It really is a game of its time, a game which follows the proud Homestuck tradition of being mildly amusing when it came out and is now so cringe–inducingly absent of self–awareness than we bury our heads in our palms and cry aloud, “CHRIST, what were we thinking?” To be honest, we’re not there yet with Undertale; Homestuck sure is, but Undertale still has a few years before the jokes about skeletons, depressed ghosts, anime cliches, trash bins, and snails become so outdated, so emblematic of its 2015s Tumblr–pandering brand, that it will be like stepping onto a Neopets userpage from 2006. It’s primitive. It’s shameless. And it would be sweet if not for the swift realisation that everybody was acting this way, and that it was just one corpse thrown onto the pile.
So this is where we are. Undertale is the new Homestuck — a shoestring plot twisted into an overdramatic marketing exercise with whatever good parts of it overshadowed by its consistently and predictably dumb design choices. It will lose all relevance within five years before popping up once in a while like a pimple on the face of culture, where a series of incredibly devoted fans choose to be ignorant of its flaws as opposed to facing reality and making themselves better artists in spite of them, like a child realising everything their parents told them was wrong. It made the creators rich and will continue to do so, until the Internet collectively forgets about it and it becomes just another thing that happened. Just like bronies, actually.
And since this is where we are, I’m done. I’m done with the jokes about Undertale. Not to say I won’t bring it up to compare and contrast critical flaws, but it won’t be my go–to weapon. I’m done being jealous about it, because that ship has sailed, and there are new things to get jealous about and improve myself to match. I’m done worrying about the fans of the game, because it’s been over a year and they have made up their mind regarding what they decide to consume… and it really is “consume,” like Nintendo fans consume what Nintendo doth swill.
So I’m laying Undertale to rest. I’ve said my piece, and though there is more to say, I understand that there is an extremely high chance you have already made your mind up about it, and this review was playing devil’s advocate for those who want something different from the universal, though undeserved, praise it has gotten. There are many games like that where only a few bastions of rational thought allow a contrary opinion to be said, because the goal of a critic is to point out flaws so that artist may improve. Adopting a complex where the thing you like is cut–and–dry perfect when you know there are flaws is a dangerous mindset for you and everybody else, because when we lower our expectations, we damage our culture.
I will still indulge in the fanart though, including this lovely piece by Deadsalesman which was made just one month after its release and then had the artist duly fuck off. Well not exactly, but given that the rest of his art falls into the trap of putting “traditional skill” over the art actually meaning anything makes my brain erase it from reality, like a blind spot in our culture. Don’t feel bad, DS — most artists don’t even get one good piece, which is coincidentally the same amount of good pieces you’ve made.
So as to whether or not I recommend Undertale, for those of you with particularly bad memories and–or reading comprehension, ask yourself whether the date is past the year 2020. Anything before that and you’ll find yourself under a cultural obligation to play it, even if it’s just to see what all the fuss is about, a bit like going to Mecca and finding it unremarkable. Anything past that and it’ll come across as another relic of our time, something we all harped on for some reason and then slipped out of our consciousness and is only revisited for cheesy nostalgia, like disco dancing, or Goatse. In a word, don’t. In four words, you can do better.
And for those of you who didn’t read this entire thing from front to back, just remember the main point of systemic racism being a healthy part of society. Yes, it’s really in there. Read it. I swear.
Date: 2017–03–24. Size: 3,387 bytes. Colours: 6.
Upscaled Dimensions: 459×597. Original Dimensions: 153×199.