“Undertale” challenges everything you know about RPG gaming

Your mother blocks the door. “Child, I will not let you pass until you prove that you are strong,” she says. Seems simple enough, you think, and attack. A few minutes later, as your mother dissolves, dead, in your arms, you realize that maybe your actions were a bit hasty. Pause. Rewind. Load from the last save, and try again. This time, instead of attacking your mother, you talk to her, and eventually she caves, hugs you and lets you pass.

Through the door is a cute little flower which laughs in your face. “I saw what you did!” it cries, triumphant, and laughs its terrifying laugh. “You killed her and then you went back to save herrrrr. I saw that.”

You’ve just started playing “Undertale.”

Released in late September 2015, “Undertale” is an indie game made entirely by one man: Toby Fox. His previous credits really only include composing music for the webcomic “Homestuck”. The comic’s creator Andrew Hussie has jokingly stated that “Undertale” was “made in [his] basement.” Despite that, “Undertale” has proven to be a massive success; it was declared the PC Game of the Year by five different gaming publications and has been nominated for multiple other awards. It won IGN’s “Best Story” award and with good reason.

“Undertale” is primarily a meta-commentary on the traditional act of gaming. Try to sell items to the shopkeeper? She’ll laugh in your face, because she’s trying to run a business here and she doesn’t want your junk! Make a slip-up and reset to the last save in an effort to re-do it? The game remembers and so does the primary villain. There’s no erasing what you do. Try to be a completionist and get every ending in the game? You’re going to break your game in the process. In fact, one of the endings intentionally breaks your game. Beware!

The most innovative aspect of the game is its addition of a “Mercy” button. In traditional RPG gaming, that’s not an option — you can attack, you can use an item or you can examine the opponent and use a special power, but mercy? If a game wants you to fight, you fight until either you or your opponent is defeated. In “Undertale,” however, the only real way to win the game is to kill absolutely no one.

“Undertale” requires you to rethink your approach to RPG gaming. For instance, the game prompts you to laugh at the ghost’s jokes so they let you pass, to pet the dogs in order to trick them into thinking that you’re a little puppy and to befriend the skeleton. You play the game and win the game by showing mercy, emphasized up until a poignant scene with the seemingly final boss. He spears the “Mercy” button straight through and destroys it; this battle, you’ll have to fight for real.

“Undertale” is a game where a character will intentionally craft an exceedingly difficult boss battle to try to convince you to stop being a villain or, should you choose to be good, will stack over 30 hot dogs on your head, because why not? You can also kill a skeleton who only wants to spare you and teach you to be good, or you can befriend him and go on a date with him. All of these eccentricities is overlaid with puns, beautiful music and a cutesy, evil flower that follows you every step of your journey.

Give “Undertale” a shot. Test out the demo, at least. You won’t regret it.