Video Game: Undertale

"Long ago, two races ruled over the Earth: HUMANS and MONSTERS. One day, war broke out between the two races. After a long battle, the humans were victorious. They sealed the monsters underground with a magic spell. Many years later..."

"Can you show mercy without fighting or running away...?"

Mt. Ebott, 201X. Legends say those who climb the mountain never return. A small child playing in a cave trips and falls down an enormous hole. They wake up on a bed of flowers in a mysterious place.

Undertale is a Role-Playing Game in development by Toby Fox, planned for release in 2015. A demo is available at http://undertale.com/, and a trailer is available here.

Undertale draws heavily from Earthbound and Mother 3, but the core gameplay is very different from typical RPGs. Instead of selecting commands and having the computer calculate hits, each enemy attack brings up a smaller arena where the heart-shaped avatar of your soul must dodge projectiles like in Bullet Hell. Instead of winning battles only by attacking, you can choose to FIGHT an enemy or SPARE them.

Tropes present in Undertale:

  • 100% Completion: Deconstructed when the player replays the game and takes different actions. Flowey calls you out on this mentality if you kill Toriel after sparing her previously. After all, if you spared Toriel the first time and wanted to see what would happen if you killed her, then what other purpose could you have aside from deriving pleasure in seeing her die?
  • All There in the Manual: It offers a few tips on fighting monsters, and a couple character details like snail pie being Toriel's favorite food. There's even a note from your best friend, Flowey! Too bad someone ruined the page regarding enemy attacks, though. You might find some additional advice after finishing the game, as well.
  • Apologetic Attacker: Whimsun doesn't want to fight you at all. Its bullets won't even hit you if you don't move.
  • Arc Words: Determination.
  • Book Ends: The demo ends in a room identical in appearance to the second one.
  • Bread, Eggs, Milk, Squick: "Spider Bakesale down and to the right. Come eat food made by spiders, for spiders, of spiders!"
  • Breaking the Fourth Wall: Done rather blatantly by Sans.
  • Bullet Hell: Enemies attack with bullets of varying shapes and patterns. Battles with multiple enemies can become hectic.
  • Call a Hit Point a "Smeerp": Even if it sounds like a lie at first, the game does use the term "LOVE" for LV instead of Level.
  • Dating Sim: The Kickstarter description implies there will be elements of this in the full game.
  • Deconstructor Fleet: Though not immediately apparent, the game is a massive Deconstruction of RPGs, both on a superficial level from sarcastic flavor text and characters as well as the deeper plot. It also examines 100% Completion on a meta level. What if there were alternate ways of getting from Point A to Point B, and the person going through the motions happens to have the ability to go back and explore these routes after going through one? What if they remember going through the motions? What if someone else can remember what they did in a previous loop?
  • Deliberately Monochrome: There are a couple of Froggit NPCs seen outside of battle that are in black and white. In battle and dialog portraits, all monsters are shown in black and white — save for Toriel's maroon eyes.
  • Determinator: The protagonist. They see things in save points that make them determined, and then press onwards. Deconstructed to chilling effect with the bad ending, in which the protagonist simply becomes determined on their own- determined to wipe out every monster in their way, and slaughter everyone for fun.
  • The Dev Team Thinks of Everything: The demo alone is chock full of secrets and optional dialog, plus the criteria for Multiple Endings.
    • Even the website has a hidden message for those who try trawling the source code:
      What are you doing? Looking for secrets? Don't put your nose where it doesn't belong. Or you might learn something you DON'T like... Hee hee hee.
  • Die Laughing: If you dispatch the demo's Boss Battle in a particularly cruel way, they'll declare that you're even worse than the monsters themselves. Either slay as many monsters as you can, or get the boss to back down and then attack them anyway.
  • Earn Your Bad Ending:
    • Getting the worst ending to the demo requires significant effort. You must repeatedly kill monsters until the random encounters stop. You might not get this by accident unless you're a habitual level grinder.
    • Getting a Game Over in the Boss Battle at the end of the demo takes some effort. You really have to be trying.
  • Earn Your Happy Ending: On the other hand, the best ending is slightly counter-intuitive and requires avoiding some areas and encounters. Or just sparing or fleeing from monsters.
  • Epic Fail: As described on the Funny page, should you continuously miss the Dummy, it will "get tired of your aimless shenanigans" and just float away.
  • Exact Words: "Three out of four grey rocks recommend you push them." The fourth rock isn't as much of a pushover.
  • Experience Points: Unlike many games, there's no need to kill enemies for EXP. Hurting them before sparing them is fine. According to Radiation in this post, he's planning on changing that in the full game so that you can only get EXP by killing them.
  • Fake Trap: The corridor of spikes can't harm you because the spikes that aren't part of the correct path only act as barriers. You wouldn't realize this at first because Toriel leads you through.
  • Final First Hug: If you keep Toriel alive, she hugs the protagonist before they part ways.
  • Foreshadowing:
    • The manual page about enemy turns has been ruined by "artless hooligans", according to Flowey. Turns out he did it so he could trick you when you first meet him in-game. He can still change the manual after the fact, leaving new messages on the last page.
    • Near the end of the demo, the player can find and equip a toy knife. But picking it up isn't something a peaceful person would do.
    • Averted with Napstablook. Listing him in the manual might imply he's a key NPC, but he shows up a grand total of twice in the demo, and the second encounter is easy to miss.
    • Napstablook doesn't have a "damaged" sprite or sound effect. Your attacks aren't actually doing anything, and he's just reducing his HP out of politeness.
  • Freeze-Frame Bonus: If you're killed in the demo's Boss Battle, your opponent shows a unique sprite for a split-second before you see the game over screen.
  • Gilded Cage: Toriel's home is a lovely place to live in, but due to her extremely protective nature, she doesn't want you to leave, opting for dodging the topic, excusing herself to leave, and pleading with you. When all else fails, she physically stands between you and the only passage out of the ruins.
  • Go Out with a Smile: If you resolve the Boss Battle by killing them, they'll acknowledge your strength. Whether that smile is sincere depends on the circumstances when you strike the lethal blow.
  • Hannibal Lecture: The player is on the receiving end of one at the end of the demo from Flowey. Usually it's calling you out on the evil things you did. If you manage a Pacifist Run instead, they wonder how long you can keep it up.
  • Humanoid Abomination: The protagonist very definitely doesn't play by the rules of the underground. While the monsters attack your soul with bullets, you attack their physical being and they can't dodge. Your ability to save and continue is also meaningful in-universe.
  • I'm a Humanitarian: The Vegetoid enemy is a sentient vegetable. After weakening them with attacks, you can eat them to recover HP with a special action. They even offer diet advice, so it's hardly murder to take them up on it, is it? OF COURSE IT IS! That's what makes it fun! Hee hee...
  • I Am Who?: The protagonist has the power to SAVE. This is crucial since it shows that you're not actually playing by the rules of the world. It's acknowledged in-universe by the villain, and presumably the full game will explore the implications.
  • I Surrender, Suckers: A particularly cruel way of dispatching the boss of the demo. In their final moments, they let out a despaired laugh and say you're going to fit in with the monsters outside just fine.
  • Kill 'em All: The monsters you meet in random encounters aren't infinite. If you keep killing them, even the monster NPCs will disappear.
  • Kleptomaniac Hero Found Underwear: "Scandalous! It's Toriel's sock drawer."
  • Knife Nut: The flavor text for the Toy Knife notes how rare such toys are nowadays. The protagonist can also develop a knife obsession if you feel like it.
  • Leave Your Quest Test: Toriel wants you to stay with her at home. She genuinely means well by it, though.
  • Leitmotif: Toriel has one, "Fallen Down".
  • Level Drain: Downplayed by Napstablook. "Killing" him drops your XP by one.
  • Mercy Rewarded: The outcome of the game, and the dialogue towards the player, is more positive if you do not use lethal force. Ignore this, and the game will repeatedly and mercilessly chastise you.
    • However, you can't gain EXP just by sparing enemies. You need to kill them if you want to level up. (In the demo you can spare injured monsters for EXP, but Word of God is that the full game will change this.)
    • Particularly, a Pacifist Run will not only net you a more positive ending but also reward you with bonus dialog on the credits screen.
  • Mood Whiplash:
    • The first encounter with Flowey goes from sickeningly cutsey to absolutely terrifying in the span of a few seconds.
    • The ending to the demo is also much darker than the silly, tongue-in-cheek atmosphere of the rest of the game up to that point.
  • Multiple Endings: Depending on your actions in game, this will change — including how many enemies you've slain, whether you killed or spared the boss, and even whether you've restarted more than once. The final page of the instruction manual also changes depending on the ending.
  • My God, What Have I Done?:
    • Let's say you're trying to weaken the Boss Battle so you can spare them. Then suddenly, your attack deals ten times as much damage and accidentally kills them. Bonus points if you're not intentionally trying to Kill 'em All.
    • Speaking of the boss, there's the Freeze-Frame Bonus of their battle sprite if they kill you.
  • Mythology Gag: The track "Fallen Down" was one of Toby Fox's contributions to I Miss You, an album of tracks made with EarthBound's soundfont back in 2011-2012.
  • Never Say "Die": Averted.
  • New Game+: The demo keeps track of the player's activities which affects their experience during later playthroughs. Specifically, it tracks the number of times you've done the opening encounter with Flowey and the number of times you've either killed or spared Toriel at the end.
  • Nice Job Fixing It, Villain: The taunt Flowey leaves in your instruction manual if you kill Toriel is a brutal You Bastard moment, but it also hints at the way to save her.
    YOU DIDN'T EVEN TRY TO SPARE HER DID YOU?
  • No Kill Like Overkill: If you've slain as many monsters as possible, the Boss Battle is over very quickly. At a time when the most damage you've done up to that point is around 30, your attack will deal about 22,000. The cheap shot described under I Surrender, Suckers also does obscene damage.
  • Non-Action Guy: Most enemies in the demo aren't aggressive and some of them are very easy to SPARE. Given Flowey's claims of "kill or be killed", this would appear to be very atypical of the underground.
  • Not So Different: The Boss Battle says this to you if you Back Stab them after they lower their guard. Kill the boss three times and Flowey mockingly says you're like him. Kill all the monsters and he says it more respectfully.
  • Not So Stoic: The stoicism is obviously put-upon from the start, though. In the Boss Battle towards the end of the demo, they consistently act cold and aloof, but will display a sudden expression of shock and horror if they accidentally kill you.
  • Oedipus Complex: It is possible to call Toriel "Mom" and then flirt with her. She will take note of this.
  • Omnicidal Maniac: You can kill everyone in the game. The Player Character seems proud of it if it does happen...
  • Pacifist Run: Entirely possible to do in the demo.
  • Peer Pressure Makes You Evil: The Migosp attacks only while it has allies present, but acts like itself (a carefree dancer) once they're gone.
  • Preexisting Encounters: In the demo, one puzzle features a couple of Vegetoids half-buried in the ground that emerge to attack when examined.
  • Protagonist-Centered Morality: Oh yeah, spare the major encounters but kill common monsters on the way? You'll get called out on this by Flowey.
  • Random Encounters: The protagonist shows a "!" speech bubble just before an encounter starts. Kill too many monsters and the encounters stop.
  • Ripple Effect-Proof Memory: The protagonist has one, being able to recall what happened during previous playthroughs. Flowey has one as well. Repeating the opening sequence has him grow more and more angry at you.
  • Room Full of Crazy: The manual after the worst ending.
  • Save Point: Appears as a yellow star-shaped icon. The manual describes it as a manifestation of your determination — something in the environment focuses the protagonist's will and enables them to record their progress.
  • Save Scumming: Discussed. Characters in the game will react if you save and go back to previous events. Going back after killing Toriel and saving her reveals Flowey is able to do this as well, or was able to until you came along.
    • Your character actually considers telling Toriel they killed her last time if you use the "Talk" option on Toriel after reloading. You wisely think better of it on the basis it could make for an awkward conversation.
  • Sequel Hook: Well, more like full game hook, considering only a demo has been released so far. The protagonist has just left the ruins with warnings from Flowey and Toriel, but the rest of the underground awaits. And if you play multiple times, Flowey explains that he knows what you're doing and he used to be able to SAVE like you can.
  • Sheathe Your Sword: All battles can be won by "sparing" enemies instead of attacking them, though you may have to perform special actions first. This is practically its own puzzle during the Boss Battle: The game starts telling you that talking won't work. You have to repeatedly use SPARE even though it doesn't appear to have much effect at first.
  • Shout-Out:
  • Skippable Boss: If you're going for the "kill all monsters" path, one of the required encounters will just vanish. Napstablook fades away as you approach his sleeping spot.
  • The Social Darwinist: "Kill or be killed" is stated to be the guiding philosophy underground. Even Toriel believes in it, which is part of why she's so protective. If you repeatedly "SPARE" her in battle, she eventually screams, "What are you doing? Attack or run away!" Persist and you can prove it wrong. For now.
  • Soul Power: Enemies directly attack your soul.
  • Spikes of Doom: Early on the story, one puzzle is a field of spike panels. Toriel holds your hand through the right path out of concern, but if you go back afterwards, you'll realize the panels are harmless.
  • Strength Equals Worthiness: The Boss Battle will only allow you to leave the ruins if you prove you're strong enough to defeat them. Deconstructed in that if you take the boss's HP down to zero they really do die, instead of just yielding the battle and recovering in the next cutscene as is typical for RPGs. Justified as you're fighting Toriel, who's seen many children die due to being too weak to survive and doesn't want to repeat this.
  • Tsundere: "Ah, the cactus. Truly the most tsundere of plants."
  • Unwinnable by Design: Minor example. Selecting anything other than "cheer" after Napstablook cries himself a hat will prevent you from ending the encounter nonviolently. (Yes, even "spare".) You can't even flee afterwards. Fortunately, this doesn't lock you out of the Pacifist Run ending as Napstablook is already dead so he doesn't count as a kill if you reduce his HP to 0.
  • Verbal Backspace: Flowey has done this twice so far:
    • If you dodge his "friendliness pellets" twice, he orders you to run into his bullets already, then glances at his speech bubble and corrects himself.
    • In the Kickstarter video, he says that you can "murder" monsters before hastily rewording it to "fight".
  • Video Game Cruelty Potential and Video Game Caring Potential: Discussed and Deconstructed to hell and back. One of the major themes of the game is that being "mean" in videogames when you have the option to be kind is nothing short of despicable, and that if you like being cruel instead of kind, you are a bad person. This gets turned Up to Eleven in the finale, when if you've been nothing but cruel, the game labels you as a remorseless murderer who forgoes any chance of sparing those who get in your way. Considering you've been murderering monsters who can easily be convinced to stop or are defending themselves, this can easily ring true. The protagonist even takes on a mind of his own, and becomes a complete sociopath.
    • To be caring, there's a lot more too it than just being "kind." In order to get the best ending, you have to work your ass off sparing monsters, being nice to everyone, and so on. This takes a lot of work, and one of the points that Flowey makes during the pacifist run is that you may not be able to keep this up for long.
  • Video Game Cruelty Punishment: "Killing" Napstablook will earn you a negative experience point.
  • Villainous Breakdown: At the beginning, if you repeatedly dodge Flowey's "friendliness pellets" he gets increasingly angry, eventually realizing that you guessed at what he's up to. He also gets really petty and unhappy if you manage to get the pacifist ending.
  • Wake-Up Call Boss: The Boss Battle of the demo has stats far above any of the monsters seen previously. They have plenty of HP, several complex bullet patterns, and no reaction to your attempts to spare them. But keep trying anyway. Subverted in that their attacks will avoid you when you're low on health, since they really don't want to kill you.
  • We Can Rule Together: In the worst ending, Flowey implies the player character is an old acquaintance of his and asks for assistance in destroying the world.
    "THAT'S A WONDERFUL IDEA"
  • Well-Intentioned Extremist: Toriel at the end of the game wants to protect the player by destroying their only escape from the ruins.
  • Wham Line:
    Toriel: …wait. …why are you looking at me like that? Like you have seen a ghost. Do you know something that I do not? No… That is impossible.
    • The first thing you hear from Flowey indicating that he remembers your past playthroughs. Depending on the ending you get, there are several pieces of dialogue that could end up being this.
    • Also:
    Flowey: You naive idiot. Do you think you are the only one with that power? The power to reshape the world... Purely by your own determination. The ability to play God! The ability to "SAVE."
  • What Measure Is a Mook?: And how.. Killing any enemies while saving Toriel will result in a massive Player Punch later on.
    Flowey: "So you were able to play by your own rules. You spared the life of a single person. [lists off each monster] Think about those names. Do you think those monsters had friends? Do you think they had families? Each one could have been someone else's Toriel. Selfish brat. Someone is dead because of you."
  • What the Hell, Player?: Taking too much candy from the candy bowl results in this.
    • The worst endings with Toriel and Flowey's speeches also qualify.
  • X Meets Y: Mother 3 meets Touhou meets Shin Megami Tensei meets Spec Ops: The Line.
  • You Bastard: The game repeatedly tries to invoke this against the player for taking violent options. Both implicitly, with plenty of Videogame Caring Potential and Player Punches, and explicitly in Flowey's speeches after the encounter with Toriel.