Undertale Held a Mirror Up to My PS4 Trophy Addiction, and It's My Greatest Shame
Undertale's PS4 port is a grim reminder of how much Trophies control how I play, and why I should give them up for my mental health.
There are other people just like me who play PS4 who are just as addicted to their Trophy collection as I am. There are people just like me that check Trophy guides and optimized playthroughs before starting a new game. There are people just like me who live and die by the Trophy notification popping up on the screen. At least, that’s what I told myself. That was before Toby Fox’s Undertale port for PS4 broke me and my spirit.
Over the weekend, I decided to finally wrap up a game that has been staring at me from my backlog collection: the PS4 port of indie darling Undertale. I had picked it up after we gave the game one of our few perfect scores last year, but there just wasn’t time in my schedule to commit to a dedicated pacifist run.
Flash forward to last weekend; I’ve got nothing on my plate outside of a looming review for Dead Cells and South Park’s Bring the Crunch DLC, so maybe I pick up a game that is an easy Platinum. Undertale tops that list, with popular PSN profile analyzer PSNProfiles noting that 53% of registered members with the game have picked up that trophy, and 21% of all PS4 owners globally. Sure, it’s no My Name is Mayo, but it hit all my check marks. Even better, the trophy guide let me know that this was a game you didn’t need to prepare for, just play as you usually would.
What I didn’t know was that Toby Fox intended to throw me into an existential crisis. And not the one that comes standard with any playthrough of Undertale.
For anyone not familiar with the game (and who isn’t in 2018?), you play through Undertale as a child who (after falling underground) finds themselves in a world of monsters. Using the power of friendship or your firsts (or a combination of them both), you are looking to escape the monster world and return home.
And with that enrapturing story in mind, Undertale manages to draw most of its critical acclaim for a tongue-in-cheek meta-commentary on game design, plotlines, and game mechanics. Everything placed in the world is meant to throw you off your game in an almost whimsical way, despite the often severe and dark tone of the story.
This tradition carries past the original release as well; adding some bonus functionality to the PS4 and Vita ports of the game, Toby Fox added 30 Trophies – including a Platinum. However, Fox intended these trophies to be similarly tongue-in-cheek.
Starting at the bottom of the underground area, players will pick up their first bronze titled “Don’t Worry, I Have Lots of Ideas for Trophies” when they grab the first item. The description? Get an item. Less than a minute later, a second trophy popped on the screen:
“Like Getting More Items”
I had picked up a second item.
Then “Or Getting More Items” for finding a third item in just as many minutes.
Before even getting to the first real story component, Toriel’s home, Fox is pleading with me:
“Help Me, I’m Out of Ideas for Trophies” – a trophy that I picked up after finding my fourth item.
From there, everything kept moving in normal trophy pace. As I beat each boss and entered a new location, I got a new Trophy. It seemed like we had returned to a standard fare approach after the original Trophy gag. Boy was I wrong.
Before going on a date with one of the main characters, I got a quick tour of his home, ultimately unveiling the only other PS4 exclusive content: The Dog Shrine. Found in a room under some person’s sink, the bonus is a small room with a donation box with a photo of a dog. You can donate one gold piece at a time to the shrine, at first with a maximum limit of two pieces.
So after throwing donating two pieces of gold, a new trophy popped: “Dognation Level 1.” I exited the room and returned: suddenly there are some Fairly Lights adorning the shrine. I recheck the donation box: now they want 4 gold pieces. Oh no.
For the first time since starting the game, I take a look at the Trophy list. Literally, half of the trophies are dedicated to Dognations. All in all, I’m going to need to amass over 350 gold pieces to complete this trophy.
The gold itself wasn’t so much the issue – some ways down the road you can farm a few enemies that net anywhere from 30 to 55 gold each. Getting to 350G didn’t take me much more than 20 minutes. Instead, it was the waiting and slow text scroll that was going to test my mental health.
As I mentioned before, the slot of the donation box is only big enough to fit one coin each. Mass donations had to be done one gold piece at a time, merely standing in place and spamming the X button. After the box filled up, you left to find what ridiculous item they bought with the money. A wacky inflatable arm-flailing tube man for 6G? Sure. A short piece of string with no use for 22G? Awesome. How about “blueprints” that was just a white piece of paper with blue paw-prints on it for 35G? Also there. Literally another piece of the same string for 40G? Cool.
The worst of the bunch, however, is reached halfway through. A boombox that follows a 13G donation, with only one song – the Annoying Dog Song (above). It plays non-stop on a loop, acting as a form of Chinese Water Torture on what remaining resolve you have left. If you try to shut that boombox off, it just makes the Annoying Dog Song play quicker and at a higher pitch.
After about an hour of farming, saving, and donating, the Dog Shrine looked something like this:
But I had cleared the trophy, and that is what mattered.
Undertale’s trophies returned to the “reach a new area, unlock a new trophy” standard. Arrive at the Waterfall. Trophy. Enter Hotland. Trophy. Reach the CORE’s save point…Platinum?
I was caught entirely off guard. Why am I getting a Trophy — let alone the game’s Platinum — now? I hadn’t reached the final boss! Or the hidden final boss! Or got any of the branching endings! Then I noticed the trophy name:
“Don’t You Have Anything Better to Do?”
And, to be fair, Toby Fox was right. I didn’t have anything better to do. But I did have my Platinum. And maybe that will help me sleep at night.