Athenian Rhapsody Review – Earnestly Derivative

Remember Earthbound? What a great game, it’s a shame no one ever tried to recapture that magic. This is so clearly sarcastic that I don’t even need to list the many games that do try that. From every one of them I’ve played, only Undertale and Franken get close to that absurd, Japanese charm.

Seeing as how this is another one of those kind of games, I really thought I’d hate it. Still, Athenian Rhapsody was a nice surprise that I didn’t expect.

The initial interrogation

‘Story’ & Humour*

The story in these games could not matter less. You are a kid in a fantastical world, and you must get out while either unifying or killing everyone.

One of the game’s main selling points is the absurdity and the constant, 10-punchlines-a-step humour. This is where I thought the game was over for me. One of the only things worse than bad writing is bad writing that thinks it’s good writing.

But, this game was made by Nico Papalia, a solo developer; it’s not some horse built by committee, it’s the uncompromised vision of an insane man. And, for the most part he absolutely nails the execution.

This game is really funny. It’s absurd, irreverent, and largely nonsensical in such a specifically “Adult Swim late night cartoon/ 12 oz Mouse” sort of way that I found it hard to keep a straight face a lot of the time.

The jokes aren’t even particularly clever or well told, but they’re all so earnest that I can’t help but love them.

This is a pretty concise example of the combat


Like Undertale, you can either fight everything, spare everything, or do a mix of both. As this acts as a sort of customizable difficulty selector, these choices even impact the game the same way they did in Toby Fox’s game.

If you spare everything, you get gold, but no experience points (xp). You may feel better about your pacifism, but future fights are going to keep getting harder, and you’re not going to get any stronger.

Inversely, killing everything nets you EXP. You can take and do more damage, but you’re still going to feel bad about the few minions or mini-bosses you killed along the way to get it.

Again, if you’ve played Undertale, this is nothing new. Undertale had a morality system that was tied to this sort of difficulty. What Undertale didn’t have is the freedom this game provides with regards to party construction.

Now, your party is only comprised of your main character and a single companion, but there are around 18 companions that you can recruit and filter in and out. That number is from me scanning the trophies after the list updated earlier today. For example, my first playthrough took around 5/6 hours and I only found 6 companions.

The deceptive grasslands.


If you attack, you hit space in time with a bar filling up to do as much damage as you can. If you’re going for a diplomatic resolution, you can make friends with an enemy by placating them with compliments/ jokes/ friendly jabs/ insults, and really anything else the developer thought to throw in there.

One thing that initially turned me off was how the combat of the game can look like a carbon copy of Undertale. After all, every time you are attacked, the game puts you into a minigame which is unique to that enemy’s personality. This is certainly true initially, but one thing this game has over Undertale is the sheer variety.

I really did not expect for so many different ideas and gameplay conventions to be utilized in this system. Everything from Space Invaders to DDR is represented in this arcadey kaleidoscope. I played through it twice just to check some of the different encounters and how I would have varied up my playstyle, but the minigames change so often that I never got bored.

Look on my works and despair.


The game is fairly short, but most of these games are. After all, it’s priced as such. Undertale isn’t really meant to be played more than 2/3 times. You could even just run through it once and check what you missed online.

This is where Rhapsody’s namesake comes in. Every time you beat the game, you get one of these Rhapsody cards. It shows some general information about your playthrough. It’s also adorned with a badge for every area in which you’ve made friends with every enemy.

You can also share your rhapsody with other players through the game. This is another great way of emphasizing variety, as you can see from other player cards what you missed and just how many variations there truly are. While I wasn’t able to really check out this feature due to the game not being officially out yet when I played, it seems like a great way of helping to build an in-game community.

corn. That’s it, that’s the punch line.


If Undertale never came out, this would be a whole different ball game, but it did. This game, while great, is unquestionably derivative. Strangely enough, it seems to frontload this.

The opening half hour the game almost made me want to stop playing. You meet up with Richard and James, the game’s comedy duo akin to Sans/Papyrus, almost immediately, and Richard (the one like Papyrus) shepherds you through the same same sort of ‘impossible’ puzzles which he assures you have taken him hours.

From here, the game’s first shop is also a stand run by dogs, which seems like JUST an Undertale reference. So much so that all of this feels deliberate. It’s like the developer wants you to think you know what this is before it throws off a lot of those expectations.

It’s hard to know if I’m giving him too much credit there, but I like to think it was intentional. Aside from that, my only real negative is that some of the actual puzzles seem redundant. There aren’t too many, and most are played for jokes in one way or another, but, ever since Undertale, it annoys me when a game makes such a big show of clowning on puzzle design only to then have puzzles.

As for the soundtrack…there really isn’t much to say about it. In fact, I can’t even remember much of it, given how it wasn’t that remarkable.

An Unusual, Yet Interesting Experience

Athenian Rhapsody was an interesting experience. I went in thinking that this would be just some generic Undertale clone, and came out pleasantly surprised. Its humor and absurdity help it stand out and there is a variety of ways to play, with the many endings it offers.

Still, while some of its jokes fall flat on their face, and the soundtrack is incredibly unremarkable, but otherwise, Athenian Rhapsody definitely deserves to be on your radar.


  • Amazing variety
  • Too many jokes for none to hit
  • Nice replayability


  • Quite Derivative
  • Unremarkable music

Athenian Rhapsody


What seemed like another attempt to hitch a ride on Undertale's coat-tails, turned into a uniquely enjoyable romp through unpretentious humour and absurdity.

PS5 version played. A review code was given by the publisher for review purposes.