There are certain songs and sounds that call to mind terrifying experiences. Classic horror movie themes rely on specific melodies to conjure uncomfortable and haunting memories to the mind of the viewer. In the case of video games, a repeated theme or visceral noise can be used to emphasize the power of a specific scene.
Very early in Undertale, the player may find a pair of spider webs surrounding a sign that reads, “Spider Bake Sale. All proceeds go to real spiders.” The player is presented with an option to purchase a Spider Donut or a Spider Cider, payment made by leaving money stuck to one of the webs.
As a devout arachnophobe, this little scene made my skin crawl. I pictured the spindly legs of spiders stirring donut batter and pouring cups of cider for horrifying local bake sales. With limited funds (and a fear of eight-legged bakers), I decided not to leave any sort of monetary gains for these little monsters. Little did I know that by supporting the efforts of the spider-kin of Undertale, I would avoid battling their leader, Muffet.
Later in the game, as I made my way through a room filled with cobwebs, I was ensnared by the leader of the Spider Bake Sale. For not supporting her efforts to liberate her arachnid comrades from the cold of the Ruins, Muffet lashes out at the player; attacking with unique spider-themed strikes.
The music for Muffet’s battle (appropriately called Spider Dance) calls to mind the spindly movements of a spider. A frantic melody launches from the start of the song; calling to mind the feeling of first laying eyes on a spider that has invaded your space. This gives way to a minimalist string sample, which simulates the actions of a spider spinning a web to capture their prey. The whole song is intense, engaging, and appropriate for the frantic battle with Muffet.
As with so many of the themes in Undertale, composer Toby Fox uses leit motifs across tracks to emphasize a certain theme. In the case of Spider Dance, this song shares its melody with equally haunting tracks like Ghost Fight, Pathetic House, and Dummy! Each of these songs centers around otherworldly encounters; where the player is faced with haunting moments that could scare them into submission.
Of course, any frightening situation can be overcome with enough… DETERMINATION.