Oh geez, Trover
Trover does not want to save the universe.
But guess what? He has to!
Trover Saves the Universe (PC, PS4 [reviewed])
Developer: Squanch Games
Publisher: Squanch Games
Released: May 31, 2019 (PS4), June 4, 2019 (PC)
In case all of the trailers haven’t clued you in yet (there’s one below), this is a creation from the mind of Justin Roiland, who happens to voice both Rick and Morty, and most of the characters in this game.
Seriously, watch the NSFW trailer below and you’ll 100% understand what Roiland is getting at here in terms of tone: that silliness pretty much carries on throughout all of Trover. You know those really weird Adventure Time episodes that focus entirely on characters you’ve never met before, then they go away forever? This is kind of like that but as a Rick & Morty episode. You can decide fairly quickly whether or not you’re into the idea of rescuing dogs from an evil mumbling creature hell-bent on destroying the world.
Mechanically Trover is mostly a VR-oriented game, although it does not require VR hardware to play (a common theme this far removed from the original 2016 consumer launch). VR makes it a hell of a lot better though, showcasing angles that Squanch Games intended the world to be viewed in. The gist is that you operate as a chair race overlord of sorts, moving Trover about from place to place while viewing the action in a first-person viewpoint. Think Lakitu controlling Mario 64‘s camera.
You manipulate Trover directly like a mascot platformer character from said custom camera angles. To swap screens you’ll move Trover over specific points that allow you to warp, and you have camera control through analog sticks or by moving your head at any point. There have been plenty of clever VR concessions over the past few years (Adventure Time VR had something similar where you were a balloon person) and you can add this one to the pile.
Again, Trover is a VR-centric game, and you’re going to be missing out on a lot of comedic elements without a device. I was enjoying it well enough for the first 15 minutes, but once you acquire the main gimmick of swooping up or down vertically, Trover really opened up. There’s some very interesting design choices present here, like buttons or secrets that can only be seen while at a specific height. It’s classic VR platforming and I love it. It’s not like it reinvents the wheel, but literally peeking around a corner to try and find a collectible is its own reward. Add in the manipulation of objects with an eyeball pointer and you have yourself a simplistic, yet functional VR foundation.
When you strip all of that wonder out, Trover is a familiar (and in some instances, unremarkable) platformer that will only take you around five hours to entirely complete: that’s both a blessing and a curse. Puzzles are frequently dumped on in-game as part of the self-deprecating, fourth-wall-breaking dialogue Roiland is known for, in a Swery sort of “this is a base level videogame thing, let’s make fun of it” way. The thing is, Trover makes it work because it stays true to Roiland’s sense of humor and from my viewpoint, gives him final cut to do whatever he wants.
There’s gruesome murders, plenty of sex jokes, and more cursing (depending on how much random NPC dialogue counts) than 99% of the rest of the market. While Roiland is very hit-or-miss I was frequently laughing out loud in my headset, or at the very least chuckling throughout. One time I full-on stopped playing for roughly 10 minutes to hear a pair of NPCs rant and ramble. In several ways it really reminds me of old-school irreverent point-and-click adventure games.
There’s a concept I call “VR smoothing” in which an experience that technically can be played without VR hardware is made better with VR. Trover Saves the Universe is still going to be laugh-out-loud funny no matter how you approach it, but the additional context and enhanced mechanics when using a headset make it a little bit sweeter. Just look at it as more of a comedy experience that happens to be a platformer.
[This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]