The word “hilarious” means different things to different people. I hear people throw the word around so much that it begins to lose meaning. To me, “hilarious” means something that makes me laugh uncontrollably, to the point where I have tears in my eyes and my sides hurt. Something so funny that it is almost painful.
Over my many years of gaming, I have found various games over the years to be “amusing” or even “funny”. I have smiled and chuckled, and on occasion I have let out a burst of unexpected laughter.
Trover Saves the Universe is different. Trover, at times, is hilarious. At one point, Trover made me laugh so hard that I fogged up the inside of my PSVR, and I had to pause the game and compose myself and wipe the sweat from the lenses. Trover made me laugh so hard that I scared my kids. Trover is a funny, funny game. It’s also pretty good in game mechanics-terms, which is a bonus.
Don’t Let Your Children Near Trover
Trover Saves the Universe is also the must unabashedly profane games I have ever experienced. No, scratch that. Trover Saves the Universe is one of the most relentlessly profane pieces of content I have experienced, regardless of the media. Off hand, I can only think of one other thing I have seen in my life that is more profane than Trover, and I can’t describe it on this fine site. (It was Swedish, and it involved farm animals).
The most liberal of parents – the ones that gleefully put controllers into the hands of 8-year-olds and teach them how to beat up hookers with baseball bats in Grand Theft Auto to recover the money they just spent in a back alley – should think twice about letting their kids mess around with Trover.
Creator Justin Roiland (Rick & Morty) has completely taken off the kid gloves for Trover Saves the Universe. If you are familiar with the boundaries he pushes within the confines of a basic cable television show, imagine how far he goes when the shackles come off and there are absolutely no limits on what flies out of his mouth.
Roiland provides many of the voices in the game, and the majority of the humor comes from listening to his bizarre stream of consciousness. You just never know what is coming next. Body humor, drug humor, sex humor, violence humor, obscure film references, popular film references; anything goes in Trover, often with hilarious results. Consider yourself warned.
I’m At A Loss To Describe The Story…
Man, I just don’t know. Imagine trying to describe the Pickle Rick episode to someone that had never seen an episode of Rick & Morty. They would just stare at you as thought you had brain damage. Describing the story in Trover is like describing an insane meth-head’s fever dream. It’s lunacy, cubed.
Trover Saves the Universe is so wildly creative, so off-the-rails whack-a-doodle, that I have a hard time even trying to muster the energy it would take to describe the story. So you know what? I’m not going to do it. Nope, I refuse. Anything I said would just ruin the game for you anyhow.
Trover is wildly entertaining. I’ll say that much. The rest is up to you to discover.
…So Let’s Talk About Mechanics
Trover Saves the Universe actually shows quite a bit of innovation in the VR mechanics department. Third person platformers look amazing in VR due to the sense of scale and perspective the player is granted, but like many other genres, VR platformers can cause motion-sickness when the camera whips around too much.
Trover gets around this by installing the player as a character in the game – separate from Trover, but nonetheless in control of the obscene little muppet. As the “Chairorpian”, the player is rendered immobile in a chair (picture those spaceship slobs from Wall-E). The player gets around the environment by navigating Trover to transport nodes in the distance, then teleporting directly to them.
Maneuver Trover too far from the Chairorpian and he starts freaking out a little bit, begging to be moved back closer. This generally keeps the player well within sight of the action, while still giving them some agency over the camera.
This is an amazingly elegant mechanic, and it shows a real understanding of VR from Squanch Games. Before long, the Chairorpian gains the ability to levitate up into the air, giving the player a birds-eye view of the proceedings. This change in perspective often reveals new paths and secrets – which is smart game design.
Trover has a number of special moves and upgrades that unlock over the course of the game. He also has a lot of opinions about how the player chooses to utilize this move set, and he’s not afraid to criticize your choices. Constantly. Trover Saves the Universe delights in dangling forbidden fruit in front of the player, then harshly, hilariously verbally attacking them regardless of what choice they make.
Squanch Games definitely spent a lot of time recording incidental dialogue. I did my best over the course of my playthrough to surprise the game and act unpredictably, but no matter what I did, the game was ready for me with a quip and a jab. Trover knows the sickness that lives in your soul, and is fully prepared to taunt you for it. I also spent a lot of time lingering around levels unnecessarily, just to listen to the game get angry at my dawdling. When a game tempts you into just hanging around and doing nothing, you know you are onto something kinda special.
Platforming and Puzzles and Bugs, Oh My
Trover Saves the Universe is broken up over a number of worlds, strung together by scenes of travel and a few other sundry cinematics. Worlds consist of a mix of platforming, occasional moderate puzzle solving, and simple combat, with a little inconsequential object-collection thrown in for fun. The game never does the same thing for too long, keeping the experience fresh and lively.
The platforming is never too challenging, mostly serving as a way to traverse from one funny scene to another. The puzzles are decent, and work well within the context of the game. I did, however, run into a few game-breaking bugs that forced me to crash the game and reload.
The worst sort of bugs are those that you are not sure are bugs. Because Trover Saves the Universe is so all over the place, I had a hard time determining if what I was experiencing were bugs, or if the game was simply being irritating on purpose.
Trover Saves the Universe contains a sprinkling of environmental puzzles. Most are pretty easy, but an occasional stumper is tossed in to keep you on your toes. Unfortunately, in several instances during my playthrough, these puzzles failed to trigger. Due to the occasional trolling that the game tosses at the player, I was unable to tell if I was being tormented by Trover, or if I was just an idiot that could not solve puzzles. In the end, it turned out that the game was simply broken in these places.
A simple reload was able to get the puzzles to trigger, but that didn’t make me any less angry at the time I wasted trying to figure out the solutions to unsolvable puzzles. I’m sure that a simple patch will resolve these issues, but early players should be aware that if they are starting to feel overly stumped, it is likely that Trover has simply crapped out on them.
Still Worth It? Totally.
Despite these instances of frustration, Trover Saves the Universe is still well worth the purchase for PSVR owners. Non-VR players should be aware that Trover is fully playable out of VR, and while the “flat” version is not the optimal way to play Trover, the game is weird and funny enough that I would still recommend it.
The interesting thing about Trover Saves the Universe is that while Squanch Games have constructed the Sistine Chapel of juvenile humor, they have also made a pretty good game with some solid mechanics. Their solution to the VR-camera issue is absolutely inspired – working well and feeling great within moments of picking it up.
Yeah, some of the jokey lines from enemies wear out their welcome after the 300th time you hear them, but for the most part the dialogue is hysterical. The game design is so trippy that you will be shaking your head and wondering if what you just saw was real. And there are moments in Trover that were so unexpected that I hurt myself laughing.
Remain spoiler-free if you can, and snap up Trover Saves the Universe. This is the game that establishes Squanch Games as a true creative force in video games, and if you missed it you would be missing out on something so strange, so original and vulgar, that your head will spin. There is simply nothing else like it.
Trover: Saves the Universe releases on May 31, 2019.
Review code kindly supplied by the publisher.