While Squanch Games has put out a handful of games in the past, the most noteworthy of which being Rick and Morty: Virtual Rick-ality, they’ve been short experiences with very little substance to them. Trover Saves the Universe is their first fully-featured adventure, and it’s incredibly apparent that this is a game from the mind of Justin Roiland. Trover pulls no punches with its humor, constantly spouting jokes that would feel right at home in an episode of Rick and Morty. Because Squanch Games isn’t restricted to the Rick and Morty universe this time around, they could take a ton of creative liberties, with the overwhelming majority of which paying off with hilarious moments reminiscent of their other previous title, the criminally underrated Accounting+.
Game Name: Trover Saves the Universe
Platform(s): PlayStation 4, PlayStation VR (Reviewed), PC, Oculus Rift, HTC Vive
Publisher(s): Squanch Games
Developer(s): Squanch Games
Release Date: May 31, 2019 (PS4)/ June 4, 2019 (PC)
Let me preface this review with one thing before we get started: if you hate Justin Roiland’s style of humor, you will absolutely despise Trover Saves the Universe. The characters in the game never shut up, constantly delivering punchline after punchline, and if you aren’t a fan of the jokes in Rick and Morty, you’ll have an awful time with Trover Saves the Universe. Conversely, if you like Roiland’s humor, you’ll love Trover Saves the Universe. The humor is delivered at an unrelenting pace, continuing even throughout the game’s credits sequence and never failing to elicit a smile. Trover Saves the Universe is a nonstop good time for fans of Roiland, and the humorous characters and interesting worlds help to support the game’s lukewarm combat and platforming.
Trover‘s premise is simple: Glorkon, an abstainer (pictured above) gone rogue, has stolen your two dogs and put them in his eyes so he can do bad guy things. Trover, an eye-hole monster, is sent to find you, and together you two are tasked with stopping Glorkon and, in turn, saving the universe. It’s a wacky setup, and it only gets crazier from there.
You don’t actually play as the titular Trover, though. You are a nameless Chairorpean, an alien creature that lives in a floating chair, using warp points and a device that looks quite similar to a Dualshock 4 controller to interact with the world. Using this device, you take control of Trover, exploring, jumping, and fighting your way through a bunch of alien worlds. Both Trover and yourself can be upgraded, with Trover receiving new abilities and health upgrades and you receiving upgrades to your chair.
Trover Saves the Universe can be played without a VR headset, but this game is so obviously designed around VR that playing it without a headset feels like a clearly gimped experience. The Chairorpean gimmick feels strange when seen without a VR headset. It feels contrived, and controlling Trover from a fixed perspective designed around a VR headset is awkward. It’s great that this game can reach a larger audience, but it’s hard to recommend this game to those without a VR headset.
That’s partly because Trover Saves the Universe plays with the idea of VR frequently throughout its six-hour campaign. Characters will ask you questions, and you can respond by nodding or shaking your head. It felt like I was actually a part of conversations rather than just a silent observer, and disagreeing with things I was clearly supposed to agree with always resulted in laughter. Perspective also plays a large role in the game’s exploration and puzzle-solving, and the impact without a VR headset is severely mitigated. Trover Saves the Universe is a VR game through and through, and just because you can play it without PlayStation VR doesn’t mean you should.
As you make your way through the game’s different worlds, you’ll engage in some pretty basic platforming, a few mindless combat encounters every now and then, and a handful of simple puzzles thrown in there for good measure. Trover Saves the Universe is by no means a difficult game. I didn’t die once throughout my entire playthrough, and I seldom had to stop and actually think about puzzle solutions. What makes Trover Saves the Universe interesting is its presentation and charm throughout these basic encounters.
A locked gate early in the game requires you to solve a puzzle involving pressing buttons at random to get them all to turn the same color. I try knocking down the gate by force, and Trover tells me to solve the puzzle to progress. I start hitting buttons, and Trover comments on the absurdity of such puzzles in video games, eventually ending with him giving up and telling me to smash the gate anyway. Trover Saves the Universe subverts expectations and toys with typical video game tropes all the time, regularly poking fun at the fact that it’s a video game itself, and this helps to spice up the game’s duller moments.
The platforming in Trover Saves the Universe reminds me a lot of the wonderful Astro Bot Rescue Mission. The platforming itself is simple and combat isn’t complicated in the slightest, but the hidden collectibles are the real meat of the game. Instead of scouring the environments for stranded bots and hidden chameleons, you’ll be spending your time trying to locate green power babies, Trover Saves the Universe‘s sole collectible. These power babies can be found in destructible rocks or tucked away in the various nooks and crannies of each world. To collect them, you simply focus your gaze on them and hold the R2 button. Trover initially tries to explain these collectible power babies as an endangered species he wants to protect, but he very quickly admits that they just get him really high.
Combat is without a doubt the weakest part of Trover Saves the Universe. There’s little to no depth, and enemy AI poses no threat whatsoever. Things get slightly more hectic in the back half of the game once you’ve unlocked all of the abilities like the dodge and the throw, but every encounter in the game can be easily passed by just mashing the attack button, no matter the enemy type. Shielded enemies are the only exception, but once you get behind them after they whiff their incredibly telegraphed attack, you’re free to mash away. Rinse and repeat throughout each of the game’s worlds.
The worlds themselves are gorgeous. Trover Saves the Universe surprised me with how good it looked. It’s definitely one of the prettiest games on PSVR, and its bright and colorful art style paired with its imaginative character design lends itself perfectly to VR. I wish I could say the same about the game’s music, but it’s ultimately forgettable and downright grating in some worlds. A select few worlds have short, repetitive loops of beeps and boops constantly playing in the background, and these songs quickly became maddening.
It wasn’t that big of an issue because the game’s music is almost always drowned out by a humongous amount of dialogue. The developers said in a Reddit AMA that the game has over 11 thousand lines of dialogue (about 20 hours of VO), and oh boy it shows. Conversations between characters continue well after you walk away, and while I found myself hanging around to listen in the first half of the game, the novelty wore off after a few hours. It’s just a lot of Justin Roiland doing improv, which is hilarious, but after a certain point, it gets a little repetitive. Dialogue during gameplay segments is welcome though, as it breaks up the monotony of the button-mashing combat and simplistic puzzles. Dialogue is almost never unfunny, it’s just there’s so much of it to the point where you can stand in front of characters for minutes and they’ll just keep going.
Your enjoyment of Trover Saves the Universe is heavily dependent on whether or not you end up liking Trover. Trover almost never stops talking, and while I found him to be endearing, you might find him annoying. Fortunately, the majority of his jokes land, and the development of the relationship between Trover and the Chairorpean was the highlight of my experience. The supporting cast is equally quirky, and even the generic enemy grunts have some standout lines. The plot itself doesn’t have too many interesting developments (although there are a few twists), but for a game that doesn’t take itself seriously at all, it’s serviceable.
Trover Saves the Universe is definitely lacking in the gameplay department, but it more than makes up for it with its excellent pacing and witty dialogue. The main draw of the game is the dialogue, but if you don’t like this particular style of humor, stay far away from this game. Those looking for a gameplay-centric experience might find some enjoyment in Trover Saves the Universe, but the gameplay in this game is primarily there just to give the characters something to riff on. While I really enjoyed my time with Trover Saves the Universe, it’s clearly a game with a specific audience in mind, and those outside of that audience will struggle to find enjoyment in this title.
Trover Saves the Universe was created with a very specific audience in mind. Fans of Roiland’s work will absolutely adore this game, but those who don’t like his particular style of humor will find this game’s writing tasteless and annoying. The game is a little weak on the gameplay front, but the hilarious dialogue and beautiful scenery more than make up for that. Trover Saves the Universe is an excellent game, but only a select group of people will enjoy it.
- Hilarious dialogue
- Beautiful scenery
- Imaginative character design
- Fun collectibles
- Dull combat
- Awkward non-VR mode
- Bland puzzles
- Simple platforming