Trover Saves the Universe is an absurd action platformer developed by Squanch Studios, and brainchild of Ricky and Morty creator Justin Roiland.
The premise is inept, but that’s the point. You are placed behind the eyes of a “chairorpian”, an eponymously named race of beings that are permanently consigned to telelporting, hydraulic chairs. This serves to explain the perspective and control of the game in such a ridiculously self-aware, 4th wall breaking way only a Justin Roiland property could.
You, as a chairporpian, are in control of your partner in crime – a purple, anthropomorphic creature with empty eye sockets named Trover. So, it’s first person perspective of a third person character that you control.
The story is something like this: Trover’s puppies have been kidnapped and placed into the eye sockets of the villainous “Glorkon”, granting him immeasurable power and a heightened level of universe-threatening nefariousness. Consequently, Trover is begrudgingly partnered up with you to rescue his puppies and to end Glorkon’s reign of terror. That’s more or less it.
But it’s less about the story and more about the delivery of it.
Trover Saves the Universe carries all the irreverent, almost improvisational, stuttered humour that is trademark of Justin’s humour. Fans of Rick and Morty will be in their element here. What’s remarkable is how long some of these NPC side-conversations will prattle on if you stay still long enough. There must be hours of recorded dialogue here. Much of it is hilariously nonsensical, but for me at least, the humour is unrelenting and does begin to grate in longer stretches.
Characters you meet along the way are bizarre, but generally well realised and there’s always an unpredictable, “I wonder how this is going to play out” moment each time you approach a new character.
Gameplay is a fairly rote affair, but that’s not to say it’s boring. It’s a lot of fun. The camera (or the in game chair you’re sitting in) stays fixed to teleport nodes which you can jump between, but Trover is freely controllable around you. Furthermore, you can elevate the chair to get an aerial vantage for some of the platform elements involving layered cartography.
Trover has a light-sabre as a weapon, and can hack’n’slash his way through a variety of Glorkon minions. He also has the ability to put … ahem… coloured “power babies” into his own eye sockets, granting him an increasing set of abilities. It would’ve been good to be able to swap these power babies in and out on the fly, but the abilities they grant are consigned mostly to Level design. One power baby grants you double jump, another a booster rocket, and another the ability to dive roll etc.
There are some sections in the game that feel like conceits to draw the run time out, and can be a bit frustrating. One section has you destroying waves of Glorkon minions to fill up a cauldron, and if you fail – you start all waves over. It means you also have to listen to the same assault of verbiage over and over again until you progress to the next section.
The graphics are akin to a Rick and Morty cartoon, and Squanch have done well bringing it’s style into 3D space. Colours are often bright but the simpler aesthetics of a cartoon lends itself well to the limited detail pallet of a VR platform. But the animations and effects here are well designed, and the level of polish is top notch, even if by no means a technical masterpiece.
Sound too is well rounded, if you can tolerate the endless bonkers chatter. It’s handled deftly and with unapologetic intent, and can be amusing to hear a sweeping “John Williams” – esque score underpinning two inept guards waxing irreverent on top of a fort rampart.
Since you can control Trover all around your stationed position, the 360 sound is handled well here, so if Trover is somehow behind you, you can locate him without necessarily having to turn around. This is also true of enemies, though generally action plays out in front of you.
Trover Saves the Universe is a lot of simple fun.
As an action-platformer, it’s not revolutionary and there’s likely not much here that couldn’t be achieved outside of VR. In saying that, being placed inside a Roiland universe definitely heightens the esoteric insanity, and so it’s really down to his brand of humour as to whether you’ll see this game as something more than just the sum of its parts.
Released: June 2019
Platforms: PSVR, PlayStation 4
Genre: Virtual Reality , Platformer, Action
Developer: Squanch Studios