The Magnificent Trufflepigs is hard to explain. It’s billed as a metal-detecting romance game, but the metal detection is as basic as it gets, and there’s absolutely no romance whatsoever. This is an almost purely narrative experience, but I can’t quite break down the entirety of the two hour experience, because I’d need to give away the entire plot to do so. Regardless, the visuals are pleasant, the voice acting is outstanding, and the dialogue is natural and often believable. But the simplicity of the experience combined with the questionable nature of some of the narrative elements can make it a game that isn’t worth digging into for everyone.
The story starts with a woman named Beth, who is phoning her friends. When Beth was younger, she found an expensive earring while hunting for treasure with her metal detector. This was a crucial part of her life, and the land on which the earring was found is about to be sold. Therefore, she’s got a week to bust out the metal detector again to try and find the other earring. But all of her friends are busy; they have families, jobs, or plans they won’t interfere with to return to the small English village of Stanning.
Beth feels she can’t do it alone, however, which results in her contacting Adam, who she hasn’t spoken to in a long time. Beth is honestly a well-realized character. She’s not particularly likable. If anything, she’s delusional, self-obsessed, and borderline obnoxious much of the time. But The Magnificent Trufflepigs has much to say about the nature of privilege and entitlement. Despite the fact that there isn’t a single character model in the game, Trufflepigs still presents us with vivid portrayals of Stanning, Beth’s life, and her family business: Mudalot.
Head above ground
There are only two characters present in The Magnificent Trufflepigs’ narrative, Beth and Adam. Everyone else is mentioned, but they don’t show up. All of the game’s dialogue takes place between the two aforementioned characters. Adam is voiced by Arthur Darvill, who portrayed Amy Pond’s husband, Rory, on Doctor Who. Beth is portrayed by Luci Fish, who has no such great claim to fame. They both do a stellar job at bringing the dialogue to life. Although Beth is kind of insufferable, Fish’s portrayal is completely natural. Darvill similarly plays Adam perfectly, delivering a lot of wry retorts and going heavy on empathy. The two of them are the best thing about the game.
The game’s pace can be a bit sleepy, even if I did find myself somewhat invested. But the narrative takes a large stumble towards the end. It makes little sense, feels weak, and is horribly trite. I’m not going to say precisely what I mean, as that would give it away, but the end of the game left me feeling puzzled and underwhelmed. As The Magnificent Trufflepigs is a narrative game, that diminishes its appeal. I doubt I’ll ever give the game a second run-through, even if I quite appreciate many of the details that comprise the overarching story.
The game is played in first person and environments entirely consist of grassy fields. This virtual version of Northern England is quaint and relaxing, and the foliage does look rather inviting, but there’s obviously not much here to look at. This goes double when paired with the gameplay. Playing The Magnificent Trufflepigs can be calming, but it’s also often boring. It’s not easy to make metal detecting all that exciting, but there wasn’t much of an attempt here either. It feels more like a means to an end than anything else.
Moving very slowly
The Magnificent Trufflepigs is broken into five days. There are five fields in the game, each with its own treasures. There are 50 treasures to find in all. Each day, you, as Adam, will find yourself in a field that you’re meant to comb with your metal detector. Movement is on the pokey side, so it’s best to just walk in straight lines to try and cover as much of the field as possible. But your time is limited. I was only able to find 44 of the treasures in my playthrough. You get an achievement for getting all of them. Yippee.
All you do is either walk normally or equip your metal detector, which has a bar appear atop the screen. If you get a lead on some metal, the bar turns green and the detector starts beeping. You then keep going until the bar turns red, at which point you hit the spot with a shovel, then three scoops with a spade. Every treasure is apparently buried at a shallow level. After finding a treasure, Adam takes a picture of it and texts it to Beth. Perhaps he’ll write a snarky joke, or she’ll comment on it, either by sending a text back or by calling on the walkie-talkie.
As I said though, the metal detecting in The Magnificent Trufflepigs only serves as a backdrop to the dialogue. After a certain amount of time, Beth will radio you and ask if you’re ready for lunch. You can tell her you want a bit more time, which will allow you to find a single additional treasure. And there’s an achievement in it for you for each day you do so. But it all feels a bit rote and pointless, especially with the way the plot develops. However, each of the 50 treasures has a unique model, so at least you’re not digging up the same few things repeatedly.
The Magnificent Trufflepigs only takes a couple of hours, but you can do additional playthroughs where you keep your treasures. Overall, I had a decent time with the game, as the various lingering questions drove me forward and the peaceful atmosphere drew me in. But knowing what I know now makes me look back upon my playthrough with a fair bit of disappointment. At the very least, it’s a unique experience that I think many can enjoy, but that will also depend on if they’re as underwhelmed by some of the plot elements as I was.