Trover Saves the Universe pretty much has everything one might expect from a game developed by Rick & Morty co-creator Justin Roiland. There’s plenty of self-aware humor, mixed with almost non-stop profanity (or bleeping), bathroom humor, sex jokes, and random mentions of genitalia. All of it is thrown into an insane world where characters get high by inserting creatures into their empty eye sockets.
Players take the role of a nameless Chairorpian, a hoverchair-bound race that hates walking. A giant eyeless Angry Bird named Glorkon steals your two dogs, then plugs them into his eye sockets to acquire immense, universe destroying power. Your job is to stop him and get your dogs back. You do so using Trover, who surrenders control of his body to you. He inserts little creatures called “power babies” into his empty eye sockets to upgrade his powers.
Yes, this is a strange one, and that’s part of what makes the game so hard to put down. It’s safe to say that if you’re looking for something crazy and original, Trover Saves the Universe fits that description perfectly.
Although designed mainly for virtual reality (VR) headsets, you can play this game on a normal screen. VR improves the experience by offering “a greater sense of presence, or whatever” while making multitasking during puzzles and combat significantly easier. Specifically, it’s easier to keep track of Trover as he jumps from place-to-place by moving your head instead of constantly turning the camera back-and-forth to get a good view. Manipulating objects also becomes simpler because you can just look at the objects you want to pick up.
Without VR, Trover Saves the Universe becomes a fairly straightforward but serviceable action platforming game. Aside from the occasional multitasking hiccups, the combat and puzzles are easy to get through. For the most part, the game tries to make sure players are always progressing, even if it means making fun of its own puzzles. For instance, when you take too long with a push-button puzzle, Trover will complain about how stupid button pushing is. Then he’ll finally say, “Fuck this shit,” and give you the option to break through the wooden door using his laser sword.
However, it can be difficult to judge how far some areas are and whether you can jump to them. There was also one puzzle where I got stuck for a long while because I didn’t realize there was a switch I needed to activate on the other side of the area. The game can be a little inconsistent with the useful advice it provides, and things can quickly turn annoying when you’re next to a character who whines non-stop.
There’s also not much to go on if you get a turned around or lose your way on a level. Although players follow a linear path using teleportation beacons, some places circle back around or lead to dead ends. There’s no map, so you pretty much have to figure things out for yourself.
On the other hand, the Trover Saves the Universe’s gameplay is almost incidental. Its greatest — and perhaps most annoying — feature is how the characters rarely shut up. The game has hours of dialogue, complete with self-corrections and fully improvised rants about random topics. It’s apparent that the voice actors were primarily working from a script outline for the main plot points and were then allowed to cut loose. While there are a few lines that probably should have been saved for the outtakes collection, Trover ends up feeling like an interactive stand-up act, and that’s absolutely brilliant.
With Trover continually commenting on the situation, sometimes recapping events you just played through, I felt constantly engaged. I wasn’t just playing a quirky platforming game. This was a game that knew it was a game. In one scene, Trover points out that he has more to lose because he has a health bar and all the enemies are attracted to him, while I was pretty much invisible and invincible. That kind of self-awareness kept me playing just to see what would happen next.
What makes the game even more impressive is how it reacts to the player’s moves. In one scene, an NPC goes on a long monologue about the real estate business. So, I decided to jump around. Suddenly, he said, “quit that jumping around, I’m trying to tell a story here!”
NPCs will grow exasperated if you don’t look where they’re pointing. A pair of minions heckled me for trying to crush them with a giant block, proclaiming that they were immune to blocks and that I couldn’t just shortcut my way through the puzzle. Trover lost his shit when I became indecisive over who to kill.
This is seriously next-level interaction.
What just happened?
If you only take gameplay mechanics into consideration, Trover Saves the Universe ends up an okay action platforming puzzler. But then you’d be missing half the picture. Experiencing the game means actually experiencing it by listening to conversations. It means making dialogue choices, messing around with NPCs, and dealing with an extraordinary number of dick and ass jokes. Somehow, that all adds up to something amazing.