‘Trover Saves the Universe’ is a meditation on nihilism

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The theme of Whose Line is it Anyway? is always the same: “Everything is made up and the points don’t matter.” That’s what playing ‘Trover Saves the Universe’ is like — but instead of funny Canadians, I was sworn at by a video game. You know, for fun.

If you don’t know what Trover is, it’s the first game released from Rick and Morty co-creator Justin Roiland and his fledgling Squanch Games. After talking to Roiland about the project at last year’s E3, I then had a brief hands-on at GDC. I’ve now spent the last couple days letting a purple alien with Power Baby eyes lead me around by the nose on a galactic adventure to save the universe.

To save said universe, you must defeat the evil Glorkon (imagine if Galactus from Marvel hooked up with Grimace from McDonald’s) who wants to destroy all of known creation. What’s more, he’s kidnapped your beloved bichon frise to use as a power source for his evil deeds. In order to deny his ambitions, you need to traverse five worlds collecting Power Babies and Crystal Power Babies in an effort to empower Glorkon’s cohorts with the ability to curb his reign of interdimensional terror.

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I went into detail about the gameplay in the hands-on but, long story short, you play as a nameless Chairorpean who controls Trover, an alien courier armed with a lightsaber. The two of you must work together to overcome a variety of enemies, obstacles and puzzles in your 12-hour-or-less journey through the cosmos. But don’t worry, unless you’re blackout drunk or a child, there’s zero mental lifting in this game. And that’s a problem.

I don’t think I’ve ever played an easier game. The puzzles were pedestrian, typically basic variations of the classic “stack crates to make stairs and push pressure pads” mechanic. There also seemed to be a pair of puzzles specifically designed to be unsolvable — they exist only to waste a few moments of the player’s time. Super fun.

The combat was similarly mindless. You’ve got light hit, heavy hit, jump and dash — mash those buttons accordingly and Trover becomes an unstoppable killing machine. At only one point did I fear a game over. Then I realized that this game doesn’t appear to have one.

Let me explain. Trover, who sounds uncannily like Morty, talks a lot of nonsense throughout the game. Pretty much nonstop. He comments on the scenery, the various NPCs, recent plot developments, and how you’ve been underperforming. I got stuck at a puzzle on my first playthrough for around 15 minutes. Trover spent that time demanding I figure it out faster while calling me an ignorant POS for the duration. This trash-talking dynamic works when you’ve got a straight man and a joker — a Rick to his Morty, if you will — but with my mute avatar, it felt a lot more like verbal abuse.

So I ran him off a couple (dozen) cliffs; it didn’t turn out well for the tough-talking purple alien. What I’m saying is, imagine if Bill Murray was an even bigger jerk in Groundhog Day, and you had the supernatural ability to make him walk into traffic without repercussion. Yeah, that’s about what interacting with Trover feels like.

But there weren’t any lasting effects from his repeated and well-deserved demises. As far as I can tell, you could shoot that guy into the Sun and he’d still reanimate at the most recent progress point no worse for wear. It’s infuriating.

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But that also gets to the heart of my issues with Trover. There are no consequences. During the second playthrough of the game, I reversed the decision flags I made in the first go-around. The result was exactly the same.

***Spoilers below***

For example, in the very first level, you run (hover?) across a fellow Chairorpean. This guy, unsurprisingly, is a surly SOB bent on explaining, in great detail, as to why I suck. First time through, I let it slide — let the guy keep insulting Trover and my Chairorpean avatar as we ran (hovered) on towards the next waypoint. The dude dies in the subsequent end-game apocalypse. On the second playthrough, I have Trover Splatterhouse him and he still shows up in the apocalypse — actually happy that I sent him to the afterlife at his earliest convenience.

The same was true for the Mr. Popup vs Mike feud we discussed in the hands-on — the one where you are tasked with pushing one or the other’s house off a cliff. Turns out it doesn’t matter which you choose to kill. Squash Mr. Popup or throw Mike from a great height, and they both appear in the afterlife as the best of friends.

It’s this lack of consequence that prevented me from becoming invested in the story. With nothing to lose, the game’s veneer of gratuitous obscenity and Rick and Morty references quickly wears thin. Don’t get me wrong, if you’re a Rick and Morty fan — or are just looking for a half-priced game (MSRP $30) that you can beat in a weekend — Trover is your guy. Just don’t expect there to be much depth of gameplay to keep you coming back.

Source: engadget.com