Saturday, June 8, 2019

Trover Saves the Universe (PS VR)

Following the announcement of Trover Saves the Universe, from the mind of Rick and Morty co-creator Justin Roiland (and developed by his studio, Squanch Games), I wasn’t sure exactly what to make of it. I did, however, warm up to it over time once I got a better understanding of its plot and characters, which made it sound as though I might get an experience similar to Rick and Morty. Upon actually getting to play the game, I can safely say this game met those expectations and possibly more.

One day while you, a Chairorpian, are playing with your pups, a mysterious being appears and kidnaps said pups, ocularly imprisoning them in his eyeholes. Some time later, a purple eyehole monster named Trover appears at your house, requesting your help in getting your pups back. As it turns out, even though everyone on your planet hated you and your pups, the being that kidnapped them, Glorkon the Abstainer, is drawing power from them and seeks to use them to destroy the universe.

The story plays out similarly to an episode of Rick and Morty, with a seemingly simple task becoming increasingly unhinged as it goes. Playing along with Justin Roiland’s style of improv, the story seems to change in a similar fashion, though some of your choices have an odd effect on the late game. That being said, it was actually pretty easy to follow, though at times the dialogue gets incredibly sexual, with some lines being sex-related or implying some sort of weird (often disgusting) fetishes from the characters that bring it up. Despite that, there’s still plenty of laughs here, some of which edge into dark humor, contributing well to the general tone of the game.

Glorkon the Abstainer (Justin Roiland) steals your pups for his own evil gain.

Visually, the game also bears a similar art style to Rick and Morty, to where a number of the characters wouldn’t really be out of place in that series, though it is both simple and effective. The level design reflects this as well, though a surprising amount of detail is put into the environments that makes them really interesting to look at and gives you the itch to explore every inch that you can. That said, one of the planets in the middle portion of the game, Flesh World, is both this and a horrific monstrosity that makes you want to go through it as quickly as possible, as it gets even more disturbing the longer you look at it.

The gameplay is much like a platformer, with the player character controlling Trover to perform a number of moves for them such as platforming and attacking enemies. The player character can also interact with objects in the environment, such as picking things up or pressing buttons, which extends to plenty of opportunities for puzzle-solving (with Trover occasionally referencing or mocking the complexity and even presence of some of them). Since Chairorpians spend all their time sitting, the player character controls Trover to find warp nodes to get around the level, which is a clever way to incorporate the VR aspect of the gameplay (more on that later).

A major aspect of both the lore and the gameplay is Power Babies, which plug directly into an eyehole monster’s eyeholes to give them special abilities. Trover can pick up Red Power Babies to increase his health or obtain Power Babies from upgrade vendors in each level to unlock new abilities, though Green Power Babies are hidden collectibles scattered throughout a number of the levels. The Green Power Babies have bios that are usually hilarious and often absurd in nature, and Trover promises a reward for getting all of them; a lot of the bios, and even the Trophy descriptions, make jabs at the player for not having a “real job”, though one has to wonder if that’s directed at players who don’t already have jobs or if it’s a jab at content creators/streamers specifically.

What combat generally looks like.
Pictured: Trover (Justin Roiland) attacking Glorkon clones (Justin Roiland)
while being controlled by a Chairorpian (You).

The game is notably VR-compatible, for which I played on a PlayStation VR. There was one small section of the game I played outside of VR because in a previous session I had worn the headset a little uncomfortably, though that small bit was enough for me to note the difference between the two versions. One thing I can say for certain is that, while VR games normally make you go through the process of calibrating your position, this game takes things one step further than in Ghost Giant and just automatically orients it to whatever your current spatial position is on startup, alleviating that headache entirely.

One thing to note is that a lot of the interactivity in the game is look-based; in VR, this is done by looking around with your head and adjusting your position with the controller, whereas outside VR both are done entirely with the right analog stick. There are also points where the player is asked a yes or no question; in VR, the player answers these questions by physically nodding or shaking their head to answer, while otherwise this is solved using a button prompt. On that note, one upgrade you get in the early game is the ability to move your chair up and down to get a better view; in VR, turning the chair and adjusting the height are done by the direction you hit the right analog stick, whereas outside of that adjusting the chair’s height is mapped to the shoulder buttons.

One interesting bit of immersion is that the controller the Chairorpian uses to control Trover is represented by the controller you would use for the platform, which in my case was a DualShock 4, which moves along with your button presses and also acts as a HUD for Trover’s health. In normal gameplay, the controller is locked at the bottom edge of the screen, whereas in VR it moves along with you, though in the latter it’s easy for it to get accidentally misaligned with your position, and so it may require a little bit of trickery to reorient it properly.

It’s hard not to talk about Justin Roiland when talking about the voice acting, given that he alone voices about half the cast. That said, his vocal range is similar to what can be heard in Rick and Morty; while it is no less impressive, a lot of characters, particularly Glorkon (and his clones) and Trover sound a lot like Rick and Morty, which an official trailer released by Roiland on Twitter actually calls attention to. Once I got past that though, the characters really felt like their own, although Roiland’s improv style is recognizable in his delivery; there’s actually, rather humorously a couple parts of his voice recording where they keep in Roiland breaking character before continuing his train of thought.

The other voice actors do a good job as well, with some even voicing multiple characters. Cassie Steele, who has worked with Justin Roiland before and seconds him in the number of characters voiced, does an excellent job on her own, managing to make each of her characters sound and feel distinct from each other.

Trover Saves the Universe is an excellent and humorous VR-compatible game that should not be missed. Justin Roiland’s talents and style of humor from Rick and Morty are put on full display in this game, making it a high recommendation for fans who are still waiting for Season 4 (as of this writing). As the M rating suggests, this game is definitely not child-friendly, though people who are otherwise looking for a fun VR experience should give this one a go.

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