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Trover Saves the Universe

Platform(s): PC, PlayStation 4
Genre: Action/Adventure
Developer: Squanch Games
Release Date: May 31, 2019

About David Silbert

I'm a recent college graduate from Boston, MA. When I'm not writing for WorthPlaying, I'm probably researching Celtics trade rumors or struggling to keep up with the growing library on my Nintendo Switch.


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PS VR Review - 'Trover Saves the Universe'

by David Silbert on Sept. 18, 2019 @ 12:00 a.m. PDT

Trover Saves the Universe is a bizarre comedy action from the co-creator of Rick and Morty.

Buy Trover Saves the Universe

"Rick and Morty" is one of the wildest shows to hit American television in recent years. With its wacky characters, brazen humor, and surprisingly robust world-building, the Adult Swim program quickly amassed a large following of dedicated viewers who were hungry for additional episodes and new adventures. Unfortunately, due to prolonged contract negotiations between Adult Swim and showrunners Dan Harmon and Justin Roiland, fans have been left without a new "Rick and Morty" season for the better part of two years.

While "Rick and Morty" is set to finally start a fourth season this November, those anxious for more of the series' patented sci-fi humor have another option in the form of the recently released PC and PlayStation 4 title, Trover Saves the Universe. Developed and published by Squanch Games, Trover Saves the Universe is an action-adventure platformer designed for virtual reality headsets, boasting a unique story penned by "Rick and Morty" co-creator Roiland.

While not technically a "Rick and Morty" video game, Trover Saves the Universe is about as close as fans will get to experiencing the television series' planetary adventures. The plot, characters, and sense of humor feel like pages taken directly from the script of the show. At the same time, colorful visuals and an expressive soundtrack help the world pop from the confines of the VR headset, making Trover a journey distinctly unique in its own right.

It's a shame, then, that Trover doesn't quite live up to its potential. Its humor, despite being authentic to its spiritual inspiration, is held back by some repetitive beats and a general lack of focus. Similarly, Trover's platforming and combat, although fun early on, fail to evolve over the course of the game's five- to seven-hour runtime. Taken as a whole, Trover Saves the Universe is an enjoyable romp for those who are starved for new Rick and Morty-esque content, but its lack of depth keeps it from being a true VR classic.

Players assume the role of a nameless individual belonging to the "Chairorpian" race: a group of humanoid aliens confined to their hovering chairs. One day, while the Chairorpian is playing with its pair of dogs from the sanctity of its home planet, the pets are kidnapped by Glorkon, an individual hellbent on harnessing the pooches' energies for his own personal gain. A short time later, the Chairorpian is visited by a purple "Eyehole Monster" named Trover, who has been tasked by his employer with finding the Chairorpian and enlisting its aid. Together, the Chairorpian and Trover must travel through the cosmos on a quest to rescue the pups and save the universe from Glorkon's clutches.

Convoluted terminology aside, Trover Saves the Universe is surprisingly simple in nature. The game takes place across seven main worlds, with several smaller locations that serve as story-centric hubs for players. At the behest of Trover's boss, players travel from planet to planet in search of various trinkets needed to find and stop Glorkon.

Despite being billed as a VR platformer, Trover Saves the Universe is a narrative-driven adventure, first and foremost. Much like the "Rick and Morty" show it aims to emulate, Trover is filled to the brim with oddball characters, ad-libbed dialogue, and enough expletives to make a sailor blush. Trover, who is voiced by Roiland himself, is essentially a feistier Morty Smith; likewise, Trover's boss, also voiced by Roiland, feels like a parallel version of Rick Sanchez, albeit more mellow. The game boasts an impressive amount of voice work, from the standard exposition that players receive at the outset of a new mission, to more specialized chitchat that occurs when performing contextual actions, such as idling or exploring off the beaten path.

As a fan of "Rick and Morty," I came into Trover expecting to find similar enjoyment from the game's off-the-walls humor and "anything goes" mentality. However, I came away slightly disappointed by the end result. Unlike the Adult Swim show, which benefits from more deliberate plotting, Trover Saves the Universe feels like it's trying to hammer the same story beats over and over again. From Trover constantly urging the player to get a move on to Trover's boss telling him in more ways than one to "shut the f- up," the jokes in Trover Saves the Universe quickly overstay their welcome.

Part of the problem stems from the game's approach to level design. Despite the inherently exciting allure of traveling the cosmos, Trover Saves the Universe is a strictly linear affair. Each planet is tackled in a sequential order, with each area relatively straightforward in terms of layout and overall objective. On Shleemy World, for instance, players must locate the Crystal of Ithecles to upgrade Trover's telepod and gain access to the next planet. In general, these missions serve as an excuse to move the plot forward. As a result, a lot of the dialogue ends up feeling like improvised filler, without any real sense of direction.

However, there are still plenty of clever story moments to be experienced throughout Trover Saves the Universe. The game is at its strongest when it plays with standard game conventions. For example, by the end of the aforementioned Shleemy World, Trover discovers that the supposedly one-of-a-kind Crystal of Ithecles is just an everyday object practically littered across the surface of the planet. Other moments, like encountering a fourth-wall-breaking bug, dealing with an unnecessarily complicated puzzle, or coming to terms with a player decision late in the game, are equality entertaining, managing to poke fun at the game itself and provide subtle commentary on modern gaming trends. Unfortunately, these moments feel few and far between compared to some of the crasser and, frankly, lazier jokes strewn about in Trover.

While Trover offers a mix of platforming and beat-'em-up gameplay, both are disappointingly shallow, serving as afterthoughts to the narrative. At the outset of the game, Trover is equipped with the most basic set of moves: a single jump and a light attack. Over the course of the story, the title doles out several additional abilities, including a double-jump, hover move, evasive roll, and heavy attack. However, these upgrades never feel meaningful enough to impact gameplay in a compelling way. Enemies are relegated to a few slight variations, none of which require much in the way of strategy to defeat. Even Trover's final boss, which poses little challenge, utilizes the same recycled enemy types encountered ad nauseam throughout the previous five to seven hours of the game.

There is some gameplay depth to Trover. Each main planet houses a set number of collectible "power babies," which players obtain by either discovering them in plain sight with the VR headset, à la Astro Bot Rescue Mission, or having Trover find them by cracking open floating canisters scattered throughout the level. After collecting a certain amount of power babies, players can exchange them for additional hit points for Trover. While hardly a replacement for the bare-bones platforming and combat — especially considering how easy the latter is without the extra hit points — the addition of collectibles gives Trover's world a non-linear element of exploration that it's otherwise lacking.

Trover's world definitely is worth exploring, thanks in large part to vibrant visuals and an expressive soundtrack that bring the game world to life. Planets pop with color, from the lush forest-like environments on Shleemy World, to more mechanical, futuristic planets featuring hues of yellow and blue. Meanwhile, the music, which offers a relaxing mix of moody synth pieces and piano ballads, really helps to sell the idea that you and Trover are scouring the cosmos, visiting exotic locales, and interacting with some truly strange individuals.

While Trover Saves the Universe has been marketed primarily as a VR title, the game can also be experienced without a headset. Opting to play in TV mode ups the graphics quite a bit compared to the VR mode (I played on a base PlayStation 4), providing an overall smoother experience for those who are particular about frame rate and visual fidelity. However, given that the controls and gameplay mechanics have been designed with VR in mind, I found that playing in TV mode takes away most of the game's inherent charm.

Charming is certainly the word I'd use to describe Trover Saves the Universe. In spite of its underwhelming gameplay and disorganized storytelling, there's a definite sense of joy to be had while exploring the vibrant planets of the cosmos alongside Trover and his R-rated sense of humor. For most, the mileage you'll get out of Trover Saves the Universe will depend on how much you love "Rick and Morty" and how receptive you are to Roiland's improv-heavy brand of humor. Those who swear — perhaps literally — by the Adult Swim cartoon will assuredly have a good time; those seeking a slightly more involved VR experience may be better off looking elsewhere.

Score: 7.5/10

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