The creator of Rick and Morty stars in his very own video game, and it’s just as weird (and sweary) as you’d expect.
There are two things you’d assume from a video game made by Justin Roiland, co-creator of Rick and Morty. One is that it must be very funny and the other is that it’s probably bizarre enough that you have no idea what else to expect – and Trover Saves The Universe delivers on both counts. It also has an optional VR mode, that is unexpectedly reminiscent of the sublime Astro Bot, but most players are going to be here for the jokes and in that respect it’s one of the best video game comedies in years.
Not that video games generally are very funny, even when they try, so it’s not as if Trover Saves The Universe is up against much in the way of competition. There’s also the fact that if you don’t like Rick and Morty you’re also unlikely to find this very funny, as not only is the sense of humour largely the same but it explores similar themes of existential dread and the funny side of extreme nihilism.
Technically you don’t control the eponymous Trover, as you’re instead playing the role of a Chairopian, an alien who absolutely never gets up from their teleporting hover chair. Trover is the guy who does all the leg work, as you set out to rescue your two stolen dogs. Bizarrely the aliens have other aliens in their eye sockets, and the big bad has decided he wants your dogs in his – thereby putting the entire universe in peril, or something.
The game regularly mocks not just the plot but the whole concept of video game storytelling and structure, which is something every gamer can appreciate whether they like Rick and Morty or not. As you can tell from the show, Roiland clearly knows quite a bit about games, and has voiced a number of them before (including an actual Rick and Morty VR game). As such, the whole of Trover Saves The Universe is filled is filled with a cynical self-awareness of not only how silly it is but how absurd games in general can be.
The game’s usually at its funniest when dealing with the many background characters, who by accident or design manage to elongate the running time well beyond the four or so hours of gameplay. As with all humour a lot of it is hit and miss, but while the script (if there was a script, it’s hard to tell) relies a little too much on swearing to get itself out of a comedy cul-de-sac, the hit rate is impressively high.
The gameplay isn’t an afterthought though and while it’s nowhere near as good, the comparison with Astro Bot is perfectly relevant, even if we suspect it’s largely coincidental. Trover is armed with what’s basically a lightsabre and you control him directly with the joypad. But you’re actually controlling the Chairorpian controlling him, who has to direct the action from his sedentary position, teleporting between different spots in the level to get the best view.
It’s all very meta but it works well in practice and actually helps to obscure the fact that the platforming and combat are otherwise fairly simplistic. They do get a little more complex as the game progresses though, and by the end you’ve got a useful collection of additional abilities – including the option for the Cahiropian to throw objects and help Trover out with distractions.
You also gain the ability to raise and lower the height of your chair, which is essential when Trover is otherwise obscured from view. Some of the more powerful enemies also require both of you to work in tandem to register any damage, but while at that point the combat threatens to get genuinely interesting it unfortunately doesn’t push itself any further.
Apart from finding collectibles in obscure spots, usually by contorting your view and making use of the variable heights of your chair, there aren’t really any puzzles in the game. Which is something Trover himself regularly makes fun of. Although whether that’s is an attempt to cover up for their absence or because Roiland just didn’t want them in there we’re not entirely sure.
If you don’t have PlayStation VR then the game does become a harder sell and recommending it depends almost entirely on how much you enjoy Roiland’s humour. Not only does the whole Chairopian conceit make less sense without VR but keeping tabs on Trover is much more awkward when you’re using only the joypad, instead of just moving your head to follow him. The game’s still perfectly playable, and it’s never very hard, but playing it outside of VR is definitely the inferior experience.
Since it requires both PlayStation VR and an appreciation of Rick and Morty’s humour to get the most out of Trover Saves The Universe is aiming itself at a pretty narrow audience, but if you fit within it then this hits its targets pretty accurately. Gaming needs more comedies and whatever you think of Roiland’s style of humour this is the most successful one in years.
Trover Saves The Universe
In Short: A rare, honest-to-goodness video game comedy that will delight Rick and Morty fans but also features some imaginative use of VR.
Pros: Assuming you appreciate the style of comedy the jokes come thick and fast, with some hilarious side characters. Clever use of VR, especially in terms of how you view the action.
Cons: Very short and when considered separately the gameplay is fairly unremarkable and shallow – especially if you’re not playing it in VR.
Formats: PlayStation 4 (reviewed) and PC
Publisher: Squanch Games
Developer: Squanch Games
Release Date: 31st May 2019
Age Rating: 16
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