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'Trover Saves the Universe' is even more bonkers than I'd hoped

You have no idea what you're in for.
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Squanch Games

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The inside of Justin Roiland's head is a magical, mysterious place filled with wondrously quirky, foul-mouthed, morally ambiguous characters. And so, too, is Trover Saves the Universe, the latest title from Roiland's fledgeling studio, Squanch Games. I was afforded an hour of hands-on time with the game at GDC last week, and let me tell you, if you're a fan of Rick and Morty, action platformers or just gratuitous cartoon violence and swearing, you're gonna love this game.

The game's premise is simple: the evil Glorkon has dognapped your two sweet puppies (modelled after Roiland's real-life pets), crammed them into his eye holes and is draining their life force in an effort to destroy the universe. Your job is to go all John Wick on his ass, rescue your dogs and save the universe. But you're not alone in your quest. The purple eye-hole alien Trover is at your side; acting as a guide, combat avatar, and walking director's commentary track.

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The gameplay mechanics are really unique. For one thing, you as the protagonist don't actually do all that much. Instead, you're confined to a chair and control Trover's actions remotely. What's more, there is no traditional HUD. Instead, all of your health and power info is displayed on the in-game controller. It's like you're playing the game from inside the game. Your job is to direct Trover and act as overwatch, launching you chair high into the air to scout the area ahead, search for hidden power-ups and various other goodies. Trover, for his part, acts as your personal attack dog, curb stomping every enemy in your path with his energy sword (don't you dare call it a Lightsaber.)

This creates an interesting dynamic, not unlike playing as V in the Devil May Cry series. You stay back and safely out of harm's way while your familiars fight in your stead. It's especially cool if you're using the PSVR. So while most first-person VR games have you running around stabbing stuff directly (looking at you Skyrim VR) and getting non-stop motion sickness, Trover separates the player from the immediate action just enough to largely prevent that.

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The visuals are just utterly bonkers. Ever seen an episode of Rick and Morty? Good, now you know what the game looks like --it's psychedelic pandemonium. My only hangup was the heavy screen door effect when playing on VR, but that's an issue with the PSVR's hardware, not the game itself.

The soundtrack is even better. Squanch Games reps have confirmed that there are over 25 hours of dialog in the game, much of which comes from Roiland himself. That's pretty impressive given that a golden path run-through will get you to the end of the game in around 9 hours and a more leisurely, treasure hunting pace will get you there in about 12. And oh lord, the swearing. There is so much and it is glorious. But if you're not into that sort of thing or if you've got kids in the house, you can flip between censored and uncensored versions of the dialog. The swearing is still all there, just covered with bleeps. The in-game dialog isn't procedurally generated, there's just so much of it that you'll have to replay the game a time or two.

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You're going to want to play through multiple times anyway because players are constantly placed in morally ambiguous situations and forced to make life-and-death decisions on the fly. For example, during my playthrough, I was tasked with helping Mr Popup, an obnoxious flying imp who'd begged me to knock the house of the neighborhood bully off a cliff. At first blush, that wasn't a tough decision to make as it turns out that the bully imprisons, drugs and impregnates women so that he may consume the flesh of their offspring. When confronted, the bully offered me the same upgrade crystal that Mr Popup had if I instead destroyed Mr Popup's house.

Cannibalism and attempted bribery? Nah man, I knocked that house all the way down. Unfortunately, what I didn't realize was [spoiler alert!] that the imprisoned women were still in the bully's house when I demolished it... and that they were all the wives of Mr Popup to boot. So, no, that didn't really resolve itself as neatly as I'd hoped.

Still, if you want to get your hands on some of these delicious Eye Holes, Trover Saves the Universe comes to PS4 and PSVR on May 31st, lands on PC via Epic Game Store and Steam June 4th and will retail for $30.

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