There’s a good chance you’ve heard of the television show, Rick and Morty. Popular among viewers of Cartoon Network’s irreverent Adult Swim, the show puts a whacked out magnifying glass on the relationship between Back to the Future’s Marty McFly and Doctor Emmett Brown, the latter represented in the cartoon as a cynical, alcohol binging super scientist who goes on interstellar and inter-dimensional adventures on the reg with his put upon grandson. The show has its fans and detractors, a brief surf of the web indicating the people either love or hate it. Justin Roiland, co-creator of Rick and Morty and co-founder of Squanch Games, takes his show’s off-beat brand of humor into the realm of video games with Trover Saves The Universe. Although its not directly connected to Rick and Morty, you’d be forgiven for any confusion.
Playable in and out of VR, Trover Saves the Universe begins on Chairorpia, a planet where residents are confined to comfortable Lay-Z-Boy armchairs. As a nameless, dog-loving alien, your life is thrown into chaos after a monster calling itself Glorkon kidnaps your two pooches and crams them into his eye sockets before running away. In pursuit of Glorkon is Trover, a purple alien (voiced by Roiland) who grants full control over his body in a quest to rescue the dogs and stop Glorkon. Spend a little time with the game and PlayStation VR owners will notice a lot of gameplay similarities between Trover and Sony’s Astro Bot: Rescue Mission because they nearly play the same. Using an in-universe game controller, you move Trover across the map, jumping to and from platforms and swiping enemies with a lightsaber-like weapon. All the Chairorpian can do is move from one teleport pad to another to get a better view of the action. Visiting these planets coincides with tasks given to you by a group of hyper-dimensional aliens that need your help to stop Glorkon. Secondary objectives include scouring each planet for little green creatures called power babies that are hidden amongst the environments and collecting all of them will get you some vague prize. Trover has his own power babies jammed into his eye holes that can be upgraded over time to give him more health, stronger attacks, and special platformer-based abilities.
Trover Saves The Universe makes fun use of virtual reality if you’ve got it. You can interact with the characters by nodding or shaking your head, usually when prompted by a question or command. There are some neat gameplay ideas here, too, like seeing how the game responds to actions in ways you wouldn’t expect. For example, early on you meet an upgrade vendor who needs help taking out a small group of monsters that have been harassing him. These creatures hang out to the right of his stall while a pen holding many of the same monsters sits on his left. I misjudged the task and ended up slaughtering the penned up monsters causing the vendor to yell, moan, and cry that I had killed his pets. His newfound disdain for Trover and I carried through the rest of the level, so that every time we bumped into him, he had some nasty words ready. Such a thing is neat and makes you pay attention to the game’s possible diverging paths. It also makes for great conversation among friends and other players over what they experienced in their own playthrough.
It may not be directly connected to the cartoon series, but Trover Saves The Universe is set upon the foundation Roiland and Harmon built for their cartoon show. The character models look pulled directly out of Rick and Morty (the player character’s dog are pretty much an exact duplicate of the Smith’s family pup) and the voice work will be immediately familiar. And VO is the area of the game I found to be the most grating at times. Coincidentally, it’s the main reason I couldn’t get into Rick and Morty. In both the game and show, the main characters have a tendency to fall into whiney rants and diatribes that ramble and repeat to a degree that it quickly stops being funny. But...t hen again.. .there was a moment when two characters talking to each other started making fun of me while trying to solve a puzzle, working through an exchange I found to be really funny, sooo...i t kind depends on what characters and NPCs strike your funny bone. I will say that i liked the dynamic dialog in which bad guys and friendlies will change their dialog depending on what the player is doing or has done.
The game is also piled high with filthy language that’s used purely for the sake of being able to swear. There’s frequent cursing by Trover and enemy minions whose dialog primarily consists of shits, fucks, and assholes that dig deep for the lowest common denominator. I’m not adverse to foul language at all but such words lose their punch and comedy with overuse. The bad words can be censored, I suppose, so younger Rick and Morty fans can indulge themselves without their parents getting up in arms, I guess? Does the cartoon have a non-18 to 30 year old viewership?
In the end, I actually liked playing Trover Saves The Universe despite the cheap laughs and sometime annoying cast of characters. I played it primarily with the PlayStation VR headset and while it may not be the best representative for the technology (you could play without VR and lose nothing in the process), it’s still fun to be immersed in Trover’s madcap universe. I’d say that the only downside to not using VR is that the game has a noticeable fish-eye look to it. That may be a result of me being used to playing it with the PSVR, so it looks noticeably odd to me. The game has good jokes (I loved the opening tutorial) when they’re not run into the ground. Without question, the szechuan sauce guzzling, Pickle Rick shouting fans of Rick and Morty are going to flock to Roiland’s digital venture while those with the most passing knowledge of the cartoon won’t need to do any research beforehand. What it probably won’t do is change your already formed opinions about the Adult Swim cartoon. But that’s not the point here. This is merely a chance to play around in Justin Roiland’s head and in that regard, Trover Saves The Universe is at its best when you let yourself be enveloped by the madness.
Librarian by day, Darkstation review editor by night. I've been playing video games since the days of the Commodore 64 and I have no interest in stopping now that I've made it this far.