Rick and Morty co-creator Justin Roiland’s has a game studio called Squanch Games, and their next big VR title, Trover Saves the Universe, looks to subvert another genre to an always weird, always hilarious effect. And while the reveal yesterday on stage at PlayStation’s E3 presentation didn’t quite hit the audience they way it was likely intended, there are certainly some real belly laughs in the demo I played today.
As a comedy action platformer, you take Trover on his jumping and slashing quest through the brightly colored land where you run into off-beat, fever dreamt characters only possible from the depths of Justin Roiland’s imagination.
Example: Trover is a purple guy with two eye-babies for eyes. Eye-babies. Small, differently colored babies for eyes, that have their own smaller eyes. Why does Trover have eye-babies? I don’t know. That’s just the sort of infectious strangeness that attracts people to Roiland’s comedy. Need a power-up? That’s a powerbaby. Yup.
Seated in a magical chair with a DualShock controller in hand, I land on a strange planet with Trover by my side. With the spaceship’s doors now open, I direct him to a check point with my left joystick where I can then teleport along with my chair, moving through the map on my way to god-knows-where.
For whatever reason, Trover is traveling the world to find an important crystal, something he finds almost immediately in the possession of a floating weirdo named Mr. Pons who needs Trover to destroy the house of a man named Michael. Mr. Pons is a law-abiding person, and thinks Michael doesn’t respect the law for daring to build his home in a non-residential zone, so naturally we have to destroy Michael’s home for spitting in the face of society’s conventions. If we want the crystal, we must travel to the top of the level, encountering puzzles and enemy gremlins along with way, which are easily dispatched with Trover’s lightsaber.
After blindly jumping over a log, Trover is creamed by a few gremlins. To get a better view of the terrain ahead, Mr. Pons spits on me, giving me the power to boost my chair to two optional heights—but only if we agree to exact revenge on Michael.
Being used to the more free-wheeling format of Roiland’s Accounting (2017), which is a bunch of loosely related sketches, Trover appeared to take the platforming genre pretty seriously, at least more so than I initially thought after watching the trailer. Although there are some hilarious fake-out moments that make you question how deep the subversion goes—a door puzzle blocking my way to the next area didn’t work correctly, prompting Trover to smash the door—most of my encounters were honest-to-goodness platforming interspersed with the hilarious, off-beat comedy fans of Rick and Morty should find familiar.
The press demo I played was only a quick slice of the whole first level, although it was clearly purpose-built for press demos. I walked in expecting a lot of fourth wall-breaking dialogue like in Squanch’s upcoming Dr. Splorchy Presents Space Heroes, and Trover certainly delivered, telling me to “do your review or whatever!” before starting the level. As the screen went black, I was reminded by Trover that the game was undoubtedly “Best in Show! Best in Show, E3 2018!!”
Sqaunch Games says they’re targeting a total gameplay time of more than four hours, and says Trover is slated to arrive on PSVR and PS4 in early 2019. There isn’t much more out there about it, but if you’re dying for more, you can sign up for updates here.