I've wanted to play Trover Saves the Universe ever since I first saw it back at E3 2018. But now, I've learned that not playing the game might be a better idea.
That's because when you leave the controller alone, characters in the game will yammer ad-libbed lines back and forth for basically as long as you care to listen — and the dialogue is hilarious.
I went hands-on with Trover Saves the Universe at GDC 2019 in San Francisco, and while I'd seen a lot of the content before, I got to hear a lot of it for the first time. That's because while the game will take somewhere between 10 and 15 hours to complete, there's almost twice that much recorded dialogue. If you're a fan of Rick and Morty, you won't be surprised to learn why.
Trover Saves the Universe is the first game from Rick and Morty co-creator Justin Roiland, and we've already discussed how he accidentally created a whole new game genre while trying to make a game that was playable in both VR and traditional setups. Unsurprisingly, the humor in Trover is quite similar to what you'd find in an episode of Rick and Morty: offhand dialogue, over-the-top gross-outs and a lot of profanity. In lesser hands, this kind of comedy would be grating; in Trover, though, it's endearing, thanks to a rapid-fire conversational tone. And if you like the dialogue, there's a lot of it.
I played through an early level of the game — one I'd played before, in a shorter demo, in fact — where I controlled both a chair-bound alien and the contentious, purple, lightsaber-wielding Trover. The game is an agreeable mix of platforming, light combat and exploration, where half of the challenge is finding a way to the next area, and the other half is navigating the obstacles on the way there.
During the half-hour or so I spent with the game, I fought off a bunch of ankle-biting baddies, solved a complicated switch puzzle (by eventually bashing my way through the door), and even made a few plot-altering decisions about how to acquire a doodad to advance the story. We've covered the gameplay before, and everything is still as we left it.
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But what I got to do this time was take some time and listen to the optional dialogue. In an early section, Trover (who sounds just like Morty) was talking with his superior officer (who sounds just like Rick) about why he didn't want to be paired up with me. All I had to do was press a button to set off for the next level, but I decided to sit right where I was for a few minutes. The dialogue simply continued, without repeating, with Trover complaining over and over that he didn't want to go, and his superior reminding him that he had no choice, with plenty of f-bombs thrown in for good measure.
(You can play a "censored" version of the game, which leaves most profanity intact, but bleeps out all instances of the f-word. This is arguably even funnier than hearing everything as-is.)
I talked to the game's developers, who explained that when Roiland gets on a roll, he simply ad-libs and records more and more and more dialogue. (This has apparently been a real challenge for Trover's localization teams, which have to find increasingly clever ways to translate the rambling, expletive-laden lines.) You don't have to sit and listen to most conversations for more than about a minute or so, but if you have some time on your hands, you can hear some surprisingly funny stuff, as the characters around you get more and more exasperated with your inaction.
My favorite encounter with Trover's seemingly endlessly supply of dialogue was when I was trying to solve a difficult switch puzzle. I had just received the ability to levitate my chair, which helped me see more of the map and keep a better eye on Trover himself. In order to open a locked door, I had to flip three sets of switches: one on the ground, one halfway up a tower and one on the top.
When I flipped the first switch, Trover commented that it was a switch puzzle, and that was cool. I popped up one level and found that I had to match a complex pattern of lights in order to flip the switch. Trover kept his cool, and seemed satisfied once I completed it.
It wasn't until I got to the final level, where I had to match multiple rows and columns of lights, where Trover started losing patience. As I tried repeatedly, and failed, to match the lights correctly, Trover started berating the game designers for programming the puzzle in the first place, and yelled at me to come down so he could just bash the door and be done with it. When I kept trying to solve the puzzle, he got more and more insistent, and more and more profane.
I thought Trover would eventually start repeating himself, but I kept at the puzzle for a good two minutes or so, and he continued to spout unique dialogue about why switch puzzles were a waste of time, and how we could just get on with the rest of the level if I let him bash the door, and how the brain-teaser was completely unfair to begin with. I imagine if I had stayed for a few more minutes, I would have heard all-new dialogue.
All of this "hidden" dialogue, over and apart from the main game, is one reason why I think Rick and Morty fans might really love Trover Saves the Universe. Roiland's weird, spontaneous comedy is one of the show's main draws, and there's plenty of it here. (I can't wait to see which deep-cut lines eventually become memes.)
The game will be available on PlayStation 4 on May 31 and PC on June 4, and will cost $30. You can play it with a traditional screen, an HTC Vive, an Oculus Rift or a PSVR, just in case you ever wanted to get up close and personal with a bunch of bizarre, swearing aliens.