Save your dogs, get a crystal… or something — Trover Saves the Universe Hands-on at E3 2018

I, admittedly, had very little idea what I was getting into when I slipped on a PSVR to try my hand at Trover Saves the Universe. Before taking a seat, I was given a somewhat elaborate backstory about how I’m just some guy–or girl–some nondescript human-ish someone–whose dogs had been kidnapped by someone who was going to use them for eyes. Fortunately, I somehow met up with Trover, a purple guy who also apparently stuffs people into his eye holes, and he’s going to help me get my dogs back. Um. Okay? Justin Roiland, one of the minds behind Rick and Morty, explained it all with a smirk, knowing full well this had little to do with what I was about to experience, but that was also, in a strange and twisted way, kind of the point.

Once inside the game, I found myself… seated, and holding a controller. No, really. There was a virtual controller in my virtual hands, and I could look down to see my virtual lower half lounging upon a virtual chair. Trover, who looked like a blobby, purple version of Gumby, explained the world, running his mouth on and on even as I used the thumbstick and buttons to send him running and jumping around the area. Seriously, he just kept talking no matter what I did; and with a voice like his, you notice every time he’s talking.

While I do have my own avatar inside the game, it’s Trover who I spend most of my time controlling. He may be the mobile one, but my virtual avatar doesn’t just sit still. Well, ok, it kind of does; while I never physically moved inside the game, I was able to use the shoulder buttons to turn my chair 360 degrees, and Trover was also able to access glowing spots which I could teleport my chair to using the trigger buttons.

The demo itself was every bit as zany, strange, and delightfully bewildering as anything you’d expect from the mind of Roiland. No sooner did we land on a planet in search of a crystal that would somehow help me get my dogs back than a Mr Popup, a disturbingly naked little yellow flying guy with an X over his crotch, appeared, demanding we move his jerk neighbor off the top of a nearby ledge, which was public land. According to Mr Popup, this guy’s a dick and he’s not allowed to build his house there. Trover quickly shooed him away, and we continued our search for the crystal.

Before too long, Torver jumped a log and was out of my line of sight; he came running back screaming a moment later–there were imps over that log and they hurt him. Unfortunately, I couldn’t see over the log to help him, and I’m obviously far too important to stand up and get a better angle, not to mention the fact that I can’t physically stand up inside the game itself. While lamenting that we’d never find the crystal, Mr Popup appeared again, announcing that he had the crystal we were looking for, and he would only give it to us if we blew up his jerk of a neighbor’s house.

Not only did Mr Popup have the crystal, he could also upgrade my chair so I could boost my chair up higher, allowing me to see over items and reach levers which would normally be out of reach from a seated position… because God forbid I might have to stand up to do such a thing. After a rather disturbing power-transferring ritual which involved a great deal of spit, I was able to finally see the enemies, and successfully guide Trover to vanquish the nasty foes.

Finally, I found myself up against three tiered puzzle which involved turning all the buttons on a panel green. The first one was small and easily conquered, by boosting my chair up to the second level, I again tackled the same puzzle only on a bigger scale. When I boosted myself up to the third level, I found myself trying to turn an annoying large number of buttons green, and Trover was having no part of it.

“F**k those buttons, man. Come on down here, we’ll just bust through the gate. C’mon, I’ll absorb all the damage!” He shouted, and kept shouting, and just kept shouting as I tried to riddle my way through the puzzle. It kept going. And going. And going, until finally the developers took pity on me and tapped me on the shoulder.

“Can I give you a hint? That’s an unsolvable puzzle, you’re actually supposed to listen to Trover and have him break through the gate.”

I burst out laughing and, sure enough, Trover plowed through the gate with no real issue. He sprinted off into the sprawling, quite pretty landscape and continued shouting. “Wow, wow look at all this space! Boost yourself up so you can see more of it! Oh no it’s going dark, the demo’s ending! Look at everything you can before it fades completely!”

I’m admittedly befuddled by my time with Trover Saves the Universe, but I do know that the odd combination of mechanics worked well, felt quite natural, and made for a solid and enjoyable experience. I also remember laughing a lot, cringing at a few points, thanks to Roiland’s self-aware sense of gross humor, and being pretty disappointed when the demo faded to black. I still don’t really understand what happened, but I do know that I want to get Mr Popup some pants, and that I really did enjoy killing some orcs, or imps, or something. The first taste may have been free, but I’m still very much looking forward to seeing more of this strange and perversely hilarious game, which will be available for the PlayStation 4 and PSVR in early 2019.

Be sure to check out the trailer video if you missed it, and stay tuned, there’s a whole lot more E3 2018 coverage still to come!

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