In March 2017, Troll and I was released on PC, PS4, and Xbox One. Fans were excited about the opportunity to team up with a troll, battle monsters, and explore a new world. Unfortunately, the game was a flop. Players complained of low frame rates, clunky controls, outdated graphics, and an oddly silent development team. I hoped the Switch release, scheduled five months later, would help Spiral House and Maximum Games redeem themselves. Alas, they didn’t learn.
Now, there’s a good concept under there somewhere. In Troll and I, a young man named Otto loses his village in a devastating fire. While he tries to escape, a pack of grizzly goblin-like creatures attack him. Just when we think he’s going to die, a terrifying, giant troll comes to his rescue. The two become friends and spend the game working together to complete puzzles and find their way back home.
My excitement for Troll and I died about ten minutes into the game. Right after the village catches fire, Otto plummets down an impossibly long hill. It becomes a test of dodging trees, sliding under logs, and jumping over obstacles while a big ball of fire chases him down. If you don’t jump in just at the right spot, you die instantly, causing you to start the slide all over again. You have no control over camera angle during this sequence, and I found myself facing a solid, rock wall the first three times I tried to clear the area. Not being able to see where I was going, I died each time and had to start over. This issue was clearly repeatable and should have been found in QA tests.
Even though the miles upon miles of falling seemed like an odd way to start the game, I held onto hopes that the rest of the Troll and I world would be wonderful. I expected to be able to wander freely with my new troll buddy but no such luck. The world appears to be a wide open map but you can only go to the places the game wants you to go. If it wants Otto to scale the side of a cliff, there will be square bricks to grab a hold of. If the game wants Troll to scale a cliff instead, there will be bigger square bricks. Yes, perfectly square or rectangle bricks jutting out of an otherwise wild-looking environment. So instead of exploring and enjoying the world of Troll and I, I found myself just clinging to the edges of the map, looking for bricks to climb.
The next several puzzles in the beginning of the game are painfully obvious and even less enjoyable. Every time a new puzzle mechanic is introduced, the same mechanic must be repeated multiple times. This causes it to lose novelty. Maybe this was annoying to me because of how painfully slow movement was. It required more patience than if Troll and Otto moved at a more reasonable speed. Climbing rocks or lifting platforms might be interesting the first time, but it’s boring the fifth or sixth time you have to do the same process ever-so-slowly.
The target audience for Troll and I is unclear. When Troll smashes an enemy into the ground, body parts go flying. This argues a case for an adult audience. Nevertheless, our adult intelligence is insulted when obstacles are clearly labeled with their solutions. Oftentimes, a floating orb would appear over an obstacle with an image of exactly what tool or weapon you needed in order to clear it. They can’t trust us to figure out a solution on our own? There are other ways to draw a player’s attention to an object other than clearly stating the solution. It takes the fun out of playing.
What disappointed me most about the Troll and I Switch release was the lack of communication from the creators. I’ve had the pleasure of witnessing dozens of thoughtful, constructive exchanges between developers and their fans. Most indie games are not AAA quality at launch, and indie fans know this. When they encounter problems with a new game, they turn to message boards and social media. The developers then patch the game as needed and everyone is happy. When Troll and I launched on Steam in March, the developers didn’t respond to a single bug report on the game’s message board. When the game launched on Switch, a memory leak error caused most players to experience frequent crashes. It took two full days for the publisher to address the issue and their response was a quick Tweet: “Please try rebooting the system and let us know if that fixes it!”
While we anxiously await more Switch titles, Troll and I might seem like a great game to pass the time. Unfortunately, I recommend skipping this one.
A Nintendo Switch review copy of Troll and I was provided by Maximum Games for the purpose of this review