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Troll and I

Troll and I

It's a bit of a monstrosity (and we're not talking about the troll).

  • Text: Kerry-Lee Copsey

Troll and I is a third-person adventure title and the first effort from developer Spiral House. Set in post-World War II Scandinavia, you play as Otto, a teenage boy who's been separated from his mother after his home village has been blown up by unknown baddies. Hordes of goblins emerge from the ground and attack. Miraculously saved by the beast of folklore, the troll, the pair team up to survive the onslaught and form an unexpected friendship. The premise is reminiscent of the likes of The Last Guardian. Disappointingly, the reality is that Troll and I far closer resembles a low-budget PS2 game, wasting all of its potential on poor design, a shallow narrative, and an overwhelming number of technical blunders.

As soon as you're thrown into the game's tutorial, you immediately lose all hope of an epic adventure to come. You're introduced to the open-world by learning to how to track and hunt animals. For an aesthetic based around nature, there's a distinct lack of ambiance with the silent background audio and empty environment. It doesn't do a serviceable job of explaining its mechanics, either. The lack of audiovisual feedback is astonishing. You're left mashing buttons and wondering if your actions are having any affect. This extends to the rest of the game, with no map or visual guidance to point you in the right direction.

When you've blagged your way through hunting, you're taught about resources and given a brief introduction to the game's crafting system - a feature which feels unnecessary from the get go. Crafting weapons and items is a clunky process and plucking the necessary resources from the environment is tiresome. Materials are usually within close range and are no challenge to obtain, which begs the point of crafting. The only time it's ever utilised is when you need to make specific tools to break down obstacles. Even then, the feature feels completely shoehorned with no purpose but to artificially lengthen the game.

Troll and I

Immediately after meeting Troll, design choices can be questioned once more. As you flick between the two characters in single-player, it becomes painfully obvious that the game was created only with co-op in mind. Many of the puzzles are based around utilising the two characters' abilities; Otto's climbing which allows him to sneak around enemies and reach higher ground, and Troll's brute strength and heavy lifting.

These puzzles aren't badly put together by any means, and teamwork makes the process more enjoyable, but played alone it's hard to have fun. For example, there's a section early on which requires you to make your way around some cliffs to progress. By switching to Troll, you can lift the wing of an aeroplane to use as a bridge for Otto. Periodically switching between the two, you can manoeuvre around and pass each obstacle. Problem is, it's slow and it's dull, especially when you have to make a stop with Troll to put down the object and fight off waves of enemies to advance.

In split-screen, it's less of an issue. The gameplay flows a bit more naturally and irritating swarms of monsters become that bit more bearable. Played alone, however, the dual-character gameplay grows tiresome quickly. It tries to be intuitive, but the slow and unresponsive controls make it plain tedious. Switching between Otto and Troll isn't necessarily clunky, but engaging in any type of interaction is a chore. The characters' movement speed is painful when they haven't frozen up mid-fight. The input's often delayed or goes unregistered, which makes close combat and the Uncharted-esque platforming more frustrating than it needs to be.

Troll and I
Troll and I