Also available on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and Windows
Review written by Stephen Deck; originally published 06/02/2021 on Teacher by Day, Gamer by Night
My friends, especially on Racketboy, know that I have a tendency to play the worst games I can find alongside the normal stellar games that all gamers play. It’s like a form of self-harm that won’t get me institutionalized or leave visible scars (the psychological scars will never heal). It’s also that I have a morbid curiosity about just how bad a game can be and still make it to store shelves. What we have here, ladies, gentlemen, and enbies, is the Switch equivalent of Ride to Hell: Retribution or Superman 64 (I should play that one soon…). It’s not quite as bad as those games, but it’s damn close. I felt obligated to play this, though. Troll and I has been the official meme of the #SwitchCorps Twitter community for years now; the joke is that we all own the game despite how awful it is, but none of us have ever actually played it. Well, I thought, “If it’s that bad, I have to experience it for myself.” I often make poor life choices.
The basic premise of the game is that Otto, this Scandinavian kid, has his village destroyed by a mercenary with a Russian name and a British accent when he accidentally uses too much explosive material to try to draw out a troll and capture it. Fleeing his burning village, Otto is assailed by weird goblin-looking things crawling out from holes in the earth. Fortunately, a giant troll comes to save him! Otto then names the troll “Troll.” Creative lad, isn’t he? The duo then spends the next ten-ish hours (your mileage may vary depending on how many times the game crashes or bugs out) wandering through the wilderness and fighting goblins and mercenaries until they completely coincidentally stumble upon the folks from Otto’s village. Well, there are theoretically folks plural; you only ever actually see Otto’s mom. I guess that’s technically a spoiler, but the story sucks, so I don’t think anyone’s going to be too miffed about that one. The voice acting is garbage, too, so not only do you sit through a crappy story, but it’s a crappy story with crappy delivery.
Let’s talk about the positives about the game – it’s on the Switch. Now that that’s done, let’s look at the negatives aside from the established fact that the story sucks. It looks like garbage. I get that the Switch isn’t the most powerful piece of hardware out there, but this looks like a Gamecube game. Even that would be forgivable if it ran well, but this game makes Bethesda games look polished and functional. You see, there appears to be this threshold about fifteen minutes into the game. Before that point, the entire game *literally* runs at between 7 and 15 frames per second. Seriously, even the title screen was doing 15 fps. It’s so bad that the cutscenes would end up with the video a full ten seconds out of sync behind the audio. The game will also crash every other time you hit a loading screen. If you make it long enough to reach the threshold – you’re trying to climb onto a small cliff after sliding down a muddy hill – the game will crash. Consistently. Every time. It’s evidently a crippling memory leak issue that only occurs in that first section of the game. When you hit that threshold, you have to take your Switch out of the dock, hold the power button until the power options appear, and turn your Switch completely off. When you turn it back on, you can not only get past that point, but the frame rate has gone from wavering between 7 and 15 to wavering between 20 and 30. The fact that this is even a thing is inexcusable. I have no idea if this still happens on other platforms, but it’s so consistent on Switch that a forum post about it was pretty much the first hit when I Googled “Troll and I game keeps crashing.”
The fact that 95% of the game’s frame rate is only a normal degree of sub-30 crap is the only reason that I said it’s not quite as bad as Ride to Hell. It is still literally the third-worst game I’ve ever played. It’s worse than Chasing Dead on Wii U. It may be technically playable after that threshold, but it’s still broken as hell. It still crashes randomly. It still has abrupt frame rate drops. It still looks terrible. The controls are still stiff and jank as hell. Worst of all, it still has more random bugs than a mattress in a crack house. Three or four different times, I’d get stuck, get frustrated, and look up WishingTikal‘s YouTube walkthrough only to find out that I was right about what I needed to do all along but something in the game either didn’t load or wouldn’t register the interaction forcing me to reload the previous auto-save. If this were a small team’s first game, I could be a little more understanding, but the studio that developed this game has been around since 1998. Or so they claim; their website also claims that they made LittleBig Planet. I’m not sure if someone on their team worked on that game and they’re just claiming that, but Media Molecule definitely developed LittleBigPlanet, not Spiral House.
Troll and I is one of the most miserable, unenjoyable, and skilllessly crafted games I’ve ever played, and as a lunatic who goes out of his way to play the worst games he can find, that says a lot. There’s absolutely nothing redeeming here. The story is crap, the graphics make your five-year-old’s crayon drawings look like Giotto, it performs worse than a preschool Christmas play, and the controls constantly feel sluggish and imprecise. I only paid $11 for this game a couple of years ago, and I still feel like I overpaid by a solid ten bucks. If you want in on the meme, just buy a copy, but for the sake of your own mental health, don’t play it.