There's evident potential in Troll and I. Initially developed as part of a crowdfunding program run by Square Enix, it is an intriguing action game starring a Scandinavian boy named Otto who, after finding his village aflame and being separated from his mother, stumbles upon a large creature during his hasty retreat into the forest. He discovers soon enough that the creature is gentle, which leads to what should be a grand adventure to stop unsavoury beasts that flow out of cracks in the ground and a group of hunters on the lookout for your large friend.
Alas, it was not to be. Troll and I has the soul of good game within it, but its myriad bugs and odd design choices keep it from bearing itself to players.
The game very much feels like the product of the early 2000s - ambitious, but residing in an in-between space from the low-res polygons of the late '90s and the more detailed graphics we expect nowadays. There’s definition there, but characters look like plastic action figures and textures are blurry. The voice acting has its moments, but more often than not it sounds amateurish and insincere. Yet barring all of this the environments are still interesting to explore and Otto and Troll’s burgeoning friendship feels plausible, even though there’s little setup to it happening.
While the presentation smacks of old technology, the gameplay itself takes a step back in a way that might make it tough for many to appreciate what Troll and I is trying to do. Character movement is plodding for both Otto and the Troll, although the latter seems particularly slow. This is punctuated with moments where you must press a button for contextual movement that seems off by a few seconds and, more frequently, watch Otto cut a spear out of a branch or watch him climb on Troll - these moments ruin the pacing to an already slow experience. Combat also takes a - ahem - hit with an arbitrary combo system, a finicky parlay system and a very disconnected Troll. Watching the giant swipe enemies aside should be more satisfying than it is, but the sensation is missed.
Most of the game has our heroes trudging through the forest, with intermittent moments of exploration sprinkled in for good measure. You can forage for parts to craft new weapons, healing items to mend your wounds and an assortment of collectables that flesh out the story or allow you to expand Otto and Troll’s abilities. It’s in these pockets where the promise of Troll and I peeks though, although they are few and far between. What makes it a true travesty is that the crafting system is rather pointless, as the different weapons don’t do much beyond having more damage attached to them or having colour-specific spear tips to destroy blockages; the game's rules have little coherence, as the Troll should just be able to smash through these obstacles.
You can play Troll and I cooperatively if you so choose, but splitting the screen makes an already rough experience even more jittery, and there are never moments where you need to use both characters in tandem that would make co-op truly worthwhile. You’ll still have to slowly use Troll to help Otto travail the terrain in order to open paths large enough for Troll to climb through. Again, this sounds like a great concept in theory, but it is hampered by either half-hearted programming or the reality that the game is intended to be played solo.
At points these shortcoming can be overcome with the right state of mind, but they add up. Between this and the sheer buggy nature of the experience (including a game-halting one that forces you to hard reset your Switch) it’d be surprising if people can look past it all.
For every intriguing idea that Troll and I presents, there are a couple of design choices or technical issues that will aggravate players. It’s ugly, clunky and bereft of certain amenities that players take for granted in this day and age. With so many games out to garner people’s attention, Troll and I isn’t as user friendly or quickly appealing as it needs to be in a flooded space. If you are someone who can look past technical hurdles there may be something worth divining here, but as a whole Troll and I is difficult to recommend.