From day one, The Magnificent Trufflepigs — a game about metal-detecting and romance — came out swinging for the fences with prestige TV powerhouse AMC (of Walking Dead, Mad Men, and Breaking Bad fame) as publishers. But is it the equivalent of a stash of rare Roman coins, or just another rusty bottlecap?
The story is this: Beth, a woman whose cushy nepotism-earned job, pending nuptials, and comfy lifestyle are hanging on by a thread of her own making, decides to relive her metal-detecting childhood glory days by calling up her ex, Adam (that's you). You'll spend the next five days trying to find something that's missing — whether it's the earring to match the one she found as a kid, or the final puzzle piece of her manicured life.
Trufflepigs, as the debut game from new studio Thunkd, is clearly trying to lean on the reputation of other beloved walking simulator games to build up its cred. It's hard not to hold up The Magnificent Trufflepigs against a similar romp through the British countryside, Everybody's Gone to The Rapture — not least because the lead designer on both is the same man, Andrew Crawshaw, a fact prominently mentioned in the press materials.
Clearly, the comparison is a welcome (and encouraged) one, but it's not always apt: Everybody's Gone was a quiet, haunting narrative game with a story that unfolded at walking pace, and The Magnificent Trufflepigs — despite aesthetically nailing a sleepy Yorkshire-ish village, with a lovely, meandering soundtrack — is more akin to Firewatch in how it plays. To wit: you will mostly be either slowly waving a metal detector across a field, digging up treasures both exciting (costume jewellery!) and mundane (a horseshoe! In a field where horses live!), or nattering over a walkie-talkie with Beth.
Arthur Darvill as Adam is charmingly down-to-earth, but Beth — through no fault of Luci Fish, whose lilting Northern accent brings life to the script — is selfish, spoiled, and ungrateful. Though the metal detecting is slow and a little dull, it becomes much more preferable than listening to Beth complaining about the well-paid job she was handed, and treating Adam like a cowpat on her shoe — especially when you've just gotten into a groove with the detector, only to be interrupted by the crackle of a walkie-talkie, again.
As the narrative unfolds, you'll increasingly feel sorry for poor Adam, who — despite giving up a whole week for metal detecting — is never much more than an unwilling therapist for Beth and her bougie problems (like the fact that her boyfriend wouldn't drop £6k on a ring for her. SIX THOUSAND POUNDS).
Then again, there's the possibility that this is all a thought experiment for Beth, and Adam isn't real at all, which makes the story marginally more bearable — but overall, Trufflepigs is a little too short, a little too slow, and a lot too much of the unlikeable Beth. As a proof-of-concept of what Thunkd can do, it's promising, but limited graphics, poor accessibility options (although text size is changeable), and unskippable dialogue that grinds the entire game to a halt make it hard to recommend.
Unless, of course, you're looking for a tranquil-ish three hours of pleasant pastoral mundanity, sporadically interrupted by a self-involved rich kid having a quarter-life crisis and making it your problem.