There was a time in the 80’s where movies about kids meeting up with unlikely companions were all the rage. I’m still nostalgic for them and Spiral House are hoping you are too. Troll and I looks to re-enforce those feelings whilst providing an action adventure with plenty of ambition.
The story takes place in a post-war Scandinavia. Hunters are drawn to the area after sightings of a troll have piqued their interest. A race is on to find the mythical beast dead or alive. Villains are cast almost immediately and our hero Otto begins humbly as a resourceful youngster hunting for his family. This introduction reveals crafting and hunting mechanics which are crucial to creating new weaponry. After this tutorial, our motivation is made clear. We return to our village to find it on fire and, after two rather irritating chase sequences, our two protagonists meet.
It wastes little time with the setup and it does offer some interesting story beats, even if they seem to slip into the background after time. There’s not a lot of clutter to it, there’s motivations at play and they do manage to build a bond with the two companions that feels earned.
Troll and I plays similarly to Tomb Raider. You’re making use of resources, crafting new items and healing yourself. Durability plays a factor and I’ve somehow struggled to find the right materials for a new axe. Your default knife doesn’t deliver the same damaging blows but materials for spears are abundant. It’s a pity ranged combat isn’t as effective, outside the puzzle scenarios.
The interplay between Troll and Otto is admirable and using them in tangent to solve problems gives this game something different from a standard adventure. It can feel like a crutch as you manoeuvre them to into position but both seem invincible whilst in control of their counterpart. You’re not penalised for splitting up. It offers a good co-op experience as you tackle the game’s trials with two heads and can coordinate. There will be times where you’re glad of that communication. Areas feature climbable surfaces and are surprisingly expansive. Climbing feels slow with no risk. Both characters come with their own set of abilities and the game is usually good at informing you which of them is right for a given job. It feels like Army of Two as you manage them both through combat which provides the game’s largest threat.
The Ahky provide the most prolific foe which are somewhat otherworldly opposition. They’re usually armed with rocks or knives with a couple of types portray heavy enemy types. There’s a good variety and taking them on as Otto seems a decent enough challenge as the least resilient of the two player characters. Troll is all muscle. He’s largely untouchable but his powerful, slow swings are often inaccurate and can lead to some frustration. Combat can start to grind in some of the more hostile areas. There’s a decent balance on offer with human enemies more susceptible to stealth and their ability to summon reinforcements seem to demand it.
There’s a nice ambient soundtrack that seems to get underused. There’s an impressive score but you’re largely exploring to the sounds of the world around you. Visually, it’s budget is made clear but it does offer occasional moments of beauty. There has been reports of crashes and there’s definite moments where the polish just hasn’t been applied. I’ve not ran into any glitches beyond oddities like graphical artifacts and I’ve suffered one hard crash. A couple of patches have dropped which may have resolved the more prevalent problems. It’s serviceable and helps to sell the team’s sense of ambition. Hopefully any serious kinks have been hammered out.
Unfortunately, the game’s more open areas shed light on the game’s lack of guidance. I’m fine with games that don’t hold your hand but there’s few clues on offer to help navigate the world. As routes begin to widen and loop back on themselves, getting lost is a grim reality. There is an explicit hint system in place but it rarely triggers. You’re left with your wits for much of the proceedings. It really stalls progression. You’re given an objective on your save file description but there’s no in-world indication as to where that could be.
I’d argue that lack of direction is the biggest issue with an otherwise competent indie effort. The game has the potential to blend the combat and exploration together with a brisk pace but the missing prod of encouragement halts the proceedings in such a vital way.
+ Enjoyable, if underused musical score.
+ It can move at a delightful pace, when it wants to.
+ An interesting story.
- Crafting can become a nuisance.
- A disruptive lack of player guidance.
- Troll has some clumsy movement and combat.