The Troof is Out There
As anyone who’s ever seen a tomato driving a Ferrari knows, existential crises aren’t exclusive to humans. They take place throughout the animal kingdom, and even occasionally crop up in vegetables (pun somewhat intended). But as Potatoman Seeks the Troof makes clear, it’s anthropomorphic potatoes who have it the worst. I mean seriously, just try and put yourself in their starch-filled shoes. Wouldn’t you struggle with finding a sense of purpose?
Potatoman Seeks the Troof is a 2D platformer from the quirky minds at PixelJam. It’s a basic game from a mechanical standpoint, with the eponymous Potatoman capable of nothing more than moving left and right and jumping. But as its (beautiful) Atari 2600 graphics make obvious, that simplicity is intentional. Besides, the game’s real depth comes from its diverse environments and outlandish sense of charm, both of which had me grinning like an idiot on multiple occasions. There are about five levels in the game (I’m being vague for a reason), each one stranger than the last - not to mention filled with animals that taunt Potatoman with knowledge of the great “troof.”
And yet, despite its cute concept, Potatoman Seeks the Troof is one tough potato cookie (I promise that’s really a thing). You’re constantly dodging swarms of obstacles and projectiles, and even a minor slip-up can result in death. When you die, you’re returned back to a checkpoint or, should it be your last life, back to the beginning of the level. Although Potatoman isn’t as challenging as platformers like Super Meat Boy or They Bleed Pixels, there’s still a pretty immense difficulty curve here, albeit one which is largely tempered by the game’s quirky sense of humor and support characters.
But not all of its quirks are lovable - I was occasionally victim to a platforming faux pas known as the cheap death. Each time it was the fault of some type of incoming projectile, the problem being the lack of uniformity in their actions. For example, near the end of one level, a group of large eggs descend upon you. While they typically fell in a fashion that allowed me to hop between them, at one point they all fell in a perfect row, catching me off-guard entirely.
Those cheap deaths were infrequent, thankfully, and they didn’t take away from the overall experience or message. You read that right -- I totally just said this game has a message. Potatoman Seeks the Troof is about the nebulous nature of truth, and what it can mean to different people and creatures. The best example of this is in the juxtaposition between the game’s jungle and city settings. In the jungle, you encounter a squirrel that seems to think the ultimate truth in life comes from sitting in a tree and eating nuts; in the city, you see people bustling by, struggling to discover the truth.
Or maybe I’m just overanalyzing. In which case, well, the game is still great. It may suffer from a few platforming snafus, and it can be completed in about an hour, but Potatoman Seeks the Troof is an experience well worth having. It’s teeming with clever writing and charm, not to mention an appearance and soundtrack that do a fantastic job of scratching that nostalgia itch.
- Great-looking Atari 2600 visuals and retro soundtrack. Nearly every animal you encounter in the game has something to say, and it's always hilarious and/or interesting. You play as an anthropomorphic potato.
- Occasional cheap deaths. The game can be finished in about an hour.