Potato Man Seeks the Troof
Following the delightfully fitting and abstract trailer, Potato Man Seeks the Troof tells the tale of a potato man in an 8-bit world. A potato who is seeking the answer to the biggest question of them all. Adjourned with a minimal retro style cut in bold singular colours, the title screen is where the action starts. The title is displayed, the controls listed below, and our Potato Man stands below them patiently waiting for us to move him on in quest of this troof, wherever it may be, and whatever it shall explain.
Beginning in the desert, Potato Man, let’s call him Ralph for narrative’s sake, journeys to the right and comes across his first deterrent: a cactus plant. Touch it and it’s death followed by a swift respawn, the visuals blown out momentarily in a psychedelic, ‘70s tube amp washed out vibe. Ralph learns a valuable video game lesson. A lesson learnt the hard way; he successfully bounds over the cactus upon their second encounter. Then he meets another. A hasty jump sails him to safety once more. Then a further cactus is seen on the horizon. This is the desert after all.
“Laugh in frustration and swear in accomplishment”Approaching it Ralph leaps in the only way he knows how and – oh, it just suddenly grew twice in size. Ralph respawns. He leaps higher and outwits this fiendish plant. Yet another cactus confronts him and he high jumps it to victory. Or he would have if it hadn’t uprooted and leapt into the air to send him into a dizzied respawn. It would appear these cacti are being controlled by some underground vine hive mind. One that is a complete git.
Potato Man’s main body of content continues in this manner. Much like Super Meat Boy et al, this is a retro platformer who forces you to laugh in frustration and swear in accomplishment. Through a jungle of killer eggs and into a city of the worst drivers witnessed since Big Rigs, Ralph’s adventure will see him start over and over again.
Upon losing all his lives you’re able to quickly restart from the beginning of the current area. In the first instance of continuing, a minimalistic choice screen appeared with the desert on one side and the city on the other. By moving towards the city Ralph’s adventure continued from where it last left off. This never happened again and was a neat episode.
“Minimalistic but no less powerful”Throughout the locations Ralph travels through he’ll encounter other animals trying to persuade him to give up his journey or pass on words of wisdom as he marches by. Then, following a leap of faith, there was a moment of hesitation as the final act plucked this out of the current retro niche and into the wild. Much like the opening scene, the change was minimalistic but no less powerful for it.
In that moment I fell for Ralph and his world. We ventured on, so close to finding this troof he’d fought so hard to find. The 8-bit sights seen during the journey are matched by an electronic score which bobs and blips, frequently breaking out into short bursts of synthesiser bliss or ebbing into mood pieces. These analogue sounds are the fresh strawberry upon this retro inspired tale of whipped cream. Equally good apart but better together.
On reflection the ending to Potato Man Seeks the Troof is far from profound, but in the moment it comes across as surprisingly understated and rather sincere. The magic is that when it happens you’re completely invested, and this is true to what happens here. Requiring plenty of precision jumping balanced with unlimited continues and a generous supply of lives, Pixel Jam have created a short retro platformer that does more than rely on the genre’s current cool appeal.