How Metroidvania is it? Medium Fit. Trash Quest's world is divided into four distinct zones that can be essentially completed on the first try, making it less interwoven than it could be
Primary Challenge: Tricky Platforming
Time to beat: ~1 hours
Review Info: The Steam review code for Trash Quest was provided by the developer.
Buy Trash Quest if you like…
- Tricky Platforming
- Tight timing challenges
- Compact game worlds
- Single checkpoints
- Trash pandas
▼ Review continues below ▼
Trash Quest is what I like to call a “Mini-Metroidvania”, which means that it will probably take you less than an hour to beat. I will always be a defender of this style of game because it’s a great way to satiate an appetite for Metroidvania tropes without taking too much time out of your busy day or too much time away from the more demanding games you might also be playing. Being so short of course presents a design challenge; can you make a truly satisfying game with such a short run time? I personally have a lot of theories on how a small package can provide a full length game’s level of satisfaction, but of course being a mere critic, it’s usually my job to just sit in my arm chair and suggest things. I feel like Trash Quest is a step closer to that perfect Mini-Metroidvaia though, and it’s a contender for my favorite Mini-Metroidvania of the ones I’ve played so far. The initial release still felt over too quickly but thankfully since launch a free DLC has added just enough extra content to make the game at least feel feature complete. Trash Quest is a challenging game, with only one checkpoint for the entire experience and some jumps that will make you clench your skin tight onto your bones. It might not be that perfect Mini-Metroidvania that I have been looking for, but it has perfect pricing and fully accomplished the goal of putting a smile on my face in a short amount of time.
“Compact Metroidvania” is how the game’s store page describes Trash Quest, I’m sure with absolutely no pun intended. You play as a racoon who wakes up in a few trash cans on an interstellar garbage scow operated only by robots. Apparently the racoon just knows that there is far more garbage available somewhere on that ship, and your main goal is to find it.
Any part of the garbage scow can be reached in a matter of seconds starting from the ship’s center. Thus the game theoretically has no need to have more than the one checkpoint that Trash Quest provides. Considering how easy it is to die in this game, and how repetitive it would be to have to do every challenge every time, Trash Quest also relies heavily on providing shortcuts back to that center to cut back on the repetition. The game also provides movement upgrades that let you enter new zones, but even just unlocking doors is very welcome after you’ve just completed a tough challenge.
Most of the game is simply figuring out how to get from point A to point B without dying. You’re given a number of health points that allow you to make a few mistakes, but it almost never feels like enough to completely mitigate the difficulty. You are going to have to figure out how to time your jumps, and every time you get hurt it makes you bleed psychologically. Even though it doesn’t take that long to trek back from the game’s center the mere idea that you’ll have to do it puts a lot of pressure on you to get things right. Sometimes it can feel like the single checkpoint rule is unnecessary, and as good as the music is, that initial theme that plays when you’re near those center trash cans almost sounds like it’s mocking you after a while. The music in general is perfect for this kind of game though; it gets you pumped and makes you feel heroic when you achieve a difficult part. As punishing as being kicked back to the center can feel, the game always feels fair enough that it’s easy to come up with a new plan as you’re walking back to where you died, keeping you strongly motivated. Tight controls are key to this “hard but fair” feeling.
Even though the racoon starts with a gun, the main challenge of Trash Quest is the platforming. You’ll encounter more traps than you will killer robots, and even the killer robots feel more like destructible parts of an obstacle course rather than foes to grapple with. The big gimmick of Trash Quest is the battery which apparently powers the racoon’s jetpack. You initially start out with one charge and each charge allows you to jump once mid air – aka it’s a double jump, and a triple jump or a quadruple jump once you get more energy. Landing on the ground for even a fraction of a second will give you back all of the charges your battery can contain. As you get more charges the game thus becomes about quick witted management of your energy to navigate through the spinning buzzsaws or wall spikes without touching anything that makes you go “ouch.” Later on you get more tools that use the same battery as your jumps, so figuring out which tools to use in the right situation becomes part of that quick thinking. Especially in the later parts of the game, the timing becomes tight enough that it will melt your mind, but it gets really satisfying to get past those kinds of rooms. Trash Quest also does a great job pacing itself. One of the advantages of Metroidvania design is that you can make every upgrade an increase in difficulty disguised as a reward. It starts out as a basic platformer and by the end it’s a mortal simon says game where executing the wrong action ends with another racoon in the trash at the center of the stage.
Platforming isn’t the only challenge you’ll have to face though, as there are some excellent bosses to fight as well. Bosses are the only point in the game where the single checkpoint rule is broken. If you die to a boss, you mercifully spawn right outside of their door at full health and ready to fight again. They’re all tough enough that this is by no means a dissonant advantage for the player; it’s merely controller protection for those that like to take out their frustration on inanimate objects. The bosses are each designed with the racoon’s toolkit in mind, and will create patterns of attacks that force you to use the platforming tools you’ve been practicing as you worked your way toward their chamber. Some attack patterns will feel impossible until you realize that you had the power to dodge it all along, and figuring that out makes you feel clever. Generally speaking though you don’t usually have to be firing your gun while you were platforming, so in that way bosses will provide a unique physical challenge for the player. One of the upgrades you’ll find makes it so if you don’t fire your gun for a second then the first shot you fire will be a more powerful, doing slightly more damage. An optimal run against a boss thus would have you taking pauses any time your gun isn’t pointing directly at them. I’ve tried this optimization a few times, after all the faster the boss dies the less likely they’ll do damage to me, but it twisted my brain to focus on holding my button down for certain jetpack moves at the same time as knowing when to let go of the fire button for that advantage. Most fights I just planted my finger on the fire button and focused on dodging. It made the fight longer, but at least I didn’t have to untangle my gray matter later that day. In short, the bosses are great, and I think speed runners especially will appreciate the level of nuance surrounding them.
The base game’s hardest challenges are not the bosses, but rather the obstacle courses protecting optional collectables you’ll run into while exploring. You can find damage or rate of fire upgrades and health upgrades at the end of these challenges, and they act as a means to make bosses and platforming slightly easier. The gun upgrades are relevant for the entire game; even when platforming the gun can still remove annoying destructible robots out of your way, and the faster the better. These optional challenges are great and rewarding, but they do make the game feel slightly less satisfying. Fully powering up before facing the final boss makes it slightly easy, and thus anticlimactic. It gives the feeling of potential unrealized. It’s good when a game makes you thirsty for more of it, but it’s better if a game can at least somewhat quench that thirst.
Thankfully the later released Salvation DLC adds a small other ship for you to explore that basically expects you to have all of the upgrades from the initial ship. The DLC adds three bosses and some absolutely insane platforming challenges for you to face. There are also some minor ability upgrades to enjoy, but progression through that ship is basically linear so you can’t find yourself in the same unsatisfying situation that you might have felt from the base game. The new bosses are immensely satisfying and really push your abilities to the limit. Those patterns I mentioned earlier that seem impossible until you puzzle out what you need to do are taken to an extreme with some of these bosses. My only complaint about Salvation is that it almost takes the challenge too far, but of course there are definitely going to be differing opinions on that.
I personally like a good challenge, and Trash Quest provides a great one in a bite-sized package, especially with its DLC content stapled on there. It uses its Metroidvania design to dole out challenges naturally, and the ability to go off on tangential paths for optional upgrades adds a welcome reprieve from constant platforming madness. Its bosses have fantastic design in the context of the abilities you have, and the game’s style and music keeps you excited as you play through it. It’s so good that the nagging feeling that it’s over too quickly becomes that much stronger. In some ways a weaker more forgettable Mini-Metroidvania might be better for accomplishing what I recommend Mini-Metroidvanias for in the first place; Trash Quest has me wanting to seek out other games for the appetites that it whets. This is an ironic criticism, I know. I have to also mention that while Trash Quest rightly stays true to its platforming and action focus, it might not be the truest example of “Metroidvania” if that’s what you’re looking for. With all that said, what Trash Quest provides is great, and it’s priced exactly for what you get, and if you’re the type that likes pushing a game to the limits of your skill, then the short length can only be an advantage.
All of the bosses present a novel challenge based around the abilities available to you when you face them. It's a good thing they each give you a checkpoint right before them
Incredibly tight and high tension challenges. The movement upgrades give you a brilliant sense of control, made only slightly more frustrating by the lack of any checkpoints in the ship
Since the world is small and the map is pretty easy to read, finding every item is pretty straight forward, but it's still pretty rewarding to check every room
Trash Quest has no puzzles to speak of, unless you count the usual Metroidvania tropes
The absence of a complex story is sometimes the best kind of story in a video game
The lighting effects really add to the atmosphere, giving it a flair that makes it more appealing than if it was just flat colors
The music is catchy and upbeat and will keep you in the mood to push forward when things get difficult
Replays are going to come from challenge runs like speed running, there aren't really any features that change up multiple playthroughs
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