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Trash Quest Review


Trash Quest is a deceptively simple little Metroidvania from the RedDeerGames crew. It’s graphically basic and familiar, but don’t let its little racoon mask fool you: there are some ideas tucked behind its back. 

The setup is neatly summarised in a few sentences at the start of Trash Quest. This is a spaceship wending its way home with its crew on life support. But wait: one lifeform is outside of the cryo bays. It’s a trash panda, sorry – racoon – and it happens to be you. There’s no inkling of what you’re doing there, or what your aim is, but you begin the game in a dustbin and stray out to explore the rest of the ship. You’re probably on the hunt for some scraps of kebab meat.

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Initially fascinating is how little direction you’re given. Some murals on the wall give you an indication of controls, but you’re mostly left to your devices. Trash Quest isn’t complicated in its controls – ‘down’ to drop from a ledge is about as intricate as it gets – so the absence of handholding doesn’t hurt the game.

A similar policy is applied to the level design. You can go in whatever direction you fancy. Trash Quest isn’t picky. But, in true Metroidvania style, you can only get so far. Your map (excellent, accessible with the Y button) will soon be a patchwork of rooms that you can’t access quite yet. One direction will be more viable than others, and at the end of it you will tend to find an upgrade – a double jump, a more powerful laser, a hover function – that will allow you to press further in one direction of the map.

I’m racking my brains to think of a Metroidvania that does less to point you in the right direction. There is a map with clear indicators of where you haven’t  been, so there is at least something, but mostly Trash Quest wants you to build your own mental map of the game’s obstructions. It means that Trash Quest is best finished in a short period, or be at risk of forgetting where things are, but in general it works. This is not a mahoosive game. You can keep most of it in your head.

Even more experimentally, Trash Quest has no checkpoints, and – controversially – there are no portals to skip about the map with. When you die, and die you will, you are returned to the central dustbin room to begin again. 

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You can see what the developers were thinking: the map design isn’t too far off a clock face, with the different rooms radiating out from this central dustbin room. You are never hours from the next, relevant part of the game. Trash Quest also takes the modern Metroidvania approach of allowing you to create permanent shortcuts, hotwiring doors or exploding crates so the route back to your corpse is a tiny bit shorter.

But, as with many experimental ideas, the theory doesn’t match the reality. Part of that’s down to Trash Quest’s difficulty. As you progress further away from the dustbin room, the game gets more difficult. And Trash Quest can get extremely difficult. Equally, as you progress further away, it takes longer to get back there once you die. It’s a double punishment: if you die, you not only lose all your progress, but you have to travel further and longer to return, and that double punishment smarts. It’s rage-quit inducing, and permanent shortcuts only soften the problem. They don’t remove it. 

This approach felt like a strong hand pushing me away from Trash Quest. I wanted to play it, and – to a large degree – I was enjoying doing so. But the thought of making improved progress on a personal best, only to die and repeat the whole sequence from the start… well, it was enough to make me question playing. 

Undeniably, there is a sense of reward in getting past these choke points. While Trash Quest is hard, it’s not the hardest platformer on the Xbox, and it is possible to unlock a shortcut or find a boss (which comes with its own spawn point, so dying doesn’t fully reset you) and feel like you’ve made permanent progress. But too often I felt like I was unnecessarily retreading old ground, and Trash Quest is no Dead Cells – it’s not varied or fun enough to make that retreading joyful. It was either boring or a challenge I felt I’d already overcome.

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Which is a shame, as Trash Quest has a lot to offer. The trust it puts in you to navigate its labyrinth is rare, and it felt good to remember where a locked location was, for which I finally had a key. The controls are mostly good (sure, a lightweight gun on RB feels less than impactful), and the level design – while not wildly imaginative – did a job and kept us on our toes. We’re on the fence with the bosses, who are mostly sequenced attacks that verge on bullet-hell, as they are incredibly spiky with the difficulty, but they are often very effective. 

Trash Quest is a competent Metroidvania that has the chutzpah to try out a few design ideas. It does away with guidance, leaves you free to explore, and chucks in a Dark Souls-like approach to death. Two out of the three work well, but the last falters. Retreading your previous steps becomes tiresome, and it saps your motivation to map the game’s crannies. There’s a decent game here with some good ideas, but you’ll be seeing them repeated more times than you’d like.

You can buy Trash Quest from the Xbox Store for Xbox One and Xbox Series X|S

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