According to publisher, Reverb Triple XP’s tweet, 23.9 million CRTs were thrown out in 2008. That’s a staggering number, and makes for developer Lawrence Russell, of Lawrie Games’ Trash TV a bit more intriguing to play, even if it doesn’t go deeper than the surface of playing as a thrown away television looking to escape from certain doom. It does however, make for one of the best puzzle platformers in recent memory.
The introduction to Trash TV isn’t clear as to what the game will play like. You start off as a colored pixel, collecting other colored pixels. Then everything swirls around, and a lonely CRT TV awakens, and must escape the recycling plant. The TV motif is played exceptionally well. Not only do you play as an old tube television, but the screen actually simulates CRT, complete with curve, scanlines, and color aberration. Going into the Options menu is pleasing for it being accurate to gaming on a monitor of this type. It’s the little details that go a long way here.
Trash TV uses environmental puzzles as the main way of obstructing you from leaving the recycling plant. You’ll pickup and drop objects such as crates and discarded electronics to deactivate portals, or open gates. You can throw these broken items down onto conveyors to leave an area with, or you can sacrifice them to open the passage to go on to the next screen. There’s no morality system, but the glee expressed by a heart icon when you pick them up makes you think twice.
Trash TV is pretty forgiving. Areas will teach you what might be required to pass an area with a static-filled broadcast that serves as a hint system. There’s a hub that contains a map, showing uncompleted stages in red, completed stages in green, and unvisited in white. There’s even a puzzle to unlock the weapon within the hub itself, which is well worth the (short) wait. There’s just enough information provided within the world, to prevents the need for having a UI, which gives a clean look.
Completing levels are a bit anti-climatic, nothing celebratory happens. You’re just dumped back to the hub, off to do it all again. Which is fine, because you haven’t won just yet. Saves are a little weird, as you can lose progress if you don’t complete a stage fully, requiring to replay sections you’ve already completed. I learned the hard way that if you have to stop, to do it in the hub area.
Weapons make a surprising entry into the game. You’ll first acquire a pistol, which can break crates and stave off attackers. You’ll then get the SMG which you dual-wield and can break items simultaneously to gain access to new locations. You don’t shoot to kill, save for a few enemies that pursue you. While there’s not quite rocket jumps, you’ll sometimes need to use an explosion to propel yourself to hard-to-reach areas, complete with explosions that look like a degauss on the simulated screen.
When in combat, you go berserk and lose control of the TV temporarily. You can die from being killed by machinery, but even then, you’re rewound to the entrance. I never found the keyboard and mouse to be comfortable, and so using a controller was the only way I could play it.
Trash TV is neither trash, nor a TV. But it is highly entertaining for the brief time you spend with it, clocking in at about two hours. The price-tag associated makes this an even trade of containing smart puzzles that occupy your time proportionally.
A Steam code was provided by PR for review purposes