The Magnificent Trufflepigs

The Magnificent Trufflepigs is the latest game from the lead designer of Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture. If you somehow missed Everybody’s… back in 2015, it was an incredible narrative “walking simulator” that was maybe one of the most memorable game experiences of that entire year. Because of this, The Magnificent Trufflepigs has some expectations to live up to.

Like Everybody’s…, The Magnificent Trufflepigs is a laid-back first-person game set in an English countryside. And I mean laid-back. This game is not for folks who are looking for action or thrills. This is a subtle, atmospheric story that slowly guides you through its narrative setpieces. It’s drawing comparisons to Firewatch, and I think that’s probably at least in the right ballpark of what to expect from this game.

Of course, this also comes from a brand-new indie studio called Thunkd, which refers to itself as “makers of evening-sized games.” This is Thunkd’s first release, and “evening-sized” does seem like an apt descriptor. So perhaps it’s best to think of The Magnificent Trufflepigs as a cross between Firewatch and Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture, only it’s even smaller than either of those games.

The Magnificent Trufflepigs

The premise is that Beth, the game’s non-playable protagonist, once found an expensive earring with her metal detector, and, considering this happened in a small farming community, this was enough to get her in the paper. She recalls this as the happiest moment of her life, and, as her grown-up life begins crumbling, she wants to re-create that childhood memory that brought her so much joy.

The clock is ticking, though, as the farm where she found the earring has been sold. With just a week before the construction crew starts digging up the place, she summons an old friend, Adam, to help her find the earring’s twin. The complication? Beth is engaged to a guy named Jake (sort of — it’s a bit messy), but she and Adam seem to have a bit of history of their own.

The gameplay loop has grab a metal detector (as Adam) and walk around a field until you hear a beeping. At that point, you’ll use the flashing lines on the top of your screen to find whatever triggered the detector. Once you locate that thing, you’ll dig it up with a shovel and a garden spade. You’ll then take a photo of it, text it to Beth, and have a brief conversation. Sometimes the conversation is related to the item, sometimes the pair of you goof off, and sometimes there’s a bit of awkward rambling.

The Magnificent Trufflepigs

Make no mistake: The metal-detection bit is just a framing device to give you something video-gamey to do between dialogue sequences. The mechanics aren’t particularly interesting on their own, but even so, this simple interaction does make you feel more invested in the story than you would be if you simply just watched all the dialogue on YouTube. And it’s not like the game ever tries to hide this fact; realizing the game’s simple structure doesn’t ruin its grand illusion.

The real heart of The Magnificent Trufflepigs is, well, its heart. The writing isn’t always punchy, but it’s catered to an emotional experience rather than an exciting one. You’ll connect with the characters almost immediately, and you’ll start getting excited about seeing (or hearing, to be more accurate) the layers of mystery peeled back to reveal what’s underneath. I don’t want to spoil anything, but it’s clear early on that Beth hasn’t been completely forthcoming about her intentions for this rendezvous.

The Magnificent Trufflepigs

While the conversations between Beth and Adam can occasionally meander into cringe territory, the writing overall is solid and the voice acting is good enough to make it feel genuine rather than stilted.

Oh, and I should mention that Beth is voiced by Luci Fish (from Safe House) and Adam is voiced by Arthur Darvill (from Doctor Who and DC’s Legends of Tomorrow). Like Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture, the voice acting is critical to how The Magnificent Trufflepigs lands. This high-caliber talent lends some credibility and heft to the script; with anything lesser, it could have fallen flat.

This is because the dialogue is the the one pillar on which this entire game balances. There are no character models — you mostly interact with the world via a metal detector, smartphone, and walkie talkie, all of which sort of just float there in the air when you use them. There aren’t even any hands. It’s a little disconcerting, admittedly, but you’ll quickly get used to it.

The Magnificent Trufflepigs

The Magnificent Trufflepigs is a sleepy, slow-paced narrative game with a metal-detecting hook. Its vocal performances are its highest virtue, and with a two-to-three-hour completion time, it doesn’t ask for more of your time than it deserves. It doesn’t have anywhere near the emotional punch of Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture, but I don’t think anyone was really expecting it to.

As a brief, reflective little game — more short story than anything else — The Magnificent Trufflepigs succeeds at what it sets out to do. Like the small-town folks that inhabit its world, its ambitions are pretty humble.

Disclaimer: A complimentary early copy of the game was provided for the sake of this review.

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