Frustration is a feeling that often goes hand in hand with difficult games. Repeatedly failing to get past a difficult obstacle often gives rise to hand wringing, angry yelling, and the occasional throwing of a controller, but all of that grief is worth it when you finally emerge victorious. TerRover destroys this delicate relationship for one simple reason: unpredictability. The unresponsive controls and wonky physics conspire to undermine any promise this vehicular puzzle game held. TerRover's black heart becomes apparent when you initiate the same strategy a half-dozen consecutive times and have a wildly different result with every failed attempt. And when you finally break free of this maddening cycle of punishment and failure, there's no pot of gold waiting for you at the end of the rainbow. Success is just as random as failure, so getting past one obstacle only makes you wonder how you can ever get by the next barrier blocking your path. Don't let the cute exterior fool you: TerRover is a brutally hard game that is simply not worth the time and patience needed to come to grips with its sadistic controls.
The concept in TerRover is simple enough: Guide a cartoony tank through a danger-filled course to reach the checkered flag at the end. The levels take place in a variety of predictable locales--ice, lava, mechanical, and the like--and there are lots of different dangers to avoid. Explosive mines, electrified spikes, and rolling bombs are the most obvious traps blocking your way, but your real opponent is the cumbersome controls. Movement is a serious pain in TerRover because you rarely have a good idea of how your tank is going to respond to your commands. Rolling forward is the most serious issue. The weight distribution of your tank is out of whack, so keeping all of your wheels on the ground takes a fair bit of finagling. You often find yourself tipped on your back wheels, which makes jumping accurately impossible, and righting yourself is not as easy as you might imagine. Just trying to move your tank across even ground often results in you flipping head over heels into a fiery death.
When rolling along a simple path is problematic, you know that more complicated maneuvers are going to be beyond awful. Every inch of TerRover is plagued by shoddy controls. Jumping is a complete crapshoot because you have no idea if you're going to perform a feeble hop that lands directly on a mine or overshoot your goal and die in a deadly pit. Climbing a slanted path has just as many issues. You can hold the controller and gas in a set position without making any progress, but then your wheels will inexplicably catch and you'll fly up the mountain way too quickly. There are some obstacles that move, such as trampolines and Ferris wheels, and these are just excruciatingly awful. Trying to accurately jump off of a trampoline is akin to Chinese water torture, and leaping out of a swaying basket is a maddening endeavor. Every level is a chore because movement is so unpredictable in TerRover. You never have a firm grasp of how your tank will respond to your button inputs, which makes this game an infuriating mess.
Making it to the end of a level is an arduous enough task, but if you want to considerably ramp up the challenge, there are lots of items to collect as well. In some ways, TerRover is at its best when you're trying to find all the missing nuts and bolts hidden in out-of-the-way places. But even this potentially good element is plagued by problems. Chief among them are the controls, which make navigating even seemingly simple obstacles almost impossible. It's difficult enough to make you way along preset paths to the finish line, but trying to climb up to preposterously high platforms through unconventional means is far too aggravating. Furthermore, many items are hidden in invisible rooms, so you have to crash into every wall to see if a secret hides behind it. This is a lousy system because it rewards mindlessly running into every seemingly solid surface, which quickly becomes tedious. Finally, the only reward for your effort is unlockable tanks, which only help you find more hidden objects. None of these vehicles are fun to drive, though, so it isn't even worth the frustration.
Your best shot at finding some fun in TerRover is to play its multiplayer races. The courses are much easier than you might find in the single-player adventure, so it's not nearly as aggravating to make it to the end. Also, because you have a friend by your side (it's local only), it can be fun to complain about the ridiculous controls and laugh when your buddy gets his wheel wedged in a conveyor belt and can't pry it loose. The satisfaction that stems from competitive play often comes at the expense of your opponent, but having any reason to smile is so rare in this game that it stands as the lone shining moment. Of course, the multiplayer isn't exactly good. Other than racing, the modes are a complete mess. One called HotPoint puts up to four players on a single screen, and you have to nab 10 items that magically appear in random places before your friends do. The ice-themed level takes place on a series of trampolines, and it's virtually impossible to jump high enough when you have three other players ramming into you. This is the worst part of a lousy game, and it's difficult to imagine this level being fun even if the controls weren't so unwieldy.
TerRover's excruciating difficulty is belied by its charming visual style. The cute, cartoony aesthetics would lead you to believe that this is a cheery platformer starring a charming-looking tank. The five worlds have a unique style that is pleasing to the eyes, and just looking at all the environments is the lone pleasure you'll derive from this game. But actually playing this busted adventure is the exact opposite of fun. And if you do make it all the way to the last level, your reward is a glitchy stage that is so ridiculously hard it's laughable. If you restart enough times, it becomes bugged, so you have to quit out if you want to continue on to the bitter end. But it's really not worth the effort. This is one of the most frustrating and annoying games on the PlayStation Network, as well as a strong argument for the fact that bad controls can ruin an entire experience.