|Platforms||Windows, PlayStation 3|
|Genre||Triple fun platformer|
|MtAMinutes to Action||2|
|Buy from Steam|
Today's first hour review is for Trine, a unique sidescroller brought to us by Frozenbyte. Having known nothing about the company before now, Wikipedia tells us that they are a Finnish developer, founded in 2001 and consisting of around 20 personnel. They previously made two games for PC, Shadowgrounds and Shadowgrounds Survivor (apparently FPS with RPG hybrid elements).
Their latest game, Trine, was released in 2009 for PC and later PS3 (with the Xbox 360 version seemingly cancelled). I became drawn to the game by a cheap price on Steam along with pretty screenshots and a bit of positive word-of-mouth.
If convenient for you, I would highly recommend watching the recorded video of the first hour, as the game is simply much more interesting and impressive in motion. You can find the full playlist start-to-finish at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d4yAtAlUPGw&hd=1&feature=PlayList&p=C1D06450ADB98E43&playnext_from=PL&index=0&playnext=1. Otherwise, here is part 1:
(minutes are in bold)
00 - As we start up the game, we are welcomed with a short loading screen filled with various abstracted flowers and butterflies. Enter Frozenbyte logo. The title screen welcomes us with a thunk noise (not sure why they did that, would seem more calm and mystical without). We get some basic options, and move on to start the game.
01 - Once upon a time in a land far, far away... a game used a fairytale cliche to open its cutscene. The intro tells us of a prospering land which falls into trouble as its king dies. Power struggles and chaos emerges and the magic once used for good in the kingdom went awry and created an undead army (hmm... Dragon Age?). We get to the first loading screen, starting at the Astral Academy. A thief learns of an artifact in the academy and wants it.
02 - We receive control for the first time. Pressing some buttons, I figure out the controls. WASD moves, left mouse fires chargeable arrows, right mouse fires a grappling hook of sorts. The hanging platform ahead moves realistically as I shoot it. The thief animations are very smooth and vibrant. This game looks good in screens (and that's ultimately what interested me in the game), but it goes to a completely different level in motion. I head across a couple platforms and a bridge and grapple over a gap. Seems very intuitive. The background music is a playful, exploratory one, with a basic melody (seemingly from a glockenspiel) interacting well with a bass line. I enter a hallway with some wooden overhangs and grapple through the room. Some spikes harmlessly pop out of the walls below. A giant metal fist falls, attempting to crush me long after I pass it. My thief, undaunted by the traps, heads into the treasure room filled with mountains of gold and beelines to the giant chest in the middle. She smoothly hops up to the chest and starts to open it. The narrator explains a bit of what's happening as I run up and grab it, continuing to the cutscene, the voice dialogue seems to work very well to explain the story for this game.
03 - "I've got it!" However, she is now stricken by a tingling sensation... Now we switch to the wizard, who's waking up and bumps his head on a giant spyglass. He saw the undead army and knew that he needed to escape. However, he also has a bit of a woman-chasing side, as he was trying to make a fake fireball potion to impress the girls. This potion backfired and he fell into a deep sleep and is now in quite the precarious situation. It seems like he has two magic abilities for both left and right clicking. Right click seems to move the spyglass a bit, I'm not sure what left click does yet. He can move a bit while casting but seems mostly immobile while channeling magic. Heading to the next room, the game tells me that right click allows me to levitate objects, so I do so on an overhead box to knock down some potion and some stone object. Again, the physics seems to work very well and seemingly will play big roles in the game.
04 - I place down the box on a other box and pick up a couple potions. The aforementioned green potion prompts a 1/50 display on the screen whereas the blue potion refills my magic, seemingly lost from levitating objects. I use my new box tower to hop up on the top level and pick up a couple more potions from the room. My wizard encounters a vertical plank which he easily pushes over via magic to let me jump to the next platform. I can push objects as well, but it doesn't work nearly as quickly. On my way out of the room, a pile of four blocks block my exit, which need to also be toppled by magic. Entering the next room, I am prompted to draw a square with the left mouse button.
05 - The door locks behind me. This floor has two buttons which surely need pressing. I use my newfound box creating ability to press one as I stand on the other. The gate ahead opens. But the goodies in the room remain. I hop up to the next platform from my box and then levitate my box to the overhead scale, which moves one side down to my level. After levitating the box once more to the other side, I hop over and grab a potion. Another potion above is clearly out of reach, but there must be some trick. I try to stack boxes by the original disappears, apparently I can only have one up at a time. I try it again and the next box is larger. Hm, so it seems like I can draw varying sizes.
06 - I try drawing a gigantic box which unfortunately doesn't quite get up to the size I was hoping, this must be the max. And this is still not large enough to jump up to the platform. I draw another square and quickly jump on top of it before the bottom disappears and I fall. It actually works and I reach my potion. Then I find out that it was on an unstable platform, of which I could assumedly just levitated a box onto to retrieve my potion. Oh well, my method also worked. My wizard heads through to the shrine and immediately starts flirting with the stationary thief.
07 - He touches the thief's hand and then the large glowing object and also becomes immobilized. Now we switch to the third wing of the academy, now having control of a portly knight. He clearly seems to be a fighter type of the bunch, being able to slice with sword and block with shield. I'm now thinking of similarities between this Trine and Blizzard's SNES game, The Lost Vikings. He easily knocks over a giant metal object and crashes through a plank wall, just by repeatedly slashing at things.
08 - The narrator explains that he was staying late, training to combat the undead army. Despite seemingly lacking in intelligence, the knight is filled with courage, pride, and duty to protect the academy. He crashes through blanks in the ground just by jumping on them and slices a rope to knock down a green vial via overhead battering ram. I try to find out a way to jump across the overhead platforms to another potion by knocking the ram closer to me and jumping off that. But it does want to move enough for this to be effective.
09 - I give up and fall to the bottom room, where I slice another rope and find another potion behind some destructible planks. Then I walk over and find a much easier way to retrieve the troublesome potion, just jumping and slicing to destroy the planks supporting it. After clearing out the room with shinies, I move on. The next room seems to be caving in on me, as debris frequently falls. Another prompt explains to block with right button and I aim it upward to shield my head from the collapsing ceiling as I pass through the room. Our knight's voice actor reinforces the idea that indeed, he is meant to be a dumb courageous oaf :P
10 - He continues on to the treasure room and prepares to defend the goods from a sneaky thief. However, he gets a bit confused and also takes hold of the object, "in a way that only a mighty warrior can." The wizard feels that something is about to happen, and something does, as the object erupts in a flash of light and the three are whisked away.
11 - We are now brought to the Academy Hallways. The wizard got to pondering past readings and realized that the ancient artifact is one that bound souls together in some manner, and that it was connected to the legend of the Guardian, whose final resting place resided below the academy. He does not know why, but the wizard knew the object was called the Trine. Meanwhile, the knight naturally blames the thief for everything.
12 - We start this level as the knight and are welcomed by a gorgeous backdrop. We head up some stairs, up past a seesaw. The wizard realizes that they can use the object to their benefit and the game prompts the ability to character change by pressing 1, 2, or 3. This switch seems very quick, as the other characters instantly appear in the same spot with a flash. We move on to a large vined room complement with stained glass windows. I hop onto a box stationary on a small platform high off the wall and some skeletons appear. The game prompts me to shoot as the thief, so I do so, finish the skeletons, and pick up experience. I've also realized by now that the green vials are more or less experience points.
13 - The wizard expresses his desire to find answers nearby, at the tomb of the guardians in the catacombs. In the meantime, my progress is temporarily halted by a giant tree trunk with a mushroom growing out of it. I can't find anything to grapple off of, so I need to switch to wizard and create a box to clear the obstacle. I see a platform above with a potion, and I want it. The plank can be grappled and I swing around and up to get the potion, also nicely accompanied by some experience. As I pass through and jump on a bridge, a skeleton appear, which is quickly dispatched.
14 - Finishing off another skeleton, I find more experience below, one of which requires a jump off a mechanical rotating platform. A skeleton archer continues to shoot at me, but it is not match for my thief. I snatch an obvious heart-shaped health powerup and pass a small pillar with an orb as it lights up. The game informs me that this is a checkpoint which resurrect dead characters as you touch them (and you'd restart at one upon losing all characters). Next I hop on an overhead conveyor of sorts, consisting of a buggy on rails with a stone fist battering ram hanging below. I switch to my wizard, who can move the object, and move it forward to destroy the cracked stone wall ahead in the doorway.
15 - A skeleton is quickly dispatched in the next room, which contains a giant rotating gear in the background. The next room has more stained glass and forest intruding on the building, as a skeleton sees me from the other side of the room. It jumps down and climbs its way up to try to attack, something I haven't really seen yet. Again, very nice animations and good to see a bit more aggressive behavior from enemies. I swing across to a spiked room with a few platforms.
16 - I swing up onto an overhead hanging platform and grab the items on top. Checking the bottom for any goods, I find none. I enter the next room and get locked in. After hitting the checkpoint, numerous skeletons come out, which my warrior feels more than able of handling. Next room has a skeleton archer and more spikes, which I don't do very well avoiding.
17 - My next task is traversing multiple rotating platforms. My thief is almost dead, so this is a job for my less agile knight. He makes it over and destroys a couple of skeletons, losing much health in the process.
18 - A skeleton archer pokes at me from below and I play bait-and-shoot with archer and knight switching. More skeletons spawn belw, more killing. A large health item is floating between two narrow platforms over a chasm and I have to go for it. And miss terribly, managing to miss both the platform and health. With the knight incapacitated, I press 2 to spawn my thief, who dies instantly from a skeleton just waiting for me. Well, let's see what the mage can do. Deciding to run as I quickly become outnumbered, I traverse the platforms and reach the next checkpoint, reviving my other two fallen companions.
19 - I fall off a seesaw and have to fight the skeletons in pursuit. But at least I have fighters back again. My wizard knocks pushes over an overhead platform so it can be used and my greedy thief falls down going for shinies.
20 - It's really hard to tell how I'm supposed to actually touch them as one side of the plant structure is solid and the other side has holes I can't see. I manage to grab one and give up on swinging to the other.
21 - I land on a small protrusion I didn't even see and finally make the jump and get my experience/energy. My wizard takes care of the remaining platform rotations and my thief jumps across to the next area.
22 - Ouch, falling right into spikes. My knight block overhead fireball cannons and dispatches more skeletons. I need to head up through more fireball traps to activate this ground gate.
23 - Passing a bridge, some debris falls behind me and collapses it. My crafty wizard sees a box above, which I maneuver through a weak plank holder to get some experience to fall.
24 - My thief uses the box to swing to the other side of the broken bridge, at which time I find myself unable to jump high enough and need to make a box to jump off of.
25 - I jump through the newly opened gate and try to retrieve some experience I missed from a corner room.
26 - However, this proves more difficult than expected. My wizard doesn't have enough space to make a good second jump-off block with him on it and I give up and move on.
27 - Jumping down, I reach an area with crystallized stalagtites on the ground. Unfsure if they're spikes or not, I lay down a box just to miss it and get hit anyway. A giant wheel makes a suitable background for yet another skeleton fight.
28 - My thief hangs and uses a scale to climb up and around, the area giving me a few experience potions that I find in an overhead cubby.
29 - I head back down through the wheels and find experience along with a chest. My thief is notably pleased, and perhaps this trip won't be as useless as she thought. She strikes a deal to keep all the jewelery found and our wizard naturally complements her on our newly acquired necklace.
30 - The knight pushes on, taking on more skeletons and exploring the large room. Well, until his lack of mobility forces a switch to the thief for her skills. I swing along the top of the room for more experience and to a checkpoint.
31 - My knight almost dies from fireballs and I again have trouble with a seesaw. These seem to be my weakness so far in this game by far.
32 - The thief finally takes control of the situation and moves up, only to encounter a shaking screen and skeleton spawns. My knight eventually bites the dust, but not before putting up a good fight with only a sliver of life remaining. I hit a checkpoint and get him revived.
33 - My next obstacle is a large 4-way seesaw. As this seems like the main path to go, I quickly duck back down to check the previous room for more items and indeed find some experience on an alcove. This puts me over the level and I get prompted to press I to access my character menu. It looks like each of my three fighters gain points individually with each level, and I can gain upgrades for each ability, of which I only currently have the basic ones for each. I upgrade my box making ability, now able to make two at once. I also give my knight the critical hit ability.
34 - Time to head back up. I play around with some boxes and the two indeed work as stated.
35 - My knight slices away at the 4-way seesaw for a while to no major effect. The wizard manages to cause some rotation with a box, but only temoporarily.
36 - I try to stand on it and push up the rotation with another box, and this works well. This current room is large and pillared, with shining light from above and stairs seemingly going towards somewhere important. If I had to guess, I'd say the stage is almost finished. Oh my. And I manage to miss a jump and fall back down. Mr. Wizard makes his way back up by levitating boxes.
37 - The thief finds more shinies and goes to work, maneuvering in some limited working area to make some jumps.
38 - She swings herself up to a last experience potion and walks into a room with a bridge below a giant hanging fist battering ram. A skeleton stops halfway across the bridge, just asking to get crushed.
39 - Despite my efforts, I cannot figure out how to force the ram down (perhaps this is only a joke by the developers), dispatch the skeleton, and move on. I take a seesaw up to a buggy platform and my wizard heads us left, back near the giant hanging stone fist. Further efforts to release the fit meet failure.
40 - ...Until I realize that it's only hanging by a weak rope, which can be sliced or shot by my fighters. Heading down, I find some experience as well as a chest, which contains a ring of spellcaster. After playing with the inventory system a bit, I figure out how to transfer items between characters (single click an item to highlight, then click an open spot on another).
41 - Heading back right, I pass a chasm and finish the level. Now entering Wolvercote Catacombs. The undead have surrounded everything and our heroes haven't seen humanity in a while now... Need to find the tomb.
42 - This area just feels like a catacomb, with dark, dreary colors and sparse lighting. The skeletons don't help things either. I look around and notice more experience up high, which requires more swinging to acquire.
43 - Hearing some ghostly whispers in the background, I switch to the knight and find more enemies ahead. Hmm... skeleton archers plus small platforms plus fireball cannons. I see what you're up to. Plus experience hidden in upper corners. And yep, I fall.
44 - The thief climbs back up to snatch the experience and the knight proceeds to fall once again. Shielded jumps seem quite immobile compared to standard ones. Finally reaching the top, I press the giant button and head down, carried by an catacomic elevator. Frog noises come nicely from the background, giving more flavor of the deep, damp environment I've found
45 - The knight jumps though more weighted platforms to a checkpoint, as the thief works on more experience. Missing the first jump opportunity, I clear out the annoying skeletons below. Continuing back up, I find a chest containing an amulet of energy gain, which boosts passive energy regen while not active.
46 - I transfer items around to better suit its wearers. A new platform needs long-range moving, so wizard pushes it down into some spikes, where it sticks.
47 - Unfortunately this doesn't particularly help me cross at this angle, so I pick up a box, stick it in the spikes, then push down the platform for an angle we can jump across. My thief moves on, entering the next room, a pillared room with a statue and chest in the background. Seems like a place of royalty. Unfortunately, a giant skeleton also likes this room and I quickly swap to the knight. The skeleton wildly swipes and me, and niehter of us can hit each other well as I can hide beneath its legs. I eventually figure out that I can hit safely hit it just after its swipe motion, as its head is lower for a moment. Using this technique, the giant skeleton warrior dies, I gain several experience and the exit gates open to let me pass.
48 - The next room immediately gives me a checkpoint and a chest, which contains an ability upgrade! My knight gains the ability to pick up objects and throw them (while using a small amount of energy). A nice metal weight is sitting nearby to test just this ability. I pick it up, aim, and punt it into the air. Lol, and it randomly hits some objects above and falls, crushing a skeleton below.
49 - Having boxed in an experience potion, we further test the knight's strength, throwing them across the room to clear space as well as blocking a fireball cannon.
50 - Heading forward, we cut another rope and play on weighted platforms. My thief manages to grab ahold of a box through some planks and angle around through a hole I couldn't even see. Clearly it was all skill. She then angles shots below to deal with some skeletons before jumping down.
51 - Heading down to check for missed items, I disappointingly find none. Now the wizard needs to set some boxes into spikes just to get back up.
52 - With a wounded thief and multiple fireballs firing at me over a spike pit, the wizard and knight are going to get some extra action here until I reach a checkpoint. The pit has sets of tiny raised platform pairs above, clearly intended to hold nearby boxes to make real platforms. I fill two and suicide jump for some experience. The wizard then blocks the last cannon with an impromptu box platform and we move on. The next room has giant swinging axe pendulums, the type you'd see in every fortress representation in movies and games pre-1995.
53 - Our next room has various hanging platforms and large amounts of spawning skeletons, just pining to annoy me and ruin my day. I finish most of them and hop along the platforms. The last skeleton seems to have self-destructed as it couldn't properly jump on a swaying platform. Good programming move on their part, all things considered.
54 - After reaching the checkpoint, the knight finds itself in another open room, with a giant tree on the scene and only a scale above. The wizard finds nearby weights for the scale and we look to head up, but not before I get a bit stuck on the scale chains, which has gone down too far on our side.
55 - Climbing up on the chain, the thief barely makes the jump up to the next room. We find multiple floor buttons as well as a giant spike ball. Knocking the ball over to the next button, an evil laugh appears and more spikes fall. Switching to the wizard, I try to throw them aside, but they seem to be stuck in the ground despite rolling, oddly enough. But these are no match for the thief, who deftly jumps over the remaining spikes.
56 - Reaching another checkpoint, we eventually jump over and across, with a bit of wizard creativity.
57 - But the jump only helps so much as there are still spikes with no accessible platforms. We throw some boxes on the spikes and take the jumps up (after falling once).
58 - After some frustrations, the thief finds more experience as well as a chest, holding an energy vial. The vial restores some energy once fully expended, consumable yet rechargable at checkpoints.
59 - And this first hour comes to an end, fighting some skeletons and booting a weight across a fireball cannon room.
Minutes to Action: 2
What I liked: The entire presentation is superb. It probably rivals Braid for my favorite presentation in an sidescrolling 'indie' game (if you even want to call this an indie game, which depends on your definition). The environments, character models, animations, dialogue, narration, music and sound effects are all extremely unique as well as flashy, yet always perfectly fitting the subject matter. The current version of the game is also technically solid. I did not have or see any issues aside from the game's anti-aliasing option, which seemingly did nothing but significantly reduce framerates. The PC controls are also quite responsive and work very well, allowing for perfect aiming and plenty of precision. The physics worked very well and could be extremely fun to play with. The variety of the characters is keeping things fresh so far.
What I didn't like: Well, the story wasn't particularly great so far. It seems like they came up with a gameplay concept and then shoehorned a story to fit. Time will tell if this improves. The only issue I had with the controls was how the knight attacked. His left/right attacking just didn't feel right. It was often difficult to get him to attack the right side while simultaneously dealing with multiple enemies or small platforms with how he switches for attacking purposes. This could have been done better, possibly by allowing mouse aiming for it. The game's puzzles and physics also could get frustrating at times, but this seems to me like more of a learning issue than anything else, and I don't think the game or developers should be faulted for the majority of this. But you can fault them for only seeing one enemy for the entire first hour (ok, so three types to be fair; regular, archer, and giant).
Would I keep playing? Definitely. I'll play this to completion and hopefully all the strengths will continue to show throughout. Look forward to a full review.