|Platforms||Windows, Playstation 3|
|Genre||Triple Fun Platformer|
|Buy from Steam|
Trine is the kind of game you can't help but wish came along more often, as a rare legitimate platformer. Frozenbyte (along with certain notable indie developers) shows us that 2d platforming is in fact not dead and can be pushed as far as you'll willing to take it. Perhaps most impressively, Trine is in elite company as one of the few download-centric titles that could be mistaken as a traditional retail release.
For example, check a screenshot of some random game. You likely see an area with a background, or maybe walls or repeating buildings. Perhaps an enemy or two are in the frame and an interactive objects of note. Now take a look at random screenshot of Trine. You see a struggling forest that has been encroached on by both technology and a plague of death. The foreground partially hides you in sparse blades of grass, a handful of flowers, and a large warped tree root. In the background, multiple metallic gears are encrusted into the hill, which is itself overlooked by a towering mountain. The sunlight beaming from above onto wild mushrooms is nothing but welcoming as your knight just escaped from the cave and is heading to a well-constructed but still wobbly bridge up ahead. While one could say such lush descriptions could be extrapolated out of any image; to me, the difference is clear. Trine tries to feed your imagination and create an organic, living environment. While the experience does not stay fully fresh the entire way, Trine has more than enough creativity and character to deserve a second look, as noted in our earlier first hour playthrough.
Undoubtedly, Frozenbyte set out to make a gorgeous game. The story of Trine initially unfolds unto a Middle Ages fantasy, which naturally corresponds to our thief, wizard and knight. We begin play trekking through a castle, directed by our narrator, seemingly speaking our tales to the world at some future date. While the medieval theme works, our three characters soon meet and are whisked away to a much more creative and magical land, which combines a destroyed kingdom with high fantasy elements and hints of an industrial age. The results are largely stunning, due in large part to the art team's constant attention to detail in every scene. It's a shame that the player may oftentimes get used to the background detail and "normalize" to them, or otherwise be moving too fast to take in all the detail the artists put in. Solid environmental effects and fantastic animations (though sparce they are) round out the package. Ultimately, while some stages seem to repeat a bit too much (suggesting a lack of developer time and funds), the style and atmosphere in Trine is one of the best I have seen, aided by Ari Pulkkinen's fantastic soundtrack.
Although I did not play the game at release, the game is currently in a very impressive state. Judging by the system requirements and options as well as my own personal experiences, Trine seems to scale up and down fairly well on various configurations. Lower settings are just as playable as high settings and it seems to be developed with PC in mind and takes advantage of its capabilities. I also did not witness a crash, something still all too common on PC games, whether rushed to release or due to developer/tester inability to squash bugs. As far as special technical abilities, Trine supports DX9 capabilities, hardware audio (EAX), and Nvidia Physx to boost/aid in processing the physics happening all around the players (although I am skeptical of how much it helps in this case). My only issue with the game's implementation is how enabling anti-aliasing seems to destroy the frames per second when this probably shouldn't be the case.
Once past the introductory level, gameplay holds as follows: The player controls the thief, wizard and knight, which are linked to the same avatar by the trine. Switching between characters is instantaneous and simple on mouse and keyboard, activated by merely pressing the corresponding button (eg: 1, 2, 3). The avatar's movement is controlled by the keyboard and aim controlled by mouse. Left click activates the primary attack (shoot, 'magic,' slice) where right click activates secondary (grappling hook, levitate, shield). The mouse wheel scrolls through available weapons and optional weapon enhancements. Unfortunately, I did not significantly test a gamepad, but mouse and keyboard controls are very suitable and should come naturally to PC gamers.
Throughout the majority of the game, players platform themselves through each level, using each character's unique abilities to defeat enemies, avoid harm, and bypass obstacles. For the most part, the platforming continues to stay fresh as new concepts and ideas continue to appear. However, many of the puzzles can be cheaped out. The wizard is somewhat notorious at creatively bypassing puzzles with box and platforms setups and the thief can use her grappling hook to bungee upwards onto overhead platforms a bit too easily on occasion. However, these sorts of setups can also take some time and it's often quicker (and certainly more satisfying) to find a "correct" manner to reach to the next room or obtain an item.
At times, players come across these items which further enhance their characters. Many can be swapped among the three, for customization and specialization purposes. Some examples of these items: Fish vial, allows the character to breath underwater; Amulet of Sacrifice, when low on energy, health will be used instead; Prism of Light, at each checkpoint, the character receives 25% more health and energy. Items are generally unique and the majority of them offer bonuses to multiple characters, making the appropriations significant while still adding variety and micro-management depth.
Abilities are unlocked by gaining "levels" through experience, which is received through one-time-use potions and by defeating certain enemies. Each character has three abilities, each with three different levels. Players again can choose and specialize based on which they think is more important to them and their playstyle.
Enemy variety (or the lack of) and the annoyance of continual respawns are probably the biggest complain people will have about the game. You will find yourself subjected to the same bats and skeletons from start to finish, even with repeated boss fights.
Players who start will almost certainly be intrigued and kept fresh enough to play through to the ending of Trine. The main game is somewhat short, resting around 6-7 hours. However, players are encouraged to replay old levels to unlock experience for abilities and discover all the special items. Frozenbyte continues to support the game through patches, including a recent patch with a gorgeous post-game bonus level, which seems to be a transition towards Trine 2.
Trine on Steam (and PSN) offer additional reasons to continue playing. Both include a variety of achievements to encourage continued play towards 100% completion. The Steam version also contains Steam cloud support, which holds all player information on remote servers, allowing users to quickly and easily restart or continue working towards achievements on any internet-accessible computer that can play the game.
If you have friends (we hate friends here at the first hour), you can even try your hand at the unique co-op mode. In this, each player chooses a single character and they make their way through the game with help of friends. This adds an entirely new dimension to the game, as players must work together to achieve goals and progress. Some puzzles (and especially fights) may be easier, but many more will prove difficult, as players will have to help each other pass through. For example, while the knight is a fantastic melee fighter, he is relatively immobile compared to the thief and wizard and would need significant assistance from the wizard's conjuring throughout the game. Unfortunately, this mode is somewhat hidden in the game's configuration options and cannot be played online, which is very unfortunate given its potential.
As for a final result, Trine's excellent platforming and amazing presentation combined with creative level design easily overcome the more minor issues found throughout the game. As Trine carries a budget price of $20 (and can often be found for even less), it has significant value at that price point and almost demands to be seen. Trine 2 has recently been announced at E3 and aims to fix all the squibbles with the original as well as revamping the engine and allowing online co-op (with 500% more rainbows). I am certainly looking forward to it.