Trine Review (PC)

It seems like almost yesterday when Frozenbyte's previous title, Shadowgrounds: Survivor, was in our hands and subject to our critical eye. Now it’s over a year later, and the Finnish developer once again submits an offering to the critics. Trine, a fantasy based side scrolling puzzle-platform title, despite having a random name, its actually a lot of fun. Whilst the genre was starting to seem out-dated in the face of modern gaming conventions, there has been an Indy resurgence of late of old-school ‘back-to-basics’ games like Trine and Braid. The rise of digital distribution has made this underground movement all the more viable, whilst also giving them a chance at moderate success, and moderately succeed it has.

The concept of Trine is simple, and actually quite well enshrined into the game’s lore. The player gets to control three characters which, after individual introductory segments, all come together and come into contact with an object known as the ‘Trine’. This ancient artefact melds their souls together, so that only one of them can ‘materialise’ at once. As such, the player needs to travel through the various levels using only one character at a time. You can switch between characters whenever you want, and you must utilise each character’s unique skills in order to pass through the levels.

The Knight is the best at attack and defence, and embodies the essence of the hack’n’slash gods.
The Wizard uses his abilities to traverse difficult obstacles, and reach hard to reach places.

Whilst not mind blowing, it is a quaintly unique way of explaining away what would otherwise be a standard gameplay mechanic. It’s also very easy to character swap, and a skilled player would be able to perform multiple actions at once by rapidly switching between different characters – something that, whilst a testament to your l337ness, will probably see your hands wither away into nothing. The three characters follow marginally standard stereo-types: A Wizard, who’s a bit of a lady’s man and doesn’t like to take magic that seriously, unless he’s trapped in a mystic soul-sealing artefact of course... The Thief who is just out for the bounty, although possesses a kind heart, and a Knight who believes in Valour, Justice, and a full stomach.

The world of Trine is beautifully animated using Nvidia PhysX physics engine which develops the 2D environment in eye-catching 3D, and also making the environments very interactive. Arguably this could be to make up for its rather standard nature in terms of the wider genre, but it still doesn’t detract from the game’s quiet beauty. As all modern games, the graphics are scalable to suit a variety of systems, although PS3 owners won’t have to worry too much about this.

Combat is relatively simple – hack until its dead. There’s also a limited number of enemies – most common being skeletons in various states of armour and armament, but bats, spiders and ‘boss’ monsters also feature in the game. Still, it can get rather repetitive to just hack away at the same thing over and over, and even when the game tries to challenge you by throwing in as many enemies as it thinks you can take, it still just means that you have to hack your way through them. We say ‘hack’ because really only the Knight & the Thief character’s are capable of decent combat, and of those two, the knight is by far the most obvious choice.

Still, this is simply a by-product of the game itself, if someone really wants to challenge themselves, they can easily just stick with either the Wizard or the Thief during combat, allowing for the more creative tactics and environment interactions to come into play. The thief can stand on her own well enough with her bow and arrow, provided enemies don’t get too close - the Wizard will prove the real challenge, as he has no offensive moves whatsoever, only being able to conjure things into existence and levitate objects.

The Thief is the master of the bow, and can use a grapple hook for swift travel.
As you progress through the game, you gain access to new weapons and abilities, and new environments.

As mentioned, each character has their own unique skills and uses, and this concept is further augmented by the abilities the player can unlock for their characters. These abilities (and sometimes weapons) can be upgraded through experience, which can be gained from defeating enemies or finding special potions. Every 50 points, you get to level up. It’s nowhere near as extensive as a basic RPG’s system, and is really only in place to keep up with the increasing complexities of the levels. Still it’s there, and there are small tactical decisions to make when deciding who and what to upgrade, as there are several ways to solve an in-game obstacle.

Probably the only true drawback of the game is the plot, or rather the character’s role within the plot. Trine’s typical fantasy setting of a land overrun by dark magic and the un-dead won’t be winning any prizes, however its patented style of simplicity lends itself quite well to what the game is about. Unfortunately, the characters are the weakest element in this – they are developed only in extremely short dialogue sequences at the beginning and end of every level and through narration in the load between levels.

Now, some may argue that considering what it is, it doesn’t really need a fully developed plot, and playing the game you may think them right. However, despite being fun, Trine is also a bit... unremarkable, in the sense that it doesn’t do anything ground breaking. Bearing that in mind, it wouldn’t have hurt to have a bit more dialogue sequences included during the levels, to flesh out the game a bit more.

The game also features a co-op mode; however this is only an offline feature and so is probably only useful for those playing this game on the PS3. It’s also not very well ‘advertised’ as such, so anyone looking to team up with their buddies will need to plug in their controller first, and then fiddle around in the options somewhere. When you do get it going however, the game takes on a whole new shape as, instead of you being the master of strategies and deciding what character to use where, you instead have to coordinate your abilities and tactics with your friends. That, as anyone knows, is a whole different ball game.

Checkpoints save your progress, as well as heal/revive wounded characters.
The further you go the more complex the levels become.

There’s little to say against the game, although neither is it a master piece. Its familiarity is a little bit too much on the familiar to be truly innovative, and its simple nature restricts its potential. Not to mention it’s a little short as well, with only 15 levels in the whole game. The way the story progresses, it will seem over before it’s truly begun for those of us who are not obsessed with completionism. However, there is replay value available for all who want it, so its worth is relative to how much you think you’ll play it.

At the end of the day though, Trine is an easy-going, fun filled blast from the past that will entice both gaming veterans and casual new comers. Available through Steam and the PSN, it’s one of those smaller arcade-style games that you download when there’s not much else to do. A recommended title for those looking for something new, however unlike most quests, there’s nothing pressing about uncovering the secrets of the Trine.

Top Game Moment: Solving and completing a complex segment of a level, followed by the slaughter of an army of un-dead. A good way to relax from a hard day's work.

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By herodotus (SI Herodotus) on Jul 22, 2009
I wondered what this would be like. I really enjoyed Shadowgrounds and the sequel, so I knew the quality would be top-notch. But it will be a niche title, although it's everywhere on D2D sites (Steam, D2D, Gamersgate etc). Thanks for the review.
By stuntkid (SI Elite) on Jul 25, 2009
The steam demo was really good. I can see myself playing this game.
By Hunter_Raj (SI Member) on Aug 28, 2009
It's very nice. many of friends are playing game in my game zone
By fredyzg (SI Core) on Aug 30, 2009
is this worth buying?