Trine is a fantasy-themed, physics-based puzzle-platformer developed by the relatively young and unknown studio Frozenbyte, earlier having developed the relatively unpopular Shadowgrounds and Shadowgrounds Survivor.
As of recent years there has been a lack of solid 2D platformers, with bald space marines conquering the sales charts on consoles and MMOs almost single-handedly keeping PC gaming afloat between the big hits. Trine steps up and fills this void beautifully with it’s absolutely beautiful visuals and a mix of action, physics-based puzzles, platforming and some light RPG and exploration elements.
The game starts off with a three-sided prologue starring a thief looking to plunder the magic academy, a no-good wizard looking to not get killed by an undead horde and a less than intelligent knight charged with protecting the place. Our three protagonists make their way into a central chamber, where they happen to fall under a spell, merging them into one body that can change between it’s three forms at will, which has profound impact on how the game is played. From here on out, your objective is to battle or evade the undead attackers while trying to figure out just what happened and how you can undo the spell.
The presentation is absolutely gorgeous – the scenery is rendered in colourful 3D with a slightly exaggerated fantasy style . The art direction, if a little generic, feels polished and the sound fits right in with the graphical style. The voice actors all play their parts well, and while it may not be Oscar material, it fits with the slightly campy style. The music is also spot on and the result is a tranquil experience – there is no question that this is a puzzle-based platformer, instead of an action-based affair like Sonic.
The gameplay takes the form of giving you an obstacle with multiple solutions, most of which requires a combination of the different characters’ abilities, and letting you overcome it any way you please. The wizard is good for summoning boxes and other shapes for your characters to stand on and manipulating physics objects in the world, the thief is good with a bow and grappling hook, and the knight is good for smashing stuff and using his shield to block enemy attacks and other hazards. Each of your party members have an individual health bar even though they share the same physical space – when one body runs out of health it becomes unusable until you happen upon a checkpoint.
I recommend watching at HD resolution.
Notice how I could easily have opted to go the downwards route at the beginning of this video, charging the skeleton straight ahead. Using the knight to block his flames while advancing could have been a better solution – as it is now I ended up getting hit on the way down.
Trine also features light RPG and exploration mechanics. You can level up your characters, giving them new abilities and improving old ones in a simple skill tree type fashion. What is cool about this is that your experience doesn’t come from slaying monsters, but from picking up “experience potions” that are scattered throughout the level. Some of them are hidden in hard-to-reach places, and this is where the exploration comes into play – the more you explore, the more you’ll level up. This also adds to the replayability. The downside to this is that it is not encouraged enough through the gameplay – the game is incredibly easy on the normal difficulty setting, and I only got one or two game overs during my entire first play-through. The game gets quite a bit harder on the higher difficulty setting, but most gamers will just chose “normal” as it is the default setting, therefore the easy difficulty is disappointing.
The class mechanics may seem hard to grasp at first, but they sink in very quickly, and soon you’ll be making swing-jumps with the thief, switching to the knight mid-air, and killing a skeleton by landing on him. This is in large part thanks to the wonderful controls – they just feel spot on. You control your character with the WASD keys, change forms with 1-3 and aim your abilities with the mouse.
Trine also features a co-op mode, which I unfortunately was unable to test out for any long period. From my brief time with it, it doesn’t measure up to the single-player – it feels like it changes the game up a little too much.
Although my experience with this game was by and large positive aside from the disappointing difficulty, there is one issue left to address, and that is the extremely short length – Trine clocked in at around four or five hours for my first play-through. I feel this is short even for the low price.
Genre: Puzzle/Platformer with light exploration, action and rpg mechanics.
Time: 5 hours for one play-through. Light replayability can add a few hours to this.
Niggles: Relatively easy, too short, little replayability, not-as-great co-op mode.
Get it for the: Great art style, multi-answer puzzles, three distinct classes, good sound, great controls, decent co-op.
Disclaimer: I have completed the PC version of Trine on two difficulty settings (Normal, Hard). I spent some time with the multiplayer co-op option. I have not spent any time with the console version.