Review | Trine
Format: PS3 / PC | Genre: Platformer/RPG | Publisher: Nobilis | Developer: FrozenByte | Release date: 03/07/09 | RRP: £19.99-£29.99
By Lewis Denby
Within seconds of Trine, you know you’re in for a visual feast. Rarely has so much care been put into creating a distinctive, tangible aesthetic. Trine’s world is a marvellous twist on traditional fantasy, with cogs and wheels and gritty steampunk merging seamlessly with the rolling hills and towering castles of this universe.
A three-dimensional yet side-scrolling adventure, Trine also masterfully combines a variety of genres to create a thoroughly satisfying experience. Cosmetically, it’s a platformer: you jump and bash your way from left to right, across a series of levels that slowly unravel a competent yet sadly uninspiring story of wizardry and terrible curses. But it’s also part-RPG, with collectable experience vials allowing you to boost your characters’ abilities in a variety of individual manners. And it’s also, significantly, an excellent physics-puzzler.
Bound together by the eponymous magical orb, your trio of characters – a wizard, a thief and a knight – must work together out of a single physical body. You can switch between each character freely, but only one can present in the world at once. Each character’s abilities are crucial to certain sections of the game, and they must regularly work together to bypass gargantuan obstacles along the way.
The thief carries a bow and arrow, as well as a grappling hook for latching onto and mantling high ledges, or swinging across gaping chasms. The knight is tough, covered in armour and holding a sword and shield. The wizard can’t fight directly, but he has the power to summon and manipulate objects around the world.
Trine’s finest moments are those which encourage you to experiment with the characters’ abilities, in order to overcome some of the more elaborate environmental problems you’ll face on your journey. It’s an incredibly tactile game, with plenty of object-levitation, box-stacking and rope-swinging to occupy your stay in this evil land. Experimentation is key, and you’re almost never punished for your ingenious ideas. Indeed, most puzzles have a number of possible solutions, and a multitude of routes around them.
Levelling up provides you with new skills to utilise in such situations, and although the role-playing is fairly lightweight, it’s an invaluable addition that contributes to Trine’s surprising depth and malleability. There are also a number of treasure chests to be chanced upon – some in plain view, others obstructed or hidden away – which provide new items for your trio of characters to utilise.
//Hacked to pieces
It’s all surprisingly action-heavy, and this is where it begins to irritate. Only slightly – much of the combat is meaty and satisfying, with gloriously animated skeletons crumbling under the weight of your knight’s attack. But the bats, introduced after a couple of hours, are an unimpressive idea – as flying enemies generally are in games. They get in the way and acutely annoy, particularly as they’re so hard to hit. The result, invariably, is taking unnecessary damage, and hotfooting it back to the last checkpoint to heal up.
Elsewhere, boss encounters fail to impress, amounting mainly to a few goes at button-mashing your way to victory. There are also a few odd moments in which skeletal foes get stuck on scenery or half-disappear through the ground, removing some of the visual shine. More awkward than anything is the tendency for Trine to throw wave upon wave of enemies at you when, really, you just want to get on with the puzzle solving. It’s primarily a game about the environment, and cluttering it with incessant combat scenarios comes across as an unfortunate misstep.
Still, it’s telling that – despite these problems – Trine remains so marvellously enjoyable. It’s clever without pretension, quietly confident, and brimming with visual flair. The bizarrely hidden co-op mode, in which three players can work together simultaneously in the world, adds yet another dimension to the fun. And while the price tag is relatively high (and, oddly, considerably more on the PC than the PS3), it’s a game that charms, excites and invigorates at nearly every turn. A whimsical, valiant effort.