Every year you have two main categories of games to look forward to. There are those games that you’ve been following in awe and you know that will just swim in awesomeness. Then there is the kind of game that leaves you with nothing but a feeling of indifference because they’re either not your kind of game or destined to suck. Luckily every year there is at least one game that doesn’t fall in either category and flies silently under the radar. When it finally gets picked up by your gaming-radar it is too late and it takes you out with a giant blast. This year, it’s Trine’s turn.
Trine is based upon the one of the oldest game concept, the side scrolling platform game. You can best compare it to the legendary Lost Vikings game made by Blizzard’s predecessor Silicon & Synapse which had more or less the same game concept where you could control three Vikings which all played a bit different yet all had to pass the same obstacles. Of course, old school games are fun but they are what they are, old. Nowadays gamers want something more than a good or reinvented concept. They demand a total package which excels on every level imaginable while they also refuse to accept any major flaws.
Frozenbyte got the message and added three major elements to the triple-character platformer. The first of those additions you will notice is undoubtedly the beautiful backgrounds and surroundings. It looks as though they have been stolen from an impressive collection of paintings made by a Dutch renaissance master. It’s almost a shame the game isn’t full 3D because I wouldn’t mind going for a walk in those gorgeous landscapes and environments.
Speaking of 3D, the second addition is the fact that they made it a so-called 2.5D game where everything is constructed in 3D but you keep a strict 2D viewing angle. This might seem like a small part of the total game but one might be mistaken when thinking this. The fact that you play in 2D changes nothing about the three-dimensional objects and characters interacting with each other like they are supposed to. This gives you a way better experience while playing than some two-dimensional or ‘flat’ drawn characters. But much more important, it sets up the third and biggest gameplay injection.
That third addition is not really an addition, it’s the core of the game, it’s what makes up about two thirds of the fun, it’s… physics. Yep, as one of the three characters you get to throw around crates, pillars, rocks and enemies. Bored with that? Why don’t you swing from your grappling hook like you are some medieval Tarzan to get to those places that seem beyond your reach or enchant some construction with your magical powers.
Of course, Trine isn’t the first game to integrate physics, but to my knowledge it is the first one of this scale that is based upon them. While most physics-based games are mini-games or web based flash games, this one is worth about six or seven hours of submission to gravity and physics. While that might be a gigantic compared to the competition, it’s still a dwarf compared to the majority of other full-blown games. But still, even it is only a few hours, those puzzles are really entertaining and beautifully fitted into the game at an increasing difficulty. At first you can pass most of the obstacles with one character but progress in the game forces you to be more creative and use two or all characters to pass one puzzle.
To bind together the hours of puzzle solving and bashing hordes of undead enemies, Frozenbyte drew up a fairytale story about a knight, a thief and a wizard who are bound together by a mythical device and need to travel many forgotten areas to solve their triple-soul problem and restore order and peace to the lands while they are at it. Don’t expect multi-quest story with plots, sub-plots and many twists but take the story for what it is, a small and charming fairytale to keep yourselves amused when the levels are loading.
Any good movie or animation based upon a fairytale needs some good music and yet again, Trine does not disappoint. The tunes are very fitting yet never get in the way of the game. After playing for an hour or so, I found myself humming them but a few hours later I couldn’t reproduce them even if my life depended upon it. Next to a good score, these kinds of productions also need good and dramatic voice$overs. The narrator sets the tone for the dramatic part while all the other voices are clearly done by professionals. It’s really good to see that even small productions can get decent voice actors instead of the janitor and the cafeteria lady.
Trine also offers the possibility to play with two or three people on the same pc provided you have enough controllers. You each control one character while playing the same levels one plays in the regular singleplayer. Now, this seems like a very good concept but it feels very unpolished. One player can wander off the screen and die or instead of helping each other, you end up getting in each other’s way. While I like a good offline co-op, this one wasn’t doing it for me. Maybe a patch can solve some issues here and make it less frustrating.
So there you have it, Trine is a small diamond of a game. It’s fun, entertaining, challenging and most important, it doesn’t pretend to be anything other than it actually is. Except for the multiplayer, there isn’t anything to dislike. If you like those flash games that use physics, you will love this. There were a few small glitches at first, but nothing a small patch couldn’t fix. One might be worried about the length of the game, but then again, it only costs twenty euros on Steam so you can’t do much wrong with that.