Trine PC Review
As 3D titles continue to improve their visual and technical aspects, it’s become abundantly clear that 2D games have been all but perfected; With 3D games, many factors must be taken into account (a working camera, ground textures, pop-in, just to name a few), while 2D games only have to worry about looking pretty. The downside to this is that developers must focus on making their 2D titles fun and unique, lest it becomes another standard running and jumping platformer that a certain plumber already perfected decades ago.
Developer Frozenbyte has stepped up to the challenge with Trine, a 2D title that combines not one, not two, but three different play-styles into one game: Calling it an Action-Platformer-Puzzler would be the most reasonable description, but not the most accurate one. By assigning three interchangeable characters with specific roles, the mixing of these three genres becomes a seamless experience coupled with a gorgeous presentation.
The story of Trine involves a Wizard, a Thief, and a Knight bound together by circumstance (and magic); unable to separate until their magical curse is lifted, the three must work together to traverse dark caves, sprawling ruins, and lush forests in order to face the source of evil that is infecting their kingdom. The story is typical renaissance faire told with a certain tongue-in-cheek manner, but the characters never evolve beyond their established roles, or say much dialogue that isn’t expositional or occasionally silly. Yet despite the faux RPG elements, this isn’t a game one plays for the story, and it is through their unique abilities where the three heroes shine.
Trine’s areas feature the usual litter of traps, lava, breakable walls, switches, and other platforming staples, but players cannot scale these dangers with just one character. With the push of a button, the three heroes can be swapped instantly at anytime, and this becomes crucial to complete the levels, as each character possesses a unique ability; the Knight is the primary choice for combat, possessing a sword and shield, which can also be used to repel traps as well as attacks; the Thief carries a bow, which is handy for dispatching enemies from a distance, while also possessing a grappling hook that can attach to nearly every wooden surface; the Wizard lacks any weapons, purely relying on magic to create crates and planks at will, with the secondary ability of manipulating a large number of objects with his magic in addition to his own creations.
This swapping of characters and attributes makes up the core of Trine’s gameplay; the Wizard can create and stack together crates to reach a high ledge, while the Thief uses her grappling hook to swing across a river of lava, while the Knight then fends off against a swarm of undead enemies waiting on the other side of the river. Each character has a role to play, but they don’t always have to follow their assigned duties. The Wizard can use his object-controlling magic to drop a hovering crate on top of an enemy, the Thief can use her arrows to cut a rope supporting a bridge, and the Knight can use his bare strength to lift and stack objects together. There is no correct way to traverse each level, and it falls upon the player’s imagination and/or preference on how to approach each obstacle. It also helps to get a working idea on the game’s physics, where every object, enemy, and item adheres to its laws. Admittedly, the physics engine can get a bit on the floaty side, and with enough persistence players can pull off a few game-breaking jumps, but they still get the job done.
The visuals make a much stronger statement in immersing gamers to Trine’s world; fully rendered in 2D, the polygons, textures, and lighting effects are all stunning, filled with details and effects that are worth more than a passing glance, especially when taking the time to figure out how to scale that out-of-reach ledge. The music is as much a medieval cliché as the story, but serviceable. Despite the visual variety, however, Trine’s biggest shortcoming is how everything starts to feel the same after an hour or two. Puzzles consist mainly of crates, ledges, and switches to manipulate, while the combat portions only feature three enemy types (including one of the most annoying bat enemies in recent gaming memory). To that end, it’s almost a relief that Trine’s length is a short one, or the repetitiveness may have ended up as a major negative. Additional items and equipment which can be picked up through hidden treasure chests help keeps the game fresh, however, including experience points that can be used to raise the characters’ skills and weapons.
While combining three different play styles doesn’t result in three times the game, it does equal into a polished 2D experience that’s well worth your time.