Delayed Responsibility

I Shouldn't Be Gaming Right Now… But I Am!

Impressions: The Trine Post

Posted by deckard47 on July 7, 2009

I know, I know, it took me a while, and I put up a fake, lying post yesterday that claimed it would be about Trine. Can I make it up to you?

Trine is a game from Frozenbyte, an independent Finnish game developer. Their games are even cooler than that last sentence. Their previous work came in the form of a Gauntlet-esque top-down action shooter set in space (very Aliens), called Shadowgrounds. It was fun, in an Alien Swarm kind of way (if you don’t know what that is, go buy UT 2004, download Alien Swarm, and then come back here). Good, I’m glad you did that. Shadowgrounds was a bit more polished than Swarm, although its multiplayer features were lacking (as were its writing and acting).

Trine comes completely out of left field, if you expected a similar title out of the company, that is. It’s a platformer, mostly, with a ton of other stuff melded into that basic premise. To list it all would be boring, so I’ll list some of it: a light RPG system, item collection, pretty interesting combat mechanics, and, of course, the physics and character switching. The game allows you to switch between three characters at will: a heavy knight, a light thief, and a wizard. The fighter can take on tough enemies, the thief can fire arrows and ninja rope all over the maps, and the wizard can create boxes, floating platforms, and bridges out of thin air.

Setting-wise, the game lands on the serious side of post-Tolkien light fantasy games. It’s self-aware, and quite happy to flaunt its knowledge of the genre’s tropes, but its tongue isn’t lodged firmly in its cheek, as is Fable II‘s. This actually quite nice. It allows the game (and its vaguely amused, mock-serious narrator) to introduce fantastic woodland cities, dark caves, and vile crypts with an endearing level of authenticity. You don’t get the sense that every setting and line of dialogue was approached from the “maximum irony” section of thought, and it feels proper and refreshingly unassuming, in a way. The narrator is the character you’ll hear the most, and he’s a comforting, completely cliched creature. Luckily, the acting (what there is) does just fine, banishing memories of the voices from the Shadowgrounds series.

While the graphics and setting are quite beautiful, the game is fun because of its willingness to mix physics puzzles, grappling acrobatics, and regular platforming. At first, you’ll just use the wizard’s magic boxes as stepping stones to out of reach places. Likewise, the thief’s grappling hook is just for lowering and raising oneself. Soon, you’ll master an almost Worms level of control over her swinging. You can grapple a far away platform, hang underneath it, and then skillfully swing, jump, and land atop the platform. Of course, if you wanted to, you could use the wizard’s new ability to create long boards, and build a structure from which to get to the same spot. Even better, you can mix the two, building outcrops from which the thief can throw herself, assured of victory.

The reason I don’t talk about the knight much is because I didn’t use him much. He’s necessary for a few puzzles, but once you upgrade the thief’s powerful bow (or learn the offensive capabilities of the wizard’s boxes), the knight becomes merely an afterthought. I’ve spent about 50% of the game as the thief (who really is a whole lot of fun to play), 30% as the mage (equally fun, although he can be a bit frustrating), and the rest (use your math skills!) as the knight. He’s annoying, combat isn’t that fun (with him), and he just feels a little boring. Why would you use him when you can stop giant cogs from grinding with conjured boxes, or destroy skeletons with carefully placed volleys of arrows?

Unfortunately, once you beat Trine, that’s it. The puzzles, combat, and RPG stuff are fun, but not so much you’ll want to go back and play it right away. Co-op (haven’t tried it) is a nice idea (it would be awesome to work in tandem as thief and wizard), but this game needs a sequel, fast. Its fun, beautiful, and it never annoys you or wears out its welcome. In fact, it’s the only game I’ve had a good deal of fun with recently, which is a rare thing. I’d recommend it highly, if just to keep Frozenbyte going, so they can make more cool games.

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