Release Date: July 10, 2009
Although I had seen screenshots and the trailer prior to playing my review copy of Trine, I was still taken aback by how well the game plays and how incredibly gorgeous it looks on my monitor. It's filled with breathtaking visuals but is tied into such a familiar 2-D puzzle/platformer genre that even the most basic gamer can instantly pick up on the gameplay. It's definitely worth picking up for everyone, whether you do so now through Steam or PSN in the near future.
This wouldn't be much of a review with just one paragraph, so I'll delve into the general concept and discuss why Trine is so fantastic to play. The title features three playable characters: Thief, Warrior and Wizard. The setting isn't particularly new or exciting, as it makes use of a lot of the basic tropes of a fantasy world setting; it even features an army of undead that have risen up to destroy the kingdom, and your three characters had the unfortunate mishap of fusing themselves together over some mysterious artifact. You set out to put things right.
The idea of fusing these three characters together comes into play with the swap-out system. At any time, you can press a button on the gamepad (or the first three numerical keys on the keyboard) to switch between the characters. The levels are designed to have several key puzzles that make use of the strengths of each character, and you'll often need to switch back and forth during a puzzle to finish the level. There are plenty of puzzles spread across the multiple levels, and while there is some combat involved with the hordes of skeletons you'll encounter along the way, the key part of the game comes from the platforming and the puzzles, so don't expect anything action-packed.
The Thief has the ability to toss out a grappling hook, allowing her to swing across large chasms or rappel up high distances. She also comes equipped with a bow and arrows, which you can alter the trajectory with, and also the power/amount of arrows that she fires. The Wizard doesn't have any real offensive abilities, unless you count creating blocks out of thin air to crush enemies. Aside from creating boxes, he can also levitate any movable object or platform, allowing him to build bridges and other devices to get across deadly spikes or other traps. Finally, the Warrior is the melee class of the group, and he'll be the most useful against the skeleton enemies. He also comes equipped with a throwing ability, and he has a shield to deflect projectiles, which can also be tilted at various angles, much like the Thief's bow.
The abilities of the three heroes are certainly basic, but the way they're used to solve puzzles within Trine is constantly surprising. There are plenty of instances where you can use the Wizard to make platforms work like scales by placing a created box on one side to lift up the platform, switching to the Thief to grapple over a previously unreachable area, and then using the Warrior to cut down the rope holding a large wooden plank in place, which will in turn block off the dangerous spikes at the bottom of the level. I'm just using this as an example, and not necessarily something that you'll encounter gameplay-wise, but it gives you a basic idea of the teamwork needed to overcome certain areas in the game. The levels are well-designed, with plenty of straightforward platforming segments mixed in with the puzzle-solving. The combat is pretty bland, though, so if you're looking for something more action-based, you'll be disappointed with that aspect. Beyond that, there's nothing to complain about in the way the levels play out, and there are a fair amount of them too. The entire game will take you about six or seven hours to complete, and that's without going for a complete 100 percent run.
As far as visuals are concerned, you'll be hard-pressed to find a better-looking 2-D style platformer on the market today, and that's saying something considering that the genre is jam-packed with titles that are known to push the visual limits of the consoles on which they're represented. Trine looks excellent at the highest settings, and even if you're forced to play with a few restrictions in place, I think you'll agree that it's a beautiful game. The three characters animate so well that they seem to flow across the backgrounds and platforms in front of you, while the physics-based stages all seem to have a little life of their own. Platforms will sway a bit when you jump on them or run into them, and the background work gives the whole thing a painted sheen that reminds me a bit of the title Braid.
Likewise, the music in Trine is fantastic and adds to the fantasy setting that the visuals reinforce. I'm not sure that I could hum a track for you, but the music absolutely helps to breathe life into the world, and really works together with the overall style of the game. There is some voice acting in the game, and there's a surprising amount of banter between the three characters, and all of that is handled quite well. The game also uses small audio cues for all of the sound effects, and there are little telltale noises that you'll get really accustomed to without them ever becoming annoying, so that's nice.
Overall, I hope that a lot of players will pick up Trine, regardless of their platform of choice. If you want to get it now, the PC version works extremely well, with support for a gamepad and your standard keyboard and mouse setup. The gameplay is solid and never feels cumbersome like you might expect from a title that features so much platforming. The mouse controls really help with the Wizard and Thief abilities, so you should at least give it a try. However, there's no enjoyment loss from using a gamepad; I went with a standard Xbox 360 wired controller and had no issues with the controls there, so whichever you prefer will work out quite well. I can't see the PS3 version suffering from any port issues if you feel like holding out for a slightly cheaper iteration of the game. Trine is one of the better platformers I've played this year, and it's definitely worth buying.
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