Reviewed: April 2014
Side-Scrollers were once the pinnacle of gaming, up there with many classic adventure games, before the advent of 3D, and then a host of first-person shooting games appeared, changing the scene forever. Aside from classic gaming packs, there have been relatively few games in this perspective ever since, but gradually, with the rising popularity of Steam as a distribution platform, indie-developers have begun re-visiting side-scroll land, and not just with nostalgic remakes, but new, imaginatively created games that provide engaging game-play, full of original ideas.
Trine was one such game, created in 2009, and turning out popular enough to spawn a sequel a couple of years later. Normally, I have to admit, I wouldn’t look twice, personally, at a side-scrolling platform-puzzler, since it just isn’t the kind of game that I go for, but something about it drew me to it, helped in part by the fact it was ridiculously cheap in a recent winter Steam sale. Looking at the screen-shots alone, I marvelled at how beautiful the scenery was, and no, this isn’t in the Crysis-3-trying-to-be-a-realistic-3D-game-engine-tech-demo way, but due to the wonderful use of vivid colours in every scene; all of which present game-play in a 2D perspective, while making use of 3D objects.
The basic premise of Trine is that you play as one of three characters, which you can switch between at any time, and use their unique abilities to make your way through various physics-based puzzles. A story loosely binds the levels, of which there are 15, and while not being on the level of epic-greatness, it is decent enough for this type of game, and excellently narrated throughout.
Of the three characters you will play as, the first you encounter is the Zoya the thief, whose abilities involve long-range combat via the use of a bow and arrow, and a grappling hook to move around acrobatically. The second character you are introduced to is Amadeus the Wizard, who is able to construct boxes and bridges by drawing them, and is able to move certain objects via a form of telekinetic sorcery. The last character you are introduced to is Pontius the Knight, who is able to defend himself with a shield, and makes use of a sword or sledgehammer for combat. He is also able to throw certain objects.
Regarding the games story, the basic premise is that our three ‘heroes’ are bound together when they come across an artefact called the ‘Trine’, and must find a way to free themselves from it. Along the way they will battle predominantly skeletal enemies, as they make their way past traps and through a path filled with little puzzles, with the occasional spider and ogre-like mini-boss thrown in for good measure. At the start of each new level, a short narration keeps the story progressing, and is voiced excellently. The three protagonists also ‘speak’ around the start and end of each level, and are also voiced well, if a little brief. As you progress through the game, the puzzles increase in complexity, but this is tempered by the fact that you gradually receive more abilities as you increase your XP, with options selectable via an upgrade screen.
A lot of the puzzles can involve the use of all three characters, although most are solved via the wizard and the thief, with the knight mainly there to deal with the enemies that spawn once you get past a particular area, although he can provide cover from falling objects and balls of flame when the need arises. Usually, the wizard will be used to set things up, by placing objects, and setting moveable objects in motion, with the more acrobatic thief character making use of those initial efforts, and finally the knight mopping up the enemies that will undoubtedly appear afterwards. While in basic terms, it might sound as though the game is repetitive, my description doesn’t really do the game justice, as each puzzle stays quite varied and interesting enough to keep you engaged throughout the ten-plus hours it will likely take you to play the game on your first attempt.
For an ‘Indie’ game effort, Trine is pretty good, and has been well received from critics and general players alike. While the story is only very basic, this is more than made up for by the excellent voice work, the intelligent, but not overly-difficult puzzles, and the sumptuously colourful graphics throughout the game. The game does have some flaws, notably the lack of a save-anywhere feature, and the fact that while it does have checkpoints throughout the levels, the only proper save is at the end of each level. The end level, being almost entirely vertical, is quite difficult, and potentially also frustrating if you are unlucky enough (or lacking in skill, like me) to get knocked down a long way. There is also an infuriating point where I had to wait for ages for a ‘lift’ to slowly travel back down when I had to re-do a more difficult section of the game, and after several attempts, it became quite grating. Overall, though, the game is definitely worthy of your attention, and richly deserves the praise it has been given, and if you see it, like me, in a Steam sale, then you really haven’t got any excuse not to get it at all.
Arbitrary Final Score:
If you like this game, you might also like: Alice: Madness Returns , Doing everything three times
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