posted 9/14/2009 by Tyler Sager
other articles by Tyler Sager
Platforms: PC

Trine follows the adventures of a trio of heroes bound together by the titular magical artifact. There’s some menacing evil engulfing the land, and maybe some all-powerful artifacts to recover. I really didn’t pay the plot much attention, and the gameplay didn’t suffer much for my plot ignorance.  Each character has his or her own special abilities, each necessary to navigate the gorgeous 2D scenery. Due to the nature of the Trine (in the single-player game, at least), only one character can exist at a time, with the other two safely locked away in the Trine’s magic. Characters can be changed on the fly, however, allowing players to quickly call up the abilities they need. While this seems gimmicky (and, admittedly, the game could play just about the same with a single character possessing three times the abilities), it ends up being a large part of the charm.

The wizard, in an unusual move for a fantasy game, has little or no immediately obvious offensive capability. Instead, he’s able to telekinetically manipulate various objects about the screen. Combined with his ability to materialize boxes and planks out of thin air, he’s my favorite of the three choices. He feels like he has the most options, even allowing for some clever attacks, such as dropping boxes and random scenery on unsuspecting enemies. For those who want to take the creative route, the wizard is the foremost choice.

Next up is the rogue. She has a bow for some ranged offensive power, as well as a grappling rope that allows her to reach some pretty impressive heights. Her grapple can’t catch in everything, but she’s one of the best approaches to finding all those hidden alcoves sprinkled about the place. As impressive as the physics engine is for Trine, it starts getting a little wonky when the rogue enters the picture. Somehow she can manage to sling-shot herself to improbable locations, laughing in the face of gravitational laws. In addition, she can hold her own in a fight, and I found myself using her as my primary offensive character as the game progresses.

Rounding out the trio is the knight, the tank of the crew. There really isn’t a lot of subtlety to this character—just smashing undead legions. He does sport a nigh-invulnerable shield, allowing players to get past a few of the pricklier situations, but for the most part he’s pure “get-em”. Probably my least-used character, he’s right to use for those times where the skeletons really start swarming, but he’s just not as much fun as the other two.

Speaking of skeletons, Trine sports hordes of undead and other creepy crawlies to make life much more miserable than necessary for Our Heroes. In fact, the monsters (and fighting in general) were my least favorite aspect of the entire game. There were too few different sorts of enemies, and mostly they felt like an annoyance as I was busy trying to solve the much-more-interesting puzzles. Combat was usually a straightforward click fest, unless I was feeling like using the subtle “attacks” of the wizard. Had the monsters been an integral part of the puzzle elements, I would have enjoyed them a great deal more.

The puzzles themselves, mostly of the platformer variety, were much more entertaining. Much of the game was spent figuring out a way from point A to point B, but there were enough hidden avenues and alternate paths to really make things interesting. Most points can be navigated by two or all three of the characters, using completely different techniques, and some require clever implementation of multiple hero abilities. Completists will be happy to know that each level can be re-played individually once conquered, allowing players to pilfer each and every potion and treasure from a given level.

The graphics are quite good, full of a great deal more detail than I would have expected. They highlight the mostly-solid physics engine, which allows players to interact with much of the scenery in realistic and intuitive ways. Much of the joy in Trine comes from figuring out which platform, weight, or gear to grapple, throw, or telekinetically twiddle. There were some troubling clipping bugs, causing me to restart from previous checkpoints more often than was necessary. Falling through solid floor in a 2D game is something of a novelty for me. Overall, though, Trine ran very smoothly, with a solid control scheme  to help things out. The game was a bit on the short side, even for a smaller title such as this, but the ability to replay levels and run them co-op should add some play time to the title.

All in all, Trine was a fun if slightly flawed 2D platformer, and I was surprised at how much I ended up enjoying the brief ride

A neat little fantasy-themed side-scroller with a clever three-characters-in-one twist. A bit short, but the puzzles are clever, the graphics are gorgeous, and the gameplay is solid.

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