Many of you may be familiar with the age-old platforming formula of ledge hopping, item-collecting and pole-swinging, but Fronzenbyte has refreshingly designed its latest PSN offering, Trine, with a modern day twist. Though the Finnish developer has still re-used many of features that we’ve become accustomed to in platform games, it has cleverly added full physics interaction to create a fantasy action game that is overflowing with creativity and style as well as substance.
Trine combines traditional side-scrolling platforming gameplay with physics-based puzzle solving. So, in addition to jumping from one platform to the next, avoiding traps and killing enemies along the way, it also requires you to interact with objects littered around the environment to work out a pathway to reach the next area. As you leap and swing around collecting EXP-earning vials and searching for treasure chests there’s a superbly rendered 3D fantasy backdrop to enjoy, which brings the colourful, fantasy universe to life effectively with the excellent use of shadow and lighting effects.
Trine further breaks the mould of traditional platform games by allowing you to morph between three different characters at any point during the game. The forgettable, fairy-tale inspired storyline plays second fiddle to the main course of puzzling and with three characters to switch between, plus all manner of cleverly designed platform puzzles to solve, there’s plenty of challenge to get your brain working over-time. Each of the three characters in Trine has a unique ability and move-set, but rather than choose whether you want to play as the Thief, Knight or Wizard prior to the start of each level, you can instantly transform between them and utilise their skill-sets to work out a way to reach the next area.
Trine’s appeal is largely shaped by puzzle and level design and Fronzenbyte has done a great job in creating attractive levels and conjuring up tons of well-conceived and cleverly thought-out physics-based puzzles that rely on the skills of all three of the game’s heroes. The agile Thief, for example, carries a bow and arrow and grappling hook so is the ideal character to strike enemies from a safe distance, or latch onto wooden surfaces to swing across. The knight, on the other hand, is armed with his sword and has the strength to lift and throw objects or tackle enemies at close quarters, while the Wizard can conjure up new objects out of thin air or levitate items around the environment. Trine’s physics-engine is what really sets it apart from other platform games as it affords you with the luxury to experiment, offering you a variety of ways to reach your goal. Part of the fun is working out which character to use and whose skills will do the job best as you shift crates around, flip switches, adjust platforms and combine shooting, object levitation and jumping and grappling to reach the next section.
Though Trine starts out with fairly obvious puzzles there comes a time where you have to use a combination of all three character’s strengths to get past an area. The puzzles get tough, but are rarely frustrating thanks to the steady learning curve. The EXP system isn’t particularly in-depth and the more you progress through the levels the more obvious it becomes that the game would have benefited from a few more exciting upgrades. Nevertheless, whether we’ve been collecting vials, or working out how to reach treasure chests it’s a game that certainly possesses that addictive quality.
Trine adds another feather to its bow in the form of co-op play, which you don’t see very often in this genre. Though it would have been nice to have online co-op integration, local co-op is an excellent addition. With three players jumping into the role of different characters it means that there’s added replay value because you now have to work out a way to get all of the characters across the level rather than just one. Yes, it’s more difficult, but it’s more challenging and even more fun with three brains ticking away instead of one.
While Trine excels in its visuals and clever puzzle play, combat isn’t so attractive. With brainless skeletons and annoying bats often getting in your way, fighting can get a little repetitive, particularly later on in the game where the puzzle-solving becomes less frequent and combat takes over. And it’s later on in the game that Trine loses a bit of its charm. It just seems like the developer ran out of ideas.
Despite these niggles, Trine is a solid platform game that benefits greatly from the inclusion of physics-based puzzles, plus the freedom afforded by being able to switch characters and experiment. Our enthusiasm dwindled slightly toward the end and we would have liked to have seen a more in-depth EXP system, but overall we had a great time, despite suffering with the occasional brain-ache trying to work our way past some of the cleverly designed puzzles. We’ll be keeping an eye out for more from Frozenbyte that’s for sure.