Wednesday, December 16, 2009


8.5 - [Excellent]

Gameplay: 8
Visuals: 9
Music: 8
Sound: 8
Value: 7

Publisher: SouthPeak Interactive
Developer: Frozenbyte
Multiplayer: Offline co-op
Console(s): PS3, PC
Reviewed on: PS3
ESRB rating: E10+ (Mild Fantasy Violence, Use of Alcohol)
BMR rating: E10+ (Fantasy Violence, Use of Alcohol)

Good Points:

Fantastic, dreamlike visuals - Beautiful music - Charming setting - Entertaining physics - Solid platforming - Co-op is great fun

Not So Good Points:

Occasional framerate problems - Feels a little too short - No online play so far - Some quirks regarding the physics and spell casting system can get annoying

In a time of blockbuster epics, hard-hitting first-person shooters, rhythm game spam, hard-hitting first-person shooters, casual mini-game collections, and hard-hitting first-person shooters, Trine is a breath of deliciously fresh air. Set in a fantastical world of magic and castles, Fozenbyte (the masters behind... well, nothing anybody really remembers) takes a cue from the classic Blizzard game The Lost Vikings and creates a memorable game brimming with dangers and adventures. Allowing up to three players to participate, Trine brings together several unlikely heroes on a quest to restore peace to a darkening kingdom. The goal is, naturally, to work together; but depending on the nature and number of participants, finding creative ways to kill one another can be half the fun.

The first thing you'll notice upon starting your journey is Trine's simply beautiful presentation. The entire tale is related in a storybook-like manner, complete with likable character archetypes, magic spells and even a delightful narrator who reads the story with the absolute perfect voice. Dreamlike visuals cast visions of enchanted forests along with glowing flora and fauna, and haunted graveyards come to life with the skeletal undead and eerie moonlight. Everything looks spectacular, and I guarantee that you'll find yourself stopping to gaze about in wonder at the scenery ripped straight from the imagination. A fitting soundtrack helps to reinforce this image with melodic pianos and soft strings, complete with a leading crescendo of magnificence that is Trine's theme song. The voice acting is also well done for the three lead characters; namely, the cunning thief, the not-so-cunning knight, and the poor wizard who just can't seem to learn the fireball spell.

Trine is full of physics and fun, and I have personally found the two to go together like peanut butter and jelly, both of which often have messy results. The gameplay takes place in 2D space, despite the gloriously 3D graphics, and will have you switching between the three heroes to overcome all sorts of challenges. The thief can fire arrows and swing about speedily using her trusty grappling hook, which is a vital tool during some of the trickier platforming sections. Next is the knight, a hulking warrior with a sharp sword and a sturdy shield; when you're surrounded by animated skeletal corpses, he's the man to call. Last but certainly not least we have the wizard (and just between you and me, he's far more useful than this blog's supercilious mascot). This blue-hatted spell-caster can conjure up boxes and manipulate all kinds of objects with his magic, allowing you to drag around just about anything via a cursor floating around on the screen. It works quite a bit like the cursor from LittleBigPlanet's level creator. This is where things really get interesting.

Believe it or not, Trine looks even better in motion.

If they want to get anywhere, the players must place faith in one another to perform crucial tasks, such as, say, protecting the party from a giant spiked ball falling from the sky. While the wizard is immobile as he uses his magic energy to stop this deadly trap, the knight may have to defend him from oncoming enemies. If the knight feels that he'd rather make his escape early and leave the old man to his fate, it's entirely possible that the wizard will lose his composure and become surrounded by monsters as said giant spiked ball plummets downwards to crush them all under its unforgiving giant spikiness. It's during moments such as these (moments in the game, I mean; not such moments as total lapses of vocabulary as you just witnessed) that no amount of scripted events can replicate. But there are also brilliant moments of teamwork, in which everybody cooperates to ace a specific situation without even taking damage. Trying to gain access to experience points and treasure chests tucked into the nooks and crannies of the levels provides for constant goals and daring feats, and also doubles as a means to level up. All of the characters can unlock new spells, weapons, and stat-increasing items, so there's plenty to work and go back for. Combat isn't particularly deep, but takes quick thinking; especially for the wizard, who is quite incapable of defending himself if he is out of magic energy. The platforming is tight and responsive, and although the physics will give you the occasional headache (especially when drawing specific shapes with the wizard is required), there are generous checkpoints dotted throughout the stages, and your completed tasks in a level are saved even when you are sent back to one of these markers, so it's hard to complain.

Clearly, Trine is a great deal more fun when played with multiple people. Trine is currently only playable offline, but the developers have mentioned adding in online play at a later time. I myself have only had the chance to play with one additional player, but that's quite enough for a great time. However, this does present a slight problem. With three players, each person is assigned a character to play as. With only one player, you switch at will between the three characters yourself. With two players, both people can switch when they want, which can often take the teamwork element out when the thief is just handed off between the two players as they take turns maneuvering difficult jumps. My solution for this is to simply make up my own rules; that is, one person chooses the wizard (as he is, in my opinion, the most fun to play as and the most commonly needed) while the other guy gets the thief and the knight. Alternate between levels, and there you go. You can find your own favorite way to play, but I find that this method works very well.

The inventive creativity that is rewarded to reach all the hidden items, the smooth flow of the gameplay, and the inspired story and setting will keep you happily busy through all fifteen levels, but sadness does finally dawn when the ending credits roll. Aside from a ridiculous ramp up in difficulty during the final level (in which every failure results in a loading screen), there's rarely a dull or overly frustrating spot, and thus it feels like the adventure ends all too soon. Even so, the $20 price tag still ensures that Trine is easily recommended to any gamer with a penchant for wondrous visuals and a fun co-op game at a budget price. The time spent in this mystical fantasy world will be well-spent, and the memories of angry shouting matches followed by copious laughter will live on even after you, inevitably, live happily ever after.

(NOTE: The screenshot was taken from the PC version of the game.)

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