Trine – Review

Trine, PC – £4.99 delivered

Review by Laura Michet

Trine artwork

A friend of mine sidled over and took a peek at my laptop screen. “Wo-oah,” he said. “That’s pretty.

During the twenty minutes he spent watching me play Trine, this friend of mine came up with a number of bite-sized summaries of the game. According to him, Trine is “Lost Vikings with a chick in it,” “Lost Vikings: Bloom Effects Edition,” “Better than Lost Vikings because the guy who kills dudes with the sword is also the guy with the shield,” “Better at puzzles and platforming than Lost Vikings,” and plain-old “Better than Lost Vikings.” As he explained it, Lost Vikings was a critical part of his childhood. “Are you sure you don’t want to have a go at this yourself?” I asked. I wasn’t so sure that Trine really did trump Lost Vikings. “You know, to make sure it isn’t destroying your childhood memories completely?”

He declined. “It’s awesome just to watch,” he said.

And I suppose it is: Trine is gorgeous. It’s one of those games that go heavy on the bloom effects, yeah, but its setting is the kind of charming fantasy world that seems to require bloom. The environments are colorful, complex, and filled with careful detail. Moving from area to area within a level will sometimes trigger dramatic lighting changes that shift the whole mood of the game in an instant. Passing from a squalid and grey-green underground cave onto a sunny hilltop, or into a twilight forest of cool blues and crisp white moonlight, is absolutely beautiful. Graphically, Trine is a standout.

I disagree with my friend, however, about the ways in which it’s comparable to Lost Vikings, and I’m pretty sure that he would have disagreed, too, if he’d played it when I offered him the mouse. Single-player Trine doesn’t actually feel much at all like Lost Vikings. Lost Vikings, as you may recall, had all three characters onscreen at once, and each depended on the presence and positioning of the others. Single-player Trine, rather, has only one character in the game-world at a time: they replace one another with a keystroke and a flash of light. In Lost Vikings, none of the characters were self-sufficient; on the other hand, the neatest part about Trine is that each character can solve practically every puzzle in a different way. Though Trine is clearly indebted to the earlier game, particularly in its multiplayer, it’s impossible to not appreciate the quality of Frozenbyte’s fresh creative flourishes. The game feels unique and masterful.

At any rate, you’ve got three characters with three separate ability-sets. The Knight has a shield, lifts and throws heavy objects, and melees enemies; the Thief grapple-swings like Spiderman and shoots foes with her bow; the Wizard can levitate things and build his own physics objects. Most puzzles can be solved in three completely different ways, depending on which characters you use. Sometimes a deadly error forced me to solve a puzzle with the exact characters who seemed least-suited to handle it. The moments of victory which follow these challenges are among most satisfying in the game. As the set-piece puzzles grow in size and difficulty, they begin to involve hilarious combinations of swinging, spinning, and sliding environmental objects. Using the Wizard to transform a giant cog into a catapult to fling your knight across a pit filled with spikes, then switching to the thief at the last moment to claw to safety, hand over hand up your grappling rope, is incredibly satisfying, not to mention charmingly absurd.

The combat, on the other hand, is much less entertaining. There are about five different kinds of basic enemies, mostly variations on the “evil skeleton” formula. The first you meet is a skeleton with a sword. Then a skeleton with a bow. The next has a shield and a sword. The next has armor and a bow. There’s a firebreathing skeleton. There’s one with a stronger shield and a bigger sword. Blah, blah, blah. By the time you acquire weapon upgrades, defeating them becomes busywork. Also infuriating are the bats—for some reason, a cloud of bats can kill any character in about five seconds unless they run like hell in the opposite direction. Even if you’ve got the Knight out, with his increased health, you can’t target them very easily. Sometimes, you’ll just vault up into a cloud of the furry little jerks as if you’ve come to say hello, and while you swipe ineffectually with your sword they’ll devour you like midair piranhas. Which seems, frankly, stupid. Nevertheless, this bland and sometimes frustrating combat isn’t game-ruining. In fact, it’s actually rather fun in multiplayer, because you can kill everything twice as fast. It’s the sheer excellence of the rest package that makes me so conscious of the occasional ultra-lameness of the fighting.

Why are we fighting these skeletons anyway, you might ask? Well, Trine has a plot to explain that, but it’s paper-thin: it seems more like mood-setting or atmosphere than actual plot. You’re saving the world from some, uh, evil guy. He shows up in the last level. You’re able to control three characters at once because they all touched this one glowy thing while it was being magic and stuff. The wizard is a smooth-talking ladies’ man. The knight is brave and stupid. The Thief is secretive. The narrator sounds like a version of your grandfather who smokes a pipe and wears velvet. It’s exactly what people mean when they say ‘fairy-tale’—I felt like drinking a glass of warm cocoa while I played this, but I couldn’t figure out how to do that while also using the mouse and keyboard. This plot is brilliant in that it manages to set the exact right tone for the game without wasting any of your brain-power! Trine is a mood, ladies and gentlemen. Trine is both a physics puzzle-platformer and a feeling, simultaneously. Does this make sense to you? It makes sense to me.

As for the co-op multiplayer: it is marvelous. You are certainly cheating yourself out of at least fifty percent of the fun of the game if you don’t play multiplayer at least once. After beating it in single-player I completed about three-quarters of the game through in multiplayer, at first with only one partner, then with two others. The game feels quite a bit like Lost Vikings when you can’t switch at will between the characters. Puzzles which were once simple can become quite complicated when you’ve got two other people to worry about, while puzzles which took me fifteen minutes to figure out in single-player sometimes took less than a single minute with someone else onscreen to help. Though it’s disorienting, this keeps the puzzles fresh: playing through in co-op is just as exciting even after you’ve finished the single-player game once already.

Once, however, while caught as the thief at the bottom of a pit filled with skeletons, watching the wizard gleefully drop physics objects and spiked balls on my head while the knight hopped away offscreen like an armed mental ward escapee, I realized that this game is incredibly entertaining when you play like a dangerous maniac. It becomes a physics playground draped in bloom-effects, and there’s no reason not to take advantage of that, even if it means dropping skeletons on your friends until they shout at you. We saw no reason to always play the multiplayer ‘straight’. The characters are all a little bit self-sufficient—your friends can stand having a crate kicked in their face once or twice a level. Or three times. Or every other second. At any rate, the multiplayer is hands-down excellent, no matter what attitude you bring to it.

However: the camera control in multiplayer is pretty terrible, particularly in three-person co-op. Occasionally, characters will run off of opposite sides of the screen and die invisibly because the camera can only zoom out a very, very limited distance. Every level had a few problems related to this, and it eventually became frustrating, particularly since some of the levels seem to give good strategic reasons for the characters to split up.

Overall, however, I had an incredibly positive experience with Trine. It gets so much right that its few faults are pretty easy to ignore. Its single-player can be brain-wrenchingly challenging, and its multiplayer adds solid replay. Particularly if you plan on playing with friends, Trine is a brilliant way to take a break from the sometimes-tiresome rigmarole of gunplay-based co-op games. It’s like ‘Splosion Man in that way, I think: interesting already in single-player, but rewardingly fresh in multiplayer, too. You and your friends will probably finish it in only a few play sessions, and then maybe decide to take on the free, mind-bogglingly-difficult, so-far-PC-only DLC, Path to a New Dawn, together. I haven’t even beaten that in solo play yet—it’s crazy-tough. Whether or not it will also be coming to PSN is unclear at this point, but even if it doesn’t, it’s still a game I would energetically recommend.

Trine, PC – £4.99 delivered

3 Comments Leave yours

  1. “I felt like drinking a glass of warm cocoa while I played this, but I couldn’t figure out how to do that while also using the mouse and keyboard.”

    Try this:

    This was a good review of a charming game. Just need to get round to playing it more. A shame that it only allows local multiplayer though.

  2. Nice review Laura. You sound more excited about than I was – now, that I’m done with it, I feel no need to run back to Trine, I don’t miss it. Perhaps co-op makes the difference?

    (Path to New Dawn, yuck. Jump die three times and you’ll have to restart the level, no checkpoints.)

    • And although the bats were annoying, I just took them out with a several spreads of arrows with the thief – didn’t have run around too much.

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