TRINE / Frozenbyte / PC

Trine is sorta the spiritual follow-up to the Lost Vikings games, except instead of switching between three individual vikings, they're all jammed together into one body and you switch characters freely on the fly a la TMNT NES ("Wizard got killed ... who fights next?"). Unless you play in multiplayer, then three people can simultaneously control each character for enhanced confusion.

Oh, and instead of carefully plotted-out puzzles, things are just kinda tossed together with a form of Havok Fizzicks and you're usually free to come up with one of several different solutions to each puzzle. Well, I think that's the concept the devs had in their heads before they sat down to start making the game, anyway. What actually ends up happening is that you just spam the Wizard's Scribblenaut powers to get through the entire game.

But let's back up just a bit then come back around to that. We're in Ye Olde Times in some kingdom which is half-abandoned due to an undead raid. A Thief and a Wizard independently decide to use this opportunity to pilfer a valuable crystal from the kingdom's mostly-unguarded treasury, but when they touch the crystal they get stuck to it like that kid to the flagpole in A Christmas Story. The lone guard, a bumbling Warrior, finds them stuck to the crystal then decides it's a great idea for him to touch it too, and then somehow they're all in the same body.

They decide to go looking for something that the Wizard thinks will separate them, but hell if I could tell what because the sound mixing isn't great and the voices tend to get lost behind the music. But there's really no need for a story here, you traverse left to right, find a way through obstacles in your path, and beat off skeletons when they rise from their grave.

So each character has their own abilities. The knight swings a sword like he's on trucker crank, plus he can hide behind his seemingly indestructible shield like the fat Viking. You'll need him frequently when gangs of skeletons spawn all around you, but otherwise he mostly stays at the back of the deck because his jumping is the worst. The Thief is the most agile character and also can shoot a bow and throw a grappling hook to swing off stuff. The Wizard only really does one thing, but it's the most important thing in the game -- he summons blocks and platforms out of thin air by drawing them.

So as you start moving through the game, you'll be thinking "OK, you're just having me draw and stack stuff as a gentle introduction to the game's physics, the REAL puzzles will start up later." Then it's 3 hours into the game and you're still piling up magic blocks to climb over everything. Then it's 4 hours in and you get the ability to draw a magic carpet and literally just fly over everything. OK then.

To be fair, the game may have been entirely keyed for multiplayer, with single player as an afterthought that they tossed endless stackable boxes into just to ensure you could progress. That's not gonna help the game's score at all, but it is a possibility. There's bits and bobs about that seem to indicate the devs had more complex ideas for you than just using Walmart stock room techniques to solve every puzzle, but I'm not sure if that's made more for multiplayer or they started making real puzzles then just kinda abandoned them halfway. Whatever the case, the only challenge really comes from the fact that the Havok Fizzicks makes stacking stuff a bit unpredictable and wonky at times. Often you feel like you're just manipulating the fizzicks vagaries until they fall into place rather than solving a coherent, planned-out puzzle.

I also feel like the combat should have been less clunky if there was gonna be so much of it. Now, I want to stress it's never *hard*. The endless mob of skeletons you fight are both dumb and weak, and there's save points that revive dead characters and give everyone back 50% health literally every 10 seconds or so to boot. The only time things get challenging on the combat front is when you're suddenly locked in a room with a boss who rushdowns the shit out of you while you're trying to figure out where his weak point is for massive damage. All these bosses have a save point right near their entrance that can be used for endless revives, though, so they're just more tedious and time-consuming than challenging. But the combat just feels very unrefined and mashy, yet the game is endlessly spawning skeletons at you. I'd understand if it was an occasional thing, but the devs made it a central feature.

The main thing that's tooted about with this game is the Aesthetics, and while it's a pretty and detailed art style, it also uses one of those maddening pulled-out views so you can't really appreciate the fine detail and the characters all look kind of indistinct. They could really stand some more contrast, they just blend in or get lost in background shadow/vaseline smear too often. The soundtrack is nice and relaxing, tho, moreso than you'd expect for trawling through dank dungeons and mashing skeletons non-stop.

Trine has a lot of individually good things going on that somehow just never congeal into a total package of greatness. It's not bad, it's certainly neat, but I really felt like it was kind of a repetitive drag after a while. It may be much better in multiplayer, but I can't test that because I don't have friends.

Videos :

* Gameplay Video