Trine Shines on the PlayStation Network
The PlayStation Network has had more than its share of quality games gracing its online network over the last year or so. Making a concentrated effort to offer unique and high quality games exclusive to the system (at least time-based exclusives), the platform has put forth offerings that should make Xbox 360 users drool with envy – a big step considering the PS3 was, in many respects, a distant second to Microsoft’s console when it came to online offerings. Not so anymore, as the PSN’s latest release Trine continues the trend as a high quality game wrapped in a beautiful package.
Trine is an action/puzzle-platformer that will evoke fond memories of The Lost Vikings for those fortunate to have played Blizzard’s popular title. In Trine, three characters are bound together for a mystical journey: a knight, thief, and wizard. Each brings a unique set of abilities to the table essential to the completion of their journeys. Each offers completely different experiences and play styles. When playing with a group of three, it’s good to know who you prefer, as you can’t cycle between characters like you can in one or two-player games.
The knight is perhaps the easiest and most straight forward of the character classes. He wields a sword and shield and is the savior of the group when the party is attacked. His shield can block incoming projectiles and falling rocks, making him particularly durable and handy to have nearby for a fight. The other characters are moderate at best in combat, making the knight Mr. Popular when the group is confronted by an army of skeletons.
The thief character, my personal favorite, is easily the most nimble and mobile character from which to choose. Her grappling hook can attach to any wood surfaces on the level, allowing her to swing and jump or scale her rope to the top. Where other characters are forced to deal with precarious jumps and traps, there are often ample opportunities for the thief to completely bypass them all together with a few slick moves and wait for her partners to make the trek over. In addition to her grappling hook, the thief has a bow with an unlimited supply of arrows, ideal for taking down enemies from a distance or at least attempting to do her best knight impression when stuck with the wizard.
The wizard is the most unique of the characters and allows for a lot of fun and creativity. Unable to learn the elusive fireball spell, the wizard instead has mastered telekinesis and can manipulate objects from a distance; often serving as the only solution to a particularly nasty puzzle. He also has the ability to conjure. By drawing on the screen using the right analog, the wizard can create boxes to use as stepping stones to reach higher areas, block incoming projectiles, or drop on top of enemies. All this comes at a price as the wizard is unable to defend himself in any traditional manner in combat, making him a sitting duck unless he’s able to quickly draw a box to fall on the offenders head.
Characters level up as a group along the way, giving ability points to spend on upgrades to skills. The knight can get a hammer to smash objects, upgrade his sword to a flaming sword, and lift and throw heavy items. The thief can eventually fire up to three arrows, loose a flaming arrow that also serves to light dark passages, and charge her bow quicker. The wizard’s upgrades come in the forms of being able to conjure planks and floating triangle platforms and being able to summon more than one at a time. The upgrades give just enough sense of progression to the game and character management without bogging down the main gameplay.
Speaking of gameplay, Trine is a 2D platformer full of lava, water, enemies, fireballs, and several other assorted deadly mechanisms. Characters must work together, utilizing the unique skills each has to offer, to get to the end of the stage. Things start off simple enough and don’t provide much of a challenge, serving as an informal tutorial on the controls and abilities at your disposal. For me, somewhere around the two hour mark was when I found myself all of a sudden dealing with some much more precarious situations while wondering how I could possibly make it over the lava-filled floor, land on each tiny platform while avoiding the swinging spiked balls, all the while not getting shot by the trigger-happy skeleton across the way. More often than not it was some wizard ingenuity that saved us and kept the group alive. With all of the perils in the way, it’s a good thing Trine doesn’t punish too harshly for dying.
Several places along the way within each level there are checkpoints that resurrect dead allies and allow unlimited respawns when the entire party goes down. During my playthrough I did experience a glitch that had me stuck far beneath the ground with some haywire graphics and unable to move along the X-axis. It took some creative work from our group to get us out of there and certainly wasn’t the sort of puzzle the creators had in mind. After that the graphics started chugging a bit, easily fixed after closing and reopening the game. This did only happen the one time, but something worth noting, nonetheless.
While Trine can be played by yourself or with a friend, it’s best when going three strong – where everyone has their own character. One or two players can switch out freely to the other character; there can never be more than one type at a time, making some areas easier than they were designed. When playing with two players, we often found ourselves cheating the system with our “magic carpet” system technique; one of us creates a plank for the other to stand on, then using telekinesis, levitates the plank with him on it up to wherever we’re trying to go. Once there, the other takes over as the wizard and does the same for the other guy. It worked, but it did seem a little shady. When rocking with three players you are forced to come up with legit ways through tricky situations, as the wizard can’t levitate himself and would be left behind. There were also plenty of moments where two of the three died and the remaining player would make a mad dash hoping to hit the next checkpoint before dying himself, particularly comical when done by the defenseless wizard avoiding angry skeletons.
While the gameplay is focal to a game like this, it would be a crime not to touch on the graphics. Trine is beautiful . The environments are high fantasy with lush backgrounds and vibrant visuals. The entire graphical presentation is so engrossing that it feels like a special game from that standpoint alone. My only complaint on the graphical side was that I found it a little too difficult to see where my character was going when underwater. Fortunately, that is a rare occurrence in the game and didn’t serve as a major issue, but it was still frustrating when dealing with a limited oxygen supply.
Sound is nearly as impressive as the graphics. Music is wonderful and the voice acting is spot on. If anything, I’d like to hear more quips from the characters during the levels, although that would run the risk of repetitive banter when repeating certain difficult sections many times. The narrator has a relaxing tone that sounds like a gentle sage retelling a familiar fairytale to a captive audience.
Trine is a wonderful addition to the PlayStation Network and a worthy buy for anyone who enjoys cooperative games. While it can be played alone, it is really meant to be enjoyed by three people together if at all possible. I hope developer Frozenbyte returns to the Trine universe in the near future, as they are on to something here and have a winning formula. Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to get back to it. This last level is a doozy.
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 4.6 Graphics
Simply put, Trine’s visuals are astounding. Underwater portions could be clearer and the screen can get a bit too cluttered from time to time. 4.0 Control
Simple mechanics keep controls orderly and straightforward. Occasional plummeting deaths will result from your character’s jumps and movement not being quite what you’d expected. 4.0 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
Music, narration, and character voiceovers are fun and add to the setting. 4.5 Play Value
Co-op features give the game lots of life and can lead to some frantic and fun group mayhem. Creativity is rewarded, although the knight doesn’t offer as much when compared to the thief or wizard. 4.4 Overall Rating – Great
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.