Trine carries a certain weight of expectation on its shoulders. Much lauded on its PC release, the lengthy delay of the Euro PSN release, and that itís still not hit the US store, means itís lost the element of surprise. Thereís big expectations, but can it live up to them?
In Trine you play as a horny wizard, an acrobatic thief, and a tubby warrior. You only control one at a time, and each have their own health meters, but more importantly their own strengths. To oversimplify things, the knight is best for combat, the thief platforming, and the magician puzzles. It is more complicated than that of course, as you adapt to whatever the game sees fit to throw at you.
Unfortunately for Trine, itís problems revolve around each of its 3 gameplay mechanics. The physics for the platforming can often be sporadic, youíll make a jump but perhaps just the edge of the ledge, and itíll knock you backwards so you fall to your death. Itís as though some of the platforms have a layer of slimy moss on them, so that rather than jumping or climbing youíre running up a travelator. There are also occasions where items youíve destroyed catch your foot or shoulder, pulling you down so you miss your jump. Nowhere is this more prevalent than on the final level, which to be fair is an extreme example and not entirely representative of the rest of the game.
The platforming has its annoyances but itís the other aspects of gameplay that cause more ire. The combat for example is boring and tedious. With the knight you have a sword and shield, you must block attacks with your shield, then counter. When faced with multiple enemies this becomes a slow process, as youíll be unable to land any sort of combo on an enemy without taking damage from someone else.
Youíll likely abandon the Ďcorrectí method for fighting and instead use the knights learned kick move. A cheap method undoubtedly, itís also not a fun one, but it brought some much needed brevity to combat. Similarly if enemies appeared while I was still some distance from them, I would opt to use the thiefís arrows rather than stand toe to toe.
The downside to using the thief, and occasionally the knight, is that I would often be unwittingly stood on an enemy spawn point. While stood there it wouldnít activate, but once I thought I was done with the skeletal hordes Iíd move on, allowing for another seemingly endless wave of enemies to appear. This is really the problem, the combat isnít interesting, fun, or competent enough for you to look forward to enemy encounters. The game, in the interest of performance doesnít throw all its enemies at you all at once, instead piecemeal-ing them. Which ultimately means that just when you think youíre ready to move on yet another skeleton will appear and youíll start muttering to yourself. A better idea would have been to have enemies in set places, like a traditional action platformer.
The wizard is probably the most frustrating character though. Bar the thiefís swing mechanic, his ability to create platforms, ramps and blocks is the most interesting part of the game. Finding some elaborate way to snatch an out of reach vial of experience, or building a contraption to get past some scenery is good fun, and certainly a highlight. Unfortunately the physics start to get in the way. Perhaps this is a problem exclusive to the PS3 version, and why itís been delayed so long. The problem is that the objects he creates will sporadically spin uncontrollably, a pain when all youíre trying to do is plant a box, but infuriating when youíre riding his moving platform, and this isnít due entirely to the 6-axis controls.
Itís also hard to know if youíre completing the puzzles in the right way. Were you meant to build a tower? Were you meant to hover up there? What about exploiting the thiefís rope? And surely you werenít meant to just use an object to knock an item down?
Itís not all bad though, and it would be disingenuous of me to pretend otherwise. The graphics are pretty good, nice and chunky with lots of lighting effects. The characters are well animated and the game holds its frame rate well considering how much itís doing. I had some issues with the later fire levels, but that was noticeable as much because it was such a novelty. Personally I found the contrast a little garish, but it certainly looks superb on the lighter, greener levels. The sound and score too are top drawer, the narrative perhaps doesnít quite do enough to distinguish one level from another, but these are small gripes.
Believe it or not I really enjoyed Trine in itís early stages, playing around with the physics, swinging with the thief, even the simple joy of besting a puzzle. But as the game progressed I felt more and more like I was fighting against the physics, frustration replaced compulsion, and I began to dread combat. I dare say what I found frustrating will barely register with many of you, so if you are still intrigued by the game give it a go. It has a decent length, and for as infuriating as it is, it can also be compulsive.