Review: A magician, a thief and a knight walk into bar...
When I first downloaded the demo for Trine, I was thrust into a living fantasy world. Luscious forests and a sprawling story tickled my imagination. I couldn't download the full version fast enough. Maybe it was because I had just finished watching Jim Henson's ?The Storyteller' on my Netflix queue (if you have not seen this, you absolutely MUST watch it), or maybe it's because I just needed a good fantasy game; whatever the case, those initial feelings of splendor and delight soon gave way to annoyance and frustration. The strengths, which I loved so dearly at first, would reveal themselves to be the game's biggest weaknesses.
When Trine first begins, a narrator, whose voice will accompany the main characters on their quest, recounts a classic tale. The king of a mystical kingdom has already passed away, and his kingdom has plunged into an era of political turmoil. His once beautiful and enchanted lands have begun to whither and die. With the sudden emergence of an army of the undead, three heroes (a magician, a thief and a knight) are mysteriously drawn to the Astral Academy, a Hogwarts-esque school.
All three arrive at the exact same time, and stumble upon a mysterious device in the center of the academy. Placing their hands upon the device, they are blinded in a flash of light and disappear. As it goes, the three have stumbled across a mysterious object known only as the Trine, a device that binds souls. Only one soul is allowed to exist in the physical world at a time, with the other two souls remaining inside the device. In an effort to free themselves from the confines of the Trine, the heroes will embark on an adventure that will test the strength of their hearts, and will battle the legions of evil in an effort to free their souls.
The soul binding mentioned above is what gives Trine is uniqueness. Since only one soul is allowed to be in the physical plain at a time, you are only allowed to use one character at a time. Be it the magician, thief or knight, you will use each of their individual skills to traverse the land and defeat the forces of evil. This makes for some interesting puzzle sequences. The wizard will help you to build boxes to jump to higher platforms and weigh down scales, while the knight will be your biggest help in battling the undead head-on. The thief, my personal favorite, will use arrows and a grappling hook to swing from platform to platform. The thief is also pretty adept at battling the skeletons, and becomes much more useful later on once her bows are upgraded. In order to complete some of the puzzles, you will have to switch characters mid-act. Thankfully this is accomplished with the simple flick of a button.
Each of these characters have their own skills and methods of attack, and as such, each puzzle will require the use of a particular ability. Throughout the game you will acquire experience, in the form of green vases, and be able to upgrade said abilities. Also, scattered throughout the levels are hidden treasure chests. Each chest will have a perk inside that will give your character a boost in health, defense or magic. Though it is a somewhat shallow leveling up branch, it adds a layer of much needed depth to the game.
For a PSN game, Trine has amazing graphics. The world is something fascinating to behold and falls somewhere between Alice in Wonderland and the Sword in the Stone. It is very much a world of splendor and wonder. Giant mushrooms coat the ground and an aura of magic swirls through the air. A lot of bright and aptly used colors fill the background and truly make this place seem like a living entity. The characters are well modeled and the only drop in frame rate I noticed was once when I had about 12 enemies attacking from all directions. I know that's not a lot, but since this game never throws more than that in your direction, it really is not a problem.
The levels are well enough designed; however, the secrets that developers placed throughout the game are so easy to find, I felt a little disappointed in the fact that these were not more fleshed out. If you have ever played a video game before, you will easily find about 90% of these. Which brings me to my biggest problem with Trine: it is too easy.
I understand that not all games have to be hard to be enjoyable and simply can be fun, but Trine runs out of steam fast. What started as an enjoyable romp through a magical forest and an enchanted castle quickly turns into a test of patience. You do the same things over and over and over again. And when you find yourself in a new location, you do it once more. Make a few boxes, swing on a few platforms, kill a few enemies, lather, rinse and repeat. The game just does not offer up enough variety. You will end up fighting the same enemies at the end of the game that you fought at the beginning.
There are a few bosses, if you can even call them that, but these are the easiest bosses in the world. And the final boss, don't even get me started on the final boss. The longest you can play Trine is for maybe an hour or two at a time without becoming bored.
What I thought was so charming in the demo, the narrator and the individual characters, becomes extremely annoying toward the middle. The narrator orates the heroes' journey in the beginning of the game, with his voice over the initial gameplay. As the game proceeds, his narration is limited to the loading screens between levels. This is akin to pulling teeth.
LONG after the level is loaded, the narrator is still talking with nothing for you too look at except a plain map of where the heroes have travelled. The screen will display a ?press X to continue', and the narrator will continue to ramble. I can't tell you how many times I wanted the narrator to shut up so I could continue the game. Sometimes he talks for well over a minute with nothing for you to do except look on a boring screen and hear him out. I mean, come on, this is inexcusable. Give me something. This game was released in 2009, make a simple cinematic, or give me in-game footage of the characters traversing the land. Do not make me look at what basically amounts to a blank screen while I just listen to someone talk. This is not an audiocast, this is a video game, VIDEO being the key word here. Also, while I'm on topic, the voice acting is pretty terrible. It's not just that the actors are bad; it also has to do with the mixing. It is pretty jolting when the characters speak, and you can tell that it was placed over the great background score and not integrated well.