Is This Steamy, Downloadable Threesome Worthy of Your Dollars?
The twenty years I've spent playing video games have taught me three things about my gaming brethren: they all own computers, their use of the Internet is constantly changing, and they all enjoy a good ménage à trois.
The types of threesomes gamers enjoy can vary, however. Some prefer goddess on goddess on goddess action represented by the Triforce in Zelda; others enjoy the card game Triple Triad from Final Fantasy; and more aggressive individuals prefer Viking threesomes found in the cooperative SNES classic: The Lost Vikings. Regardless of which type of threesome you prefer, you might want to check out the latest three-way action not featured in tabloids. Before you start thinking with your genitals, I'll tell you what it is: It's a Finnish threesome known as Trine.
During 2009, a downloadable title known as Trine was released for PCs and PS3. It met with relatively little fanfare upon its release due to frequent delays, a high price point, and stiff competition from other downloadable games. But should this digital threesome remain unknown?
Well let me ask you this: Do you enjoy puzzle-packed 2D platformers? You know, the kind where you can transform into different characters at will to overcome character-specific obstacles? If this has piqued your interest, you might want to keep reading.
Trine is a beautiful 2D platformer (created by Finnish developer Frozenbyte) that has much in common with another recent digital release known as Torchlight. These two titles differ from a gameplay sense, but they both share gorgeous visuals, beautiful music, and finely-tuned gameplay. Strangely enough, they also feature similar voice acting and tell equally rudimentary tales.
What impressed me the most with Trine, however, was how well each component of the game meshed. The game's magical forests, dungeons, and caverns truly felt alive due to subtle environmental details and lighting effects, soothing music that captured the majesty and tranquility of Trine's environments, and the natural movement of the game's characters and enemies.
From a visual standpoint alone, Trine is a masterpiece that manages to impress despite it being able to run on current-generation stock desktops. Its environments are serene, colorful worlds that rival those of mental images created from the greatest of fairy tales. Trine's lighting and weather effects also play an important role in making the game's fantasy realm believable.
Trine may be stunning from a visual standpoint, but it's also a pleasant aural experience. Ari Pulkinnen's wonderful soundtrack perfectly captures the magic of environments ranging from crystalline caverns to shadowy thickets. Throughout the entire experience, you probably won't find a single piece that doesn't make your ears tingle. But will the gameplay stimulate your soul?
Fortunately, Trine delivers a well-rounded package in addition to a nice exterior. Trine's core gameplay mechanic comes from its own name, and as you might imagine, that involves the use of three characters.
Towards the beginning of the adventure, three individuals unintentionally merge due to an ancient device called the Trine. These fine ladies and gentleman include a knight with a voracious appetite, a sexy, female thief, and a stereotypical bearded wizard. Thanks to the Trine, players can switch between any of these characters at will -- or all three can be used simultaneously if three people are playing.
Each of these three characters have different abilities that are essential for making it through this 2D platformer. The lumbering knight serves as your main warrior, and can attack, block, pick up objects, and smash obstacles.
When agility is needed, the player can transform into the thief who has a grappling hook to swing across chasms. The thief can also attack enemies by arching arrows, and she can light up seemingly impenetrable darkness with fire arrows. The wizard on the other hand is a complete wuss (he has no attack abilities), but he makes up for this by being able to conjure blocks, platforms, and rotatable planks.
Throughout the journey, these characters will earn an equal amount of experience whenever enemies are defeated, which will eventually grant them levels that can be used for obtaining new abilities. Each of the game's characters only has three abilities, but each ability can be improved twice if enough experience is obtained.
Characters can also use healing items and pieces of equipment that grant minor stat boosts, but I found most of them unnecessary on 'Normal' difficulty. Still, it's nice to see that there's a little customization in this title that is primarily a combination of action and puzzles.
So how do Trine's action and puzzles fare when compared with the rest of the experience? Most of the action consists of defeating enemies, swinging to new areas, and discovering treasure chests, and it's actually quite satisfying. Due to my inexperience with PC games, I wasn't sure how a 2D platformer would control with a mouse and keyboard, but it actually works quite well.
To run and jump, the player simply has to use four keys on a keyboard, which operates similarly to a d-pad. Controlling your character's movement is precise enough with the keyboard that you'll never wish you were using a controller. Besides general movement, most of the game's other operations are controlled via mouse.
When using the knight, the left mouse button controls sword swings and the right blocks with the shield. The middle button switches between moves, so you'll only have to enter menus when assigning ability points.
The thief controls similarly to the knight -- she uses her grappling hook with the right mouse button and the left controls her arrows. Using the grappling hook takes practice, but you'll know how to change your elevation and momentum by the end of the first level. Firing arrows takes a while to master as well, as you'll need to change the trajectory of your arrows to hit enemies located on different elevations, but you'll soon find that charging your shot and using the mouse pointer to arc your shots isn't that difficult.
Unfortunately, the wizard doesn't control quite as well as the other two characters, mostly due to his wonky platform-rotation controls. Picking up objects and conjuring blocks is simple, but rotating platforms is difficult to manage with the keyboard and mouse. This will occasionally create frustrating moments, but other types of puzzles are far more frequent, so it's not much of an issue.
Trine's action and puzzles are generally pretty basic, but being able to switch between three characters and their unique abilities keeps things fresh throughout the entire experience. You've probably fought skeletons and solved switch puzzles in caverns before, but Trine mixes things up with plenty of grappling and other death-defying stunts.
Most of the game is fairly easy (at least on 'Normal') due to frequent checkpoints that partially heal and revive your party members in addition to serving as a location to continue your journey. However, you'll occasionally encounter dangerous obstacles that require clever maneuvering.
The final dungeon in particular tests what you've learned throughout your journey by forcing you to climb to the top of a tower as quickly as possible, while avoiding its plentiful traps and enemies. This concluding area is slightly more challenging than the rest of your journey, in part due to cheap traps that can kill your character instantly and infrequent checkpoints, but at least completing it feels rewarding.
Trine is a wonderful experience for anyone who has ten dollars to spare. It's a relatively brief experience, but it's also a beautiful journey that's matched by an interesting character-swapping system. You may have experienced certain components of Trine in other titles (i.e. block puzzles), but its combination of precise platforming, RPG elements, and conjuring objects make it a title worth purchasing. You've never experienced a ménage à trois this inexpensive and satisfying.
· Beautiful visuals that look great on a stock PC released in the last two years
· Features a soothing soundtrack that captures the mood of the experience
· Excellent character-swapping system
· Rotating platforms feels awkward and imprecise
· Some puzzles can easily be bypassed. Boss fights feel no different than battling standard enemies