Those who know me know that I'm fond of making sweeping, completely over the top statements - generally filled with the kind of boyish enthusiasm you associate with, well, enthusiastic, over the top boys. Here comes one of those statements right now, look: If you ever, EVER, play a game as beautiful as this for the rest of your life, you'll have lived a truly remarkable existence.
Of course, you probably will play something this beautiful in the future, but the sentiments remain - Trine is agonisingly lovely. From the graphics, to the voice-over, to the characters - everything has been made with a flair and personality that's impossible to not adore. But, come, let us flesh out these hyperbolic statements.
The Trine of the title is an artefact, woken from its resting place in the Royal vault by some pesky, and oddly sexy, thief. As soon as she touches it, she finds herself stuck to it. At the same time, a wizard notices that there's a light coming from the vault and saunters off to investigate. He too can't remove his hand once he's placed it upon the Trine. Finally a knight, self-proclaimed protector of the Kingdom, realises there's treachery afoot and romps off to save the day. Can you guess what happens? Yes, he too is bound to the Trine upon grasping it. Suddenly all of them vanish, such is the power of the Trine.
You see, you get to play all three characters at once. One is under your control at a time, whilst the other two are safely ensconced inside the Trine, and you can switch betwixt them at your whim. Each has unique abilities - the thief has a bow and arrow; the knight a sword, shield, and brute strength; and the wizard has, unbelievably, magic powers - and using each of these abilities is the core of the game.
At its heart, Trine is a sideways-scrolling platformer featuring lots of physics puzzles. As you adventure your way through the levels, you'll encounter obstacles that bar your way - you know the sort of thing: gaping chasms, out of reach ledges, cracked walls - and it's up to you how you use each characters abilities to negotiate these obstacles. Each puzzle can be approached in multiple ways - do you use the wizard to levitate some blocks into place, then magic up a plank to balance on? How about slinging some of the thief's rope arrows to swing across that chasm? Or if you really wanted, you could get the knight to chuck some blocks into the river using his immense might. There isn't a prescribed way of doing any of the puzzles - you really can do whatever you want. Which is good, as some of them made my bile boil until I realised that there was a far simpler way of achieving my goal. Such as using the wizard's building blocks after trying for ages to swing somewhere using the thief, for example. It’s neat – the whole premise works really well and most obstacles are satisfying to come up against and to beat.
Throughout the levels are scattered jars of green experience liquid. Just like your Mum used to buy. You can also gain experience from duffing up undead, but I'll come to that in a moment or two. Collecting 50 of these will level up your posse, enabling you to power up the aforementioned abilities - fancy a flaming sword for your knight? Or how about the ability to magic up more boxes with the wizard? It’s rudimentary levelling, but it does add some kind of incentive other than seeing what the next level brings.
And that for me is the ultimate joy – seeing the next, gorgeous level. Trine’s blessed by some of the most pleasing graphics you’ll see in a while. Not just eye-catchingly beautiful, but also brilliantly designed. Each level is unique and, well, frankly they’re enchanting. Actually, the whole thing is like playing a fairy story. A good one with skeletons, of course. This feel is exaggerated by a brilliant voice over – it’s like hearing your favourite Uncle read you a bedtime story. The voices of the characters are also mostly superb. The slightly lecherous wizard and the always hungry knight are the best, although the thief is pretty drab by comparison.
It also has full, drop-in-anytime, co-op play. I have to admit that I didn’t try this, and I’m reviewing the game purely on its single player, but the co-op mode looks absolutely awesome. You can be sure that I’ll be giving this a thorough rinse in the near future and will report back my findings in the discussion area.
It’s not all a bed of roses though. It’s a platformer, and it suffers from a problem common to most of them. Namely massively irritating jumps. Not necessarily leaps of faith, but annoyingly precise ones onto small ledges. This isn’t helped by the slightly loose control system. The puzzles can get repetitive after a while too – although perhaps playing the co-op game would’ve prevented this.
The fights with the skeletons are my main bone (ta-da!) of contention here, though. Every now and again several skeletons will spawn one after the other and it’s just an absolute grind to smash them all to pieces. Some people may enjoy the light slashing action, but to me it just gets in the way and really breaks up the flow of the game.
Which is a horrifying crime with a game this lovely. After all, you wouldn’t have stopped your Uncle mid-bedtime flow, would you?