It's always fun to play a game that falls into a genre that used to be very popular. We've seen a small resurgence in side-scrollers in the last year with games like Bionic Commando Rearmed, LittleBigPlanet, and Shadow Complex. Playing these games definitely feels nostalgic and I think most gamers appreciate the retro style every now and then, between the modern big budget titles that push your hardware to its limit. The time gap from the general extinction of side-scrollers to now also creates a bit of a strange situation, because gaming graphics have improved so much. This sudden emergence led to quite a bit of hype for Trine and Bionic Commando Rearmed, on the PC side of things, and playing Trine for the first time, after not playing any side-scrollers for years, was an outstanding experience.
Trine is Frozenbyte's third game and is presented in a fairytale-like manner. It takes place shortly after the downfall of a magnificent kingdom, which is the result of the king's death. Because a descendant doesn't exist, chaos erupts, and evil magic comes about. Before long, an entire undead army rises, and the people of the kingdom begin to flee. Meanwhile, a thief is after an ancient magical artifact in the castle that she heard was of great value. After finding the artifact, among other treasures, she is somehow stuck to it. A wizard also comes to the object, touches it and is stuck, and then a knight, who is the protector of the castle, comes upon both of them and also touches the object. Somehow their "souls are bound together," and they soon realize they can use this power to rid the kingdom of evil. This magic allows you to switch between the characters on the fly. Here's a brief rundown on each of the characters:
Trine is definitely a platformer, and Frozenbyte uses this gameplay style to present puzzles in the game. Often you'll come across obstacles that seem impossible to get around, and this is where magic and other tools come into play. You'll find that the thief, with her grappling hook, and the wizard to be incredibly useful in these situations. If one of these two characters dies along the way, it becomes much more difficult to proceed; to the point where you'll need to start over at the previous checkpoint. The checkpoints themselves are scattered nicely throughout each level and make the fact that there is no saving in the game much more tolerable. However, I did have a problem with Steam saving my progress and configuration options at one point. (Resolved with console command – details)
Controlling the characters with a mouse and keyboard seemed easy enough, but I didn't have as much luck with a gamepad. I purchased a Logitech Cordless Rumblepad 2 for this game, because gamepads and side-scrollers work so well together (it's a really nice gamepad if you're in the market) but wasn't able to get all of the controls configured in a way that worked properly. For example, I couldn't seem to assign a button to the knight's shield, which is an essential part of his defense. I eventually opted to just switch back to the mouse and keyboard, but it would have been nice to use the Rumblepad. Part of what makes the game so easy to control is the great camerawork. The camera pans smoothly along with your character and does what it should at the right moments.
Leveling up takes place after collecting 50 green bottles, which are scattered throughout the levels and are also given upon the occasional enemy kill. They become more difficult to reach as you continue the game, and this feature offers another challenge in addition to the enemies and platforming puzzles. When you reach 50 experience points, 1 point is then given to each of the three characters that can be used to upgrade their abilities in the inventory menu. In addition to abilities, the inventory also contains certain special objects that you find throughout the game in treasure chests. These items consist of things such as the wizard's "scales of fish," which allows him to breathe underwater, and the thief's "health vile," which restores her health to %25 if she drops below it. The inventory items you collect are small improvements for the characters and need to be activated in order to work.
When it comes to difficulty, Trine largely isn't too difficult. I came up across the occasional boss, but it honestly seemed like the bats and the spiders inflicted more damage and were incredibly more annoying. Levels are filled with walking skeletons, the primary enemy in the game, with swords and shields or bow and arrows, but they just come off as more annoying than challenging. Standard to most games, as you progress the amount of enemies and the difficulty of gameplay overall increases. For the casual gamer the difficulty is all right, but the veterans will probably find Trine lacking a bit in this area.
Graphics are easily the standout element in Trine. Environments vary from old dark castles, to woods with gigantic mushrooms and several waterfalls, to ancient ruins among other places. That being said, the game wouldn't be the same without all the amazing lighting effects. Frozenbyte accomplished some great things with the lighting in this game, like the way the light dances off the water making the scenery seem very three-dimensional, the way the sunlight pops through the trees, or the way the lightning bugs scintillate around lamps and flowers. The characters and their animations also seem well done and polished, and their movements add to the smooth gameplay.
Sound and music also seemed to flow seamlessly and fit very well. Although it was a fairly small portion of the game, some of the voice acting was surprisingly good. As a new level loads up, the narrator tells the story, as the characters continue on their journey, which fits perfectly with the fairytale-like presentation. The characters themselves don't speak very often, usually just at the beginning of each level, but also sound good for the most part. Music fits the atmosphere, as well.
In ending, I'd conclude that Trine is a good game, but it was a little over-hyped. While it was nice to play a side-scroller for the first time in several years, the game doesn't necessarily leave an outstanding impression. It's certainly is priced well now ($20), and is fun, but I think the difficulty could have been upped a bit, and I would have like to see a little more variety with the enemies. If you love side-scroller platforming games, then you'll certainly want to pick this one up. For the more casual fan it's a bit more difficult to say one way or the other. The graphics are great, the gameplay is fairly good, but it does get somewhat repetitive after a while, and it is somewhat short at around 5 to 6 hrs. For the casual gamer on the budget, wait for a sale. If money isn't much of a concern and you enjoyed the trailers/demo, it seems worth it.