System Requirements: 2.0 GHz CPU; 512 MB RAM (1 GB for Vista); Graphics Card Radeon X800 or GeForce 6800; 1 GB hard-drive space; Windows XP; Windows Vista or Windows 7
Release date: Available now
Side-scrolling games incorporating a lot of platform action are considered a bit retro on the PC, so it’s refreshing when a new release comes along with the goal of breathing new life into the genre. Created by Finnish developer Frozenbyte, renowned for the excellent third-person action shooter Shadowgrounds, Trine is an innovative game that combines physics-based action with physical puzzle solving in a variety of lush medieval settings.
After the death of a great king and the domination of the land by evil forces, the Trine—a mysterious ancient artifact—summons three heroes to save the kingdom. Each of the very different characters—a knight, a thief and a wizard—has distinctive abilities that complement one another. The knight is a fantastic swordsman and is great in close combat. The thief is a wonderful long-range archer who can swing to inaccessible ledges using a rope with a grappling hook. And the wizard can create and levitate a variety of objects useful for multiple purposes.
You can play through Trine as a single player assuming all three roles, or alternatively in a co-op mode with three players, one controlling each character. As you progress, you acquire new abilities by finding treasure chests, or upgrade existing powers by collecting and spending experience potions you discover. There needs to be deft switching among the three characters, often on the fly, to complete each level. The gameplay is action-packed, but with the exception of the last level there is no time pressure, so you can proceed at your own pace at one of the selectable difficulty levels.
Trine has many stellar qualities. The visuals and music are absolutely exquisite, the best I have seen anywhere in years. I was completely enthralled by the enchanted fantasy environments teeming with amazingly animated life, gorgeous waterfalls and rainbows. The story narrator’s voice is just perfect. The level design is consistently intriguing, nicely combining action and puzzle elements and gradually increasing in challenge. You encounter fun traps and contraptions along the way, incorporating falling, rotating and disintegrating objects. The implementation of physics, using the nVidia PhysX engine, is excellent and realistic. I love that most puzzles have multiple solutions.
Trine’s deficiencies are extremely inconsequential. The game’s last level, which I was eagerly anticipating all the way through, was not nearly as spectacular and conclusive as I had hoped. In terms of enemies, while most often you encounter pesky skeletons (with some bats and spiders thrown in), the few bosses you face are way too easy to defeat. Most levels are reasonably short, but even with checkpoints it’s a bit disappointing that you have to restart from the beginning of a level if you quit one in the middle for reasons beyond your control.
Quite frankly, despite its minor flaws, Trine is a truly polished tour de force—a smashing success that is deeply satisfying in each of its 15 levels. The freshness, creativity and attention to detail evident in every scene are just stunning. I increasingly found myself totally addicted, fearful after each level that the game would be over and I would be craving more.