One of the games featured in the Humble Frozenbyte Bundle was Trine, it took me a while to get around to playing it but I’m glad I finally did. Trine is a side-scrolling game with RPG elements and some interesting physics-based puzzles. New side-scrolling games are few and far between these days (especially PC ones) so it’s quite a refreshing change from the mainstream games of the past few years.
One of the focal points of Trine’s gameplay is the ability to switch your character instantaneously. You can choose between a wizard, thief, or knight. The wizard is strictly for solving puzzles and navigating the world by spawning objects such as boxes and planks. The thief is the most mobile of the bunch with a grappling hook that allows her to swing over gaps and reach high up platforms, and a bow to kill far away enemies. The knight is simply used for killing things. Instead of sharing health and magic, each character has their own. Likewise, when one character dies, the others will still be alive and usable. As you may expect, when one of your character dies it can really stall your progress but fortunately there are strategically placed checkpoints throughout the level which will restore some health and magic for you as well as resurrecting any slain characters.
Throughout each level you’ll come across green potions hidden in clever locations and see green mists coming out of some enemies when you kill them. Collecting these gives you experience and once you’ve collected enough you will level up. Levelling up means you get points which you can put towards upgrades for your characters. Upgrades such as more powerful weapons for the thief or knight, or being able to create more items at a time for the wizard.
I found the puzzles in Trine to be the funnest part. These aren’t always puzzles in the traditional sense, really, but rather just trying to figure out the best way to navigate a level or how to reach that very tempting green potion way up by the ceiling. Since these are physics-based puzzles, Newton’s laws and the limitations of your characters are the only things which limit how you can solve them. Two players may come up with two completely different solutions to a problem. Speaking of which, I wish I had had the opportunity to try the co-op mode. It seems like there would be some good potential there for puzzles which can only be solved by two people, I just don’t know if Frozenbyte actually explored doing anything like that.
Unfortunately, the combat isn’t as nearly as pleasant as the puzzles and almost feels tedious at times. There were times when I felt the game might even be better without combat at all, since the environment itself is engaging enough as is (Portal did it successfully). The fact that the combat seems to be the weakest parts is a bit interesting to me, considering that for so many games, combat is all you get. Of course there are games such as Amnesia: The Dark Decent which eliminated combat altogether, and that game certainty turned out all right. I just wish I could pinpoint exactly what made it feel tedious, I think it was because the puzzles were always on my mind that it never occurred to me that some skeleton would be shooting arrows at me. And it doesn’t even take that much work to take them down, so a sense of accomplishment isn’t there, as it is when you solve a puzzle finally.
Did this game have a story? I’m really not sure. All I remember is that some guy would talk before each level and sometimes the characters would say something in an attempt to be funny. Come on Frozenbyte! There are way better ways to tell a story than having someone sputter out some nonsense during a loading screen (see Bastion or Dragon Age: Origins for good ways to tell a story), forcing me to wait for the guy to stop talking minutes after the level is done loading. It may have been a great story but I won’t know because I didn’t pay enough attention, I was just too eager to start playing. And yes, I feel this is the game’s fault.
Weak storytelling and boring combat detract from this otherwise good game. So much so that I think the game would have turned out better if they had forgotten the knight and removed all those darn skeletons. Fortunately the great environment and relatively interesting puzzles make the game worth playing. Hopefully the weak points of this game have been corrected in Trine 2, I have yet to try it.