Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Once Upon a Trine

Once upon a time...It’s a familiar beginning to childhood fairy tales, but less expected when playing a video game.  And yet that is how Trine opens, with a cut-scene in which a narrator describes how the old king has died and the kingdom has fallen into chaos.  It begins with the phrase, “Once upon a time in a land far, far away...” that immediately set the mood for the entire game.  The lighting is done in a hazy way that evokes a dreamlike feeling and the graphics of the characters are vaguely cartoonlike, but also very reminiscent of a fairy tale. 

Each new level also begins with a voiceover by a narrator, who describes the events leading up to the chapter.  Here’s the first one, as an example.

I found this fairy tale layout to be very effective.  It immediately felt very comfortable and accessible, and I think that it would be a terrific game for casual gamers as well as a relaxing diversion for basically anyone.

In additional to the appealing fairy-tale framework, Trine was also certainly one of the most original games that I’ve played.  The game opens with three short scenes; three characters happen to approach a magical item at the same time.  Each touches the item (which turns out to be the Trine) and is stuck to it.  When the third touches it, the souls of all three are combined into a single person who can switch forms at will.  You play the remainder of the game as this shape-shifter, using the skills of all three original characters until you can complete the task of reuniting three artifacts.  Along the way these characters level up as well as acquire rare items that will make each much more powerful.  This ability to switch between characters is an innovative strategy that keeps things interesting and fun.

I also found this game to be intensely beautiful.  It’s a 2D side-scroller, but the visual depth is such that it’s easy to forget that you’re locked in.  The music and art, combined with the fluidity of the game mechanics, consistently impressed me.

The only very minor disappointment was the puzzles.  Trine combines a 2D platform side-scroller with a puzzle game, which works very well, for a while.  After about 3/4 of the way through, though, the puzzles start to feel a bit repetitive.  There were a few that were pretty challenging, but by the end they started to feel pretty easy.  This was only a minor frustration though, as most of the puzzles were very fun.

Overall, I found Trine immersive and fun, and I would highly recommend giving this game a try.