Trine is a name built for puns. “The developers are Trine hard,” for instance. “Trine find a better-looking puzzle game,” might be more fitting, though, as Trine is beautiful. This is a puzzle game that has taken technology with it, incorporating gorgeous lighting effects and animation into its physics-based brain-bending.
The idea is that you control three characters. Only one exists in the game world at a time (in single-player, at least; co-op play wasn’t available in our preview) with the others accessible with a tap of a number key, but all three vary wildly. The first we got to grips with in the opening tutorial level was the Thief; a lithe, white-clad woman armed with a bow and a grappling hook. Swinging from place to place was as easy as aiming the cursor at a likely-looking ledge, hitting the right mouse button, and then releasing at an opportune time.
The second, the Wizard, doesn’t have a conventional weapon like a bow, but rather relies on magic – and not very well, as the game’s intro goes to great pains to point out just how crap he is at it, having not even mastered a fireball. Still, when it comes to physics puzzling, he’s a useful chap to have around, with the ability to telekinetically move objects around, and even create some out of thin air.
And then there’s the third: the Knight. He rounds off the three by having a sword and shield, in addition to a not-inconsiderable bulk. If things need pushing, or fireballs need blocking, or skeletons need stabbing in the face, he’s your man.
The ability to switch between all three on the fly opens up some interesting possibilities when it comes to puzzling. There’s normally one very clear “intended” solution to each puzzle, but the mix of abilities means that others are also available, and this will hopefully prevent players from getting too stuck, as improvisation tends to work well, and alternate routes are common. I took the Thief swinging over a series of spike pits. You, on the other hand, may have noticed the heavy stone block hanging by a thin rope, and used the Wizard to create a block, allowing the Thief to grapple up to it and then the Knight to cut the rope, dropping the block through a bridge and opening up another route.
There’s an issue with this, of course. The more you allow players to improvise, the easier things can be. As Crayon Physics Deluxe proved, you can give players a massive toolset, but if they can finish every level by drawing a couple of lines, there’s a good chance they will. This is something that we won’t know about until the game launches, though – the preview version we received is short and showcases the beginning of the game, where you’d expect things to be simple. Even so, creating boxes out of thin air and using them to rotate wheels that you quickly leap onto with the Thief is fun.
Creating boxes out of thin air and dropping them onto skeletons is also fun. Combat isn’t a large part of the preview, with the most threatening thing being said skeletons – which, while well animated and well equipped, are not a big challenge. Smacking them with the Knight’s sword works perfectly well, but that’s boring, so we didn’t do that much. Instead, we created blocks to impede their progress (which they mantled onto and climbed over.) We then shunted those blocks into them and dropped them from large heights. We used the Thief’s grappling hook to build up speed and then slammed into them feet first. We got ourselves up high and then switched to the Knight and landed heavily on them.
It’s worth mentioning how spookily good the enemy pathfinding is, though. They climbed over blocks that were put in their paths, they leaped up onto ledges, and they basically did everything they could to shorten the distance between their swords and my gooey interior. They’ll jump blocks you telekinetically hurl at them and leap gaps to get to you. They’re fairly smart.
What remains to be seen is how all of this will tie together, though. While the combat does have a fairly wide range of options, as with the puzzles, you can just charge in with the Knight and hammer the attack button to brute force your way past. With more enemies promised, however, it’s hard to believe the game will continue in that vein.
Trine is definitely one to watch. It’s extremely remiscent of The Lost Vikings (and, perhaps moreso, Fury of the Furries) in terms of having characters with different abilities available to solve the challenges on offer, and what I’ve seen is promising. If the puzzles and combat elements of the game ramp up as it continues, and co-op play turns out to be a blast, then this could be a bit of a gem when it launches on PC and PSN later this year.