Cryptic Triptych: Hands On With Trine

By Jim Rossignol on May 11th, 2009 at 2:11 pm.


Finnish developers Frozenbyte recently sent us an unfinished version of their forthcoming action adventure puzzler, Trine (rhymes with “fine”). I’ve been playing through the opening levels of this intriguing game – which is something like Lost Vikings in a lavish fantasy world, colliding with modern physics – and find myself entertained. Needless to say, written impressions follow.


The idea is this: three heroes have been bound together via a fluke of magic, and this means your player character is actually those three people, although one at a time. (In single player, at least: characters are presumably going to swap out for two and three player games.) You can be the wizard, the rogue, or the knight – alternating instantly between any of the three. This being a platform game, all three have the remarkable ability to jump many times their own height, but they also have a number of individual abilities that are essential for overcoming the challenges you face. The knight is tough, and can clobber the skeletons that come charging at you over the elaborately dangerous levels. The wizard can create objects to drop on pressure switches, or telekinetically drag stuff around – setting a pendulum swinging, or dropping a bridge so that you can cross, for example. The rogue, finally, is the most immediately entertaining to play: she has a bow and arrow for ranged damage, and a grappling hook that she can use to swing around the levels, and make daring leaps across spike-lined chasms.

What’s most immediately striking about this side-scrolling platformer is how beautiful it is: every little detail of the game world has been meticulously sculpted: this is a game in which you can see the hand-crafted nature of the levels immediately. The painstaking construction of the environments really pays off: the 3D on a 2D plane makes this a pretty exciting game to look at, despite the trad nature of both platformers and fantasy adventures. The story-book narration and minor comedy stylings underline how intelligently pitched the look and feel of the game is. In other words, it’s perfectly proportioned: it lands squarely in the realms of fantasy adventure, and yet it’s artful and tasteful enough to be stimulating.

Of course all this presentational proficiency is mere skin flakes in the wind if the puzzles aren’t up to snuff. Good thing, then, that what I’ve played so far is looking pretty solid. There’s a distinct whiff of bodginess to my solutions to getting past some of the problems – the abilities of the wizard and rogue combined mean that there’s often more than one way around an obstacle. But it also means that Frozenbyte have a huge palette of puzzle-proposing possibilities at their disposal: the grappling hook alone means you’ve got some serious jumping challenges (none of which seem to be instant-death, so far) before you even get to the multi-faceted magical powers of the Wizard. Once you start dragging things about with telekinesis, and magicking up stuff from thin air, well, it starts to get more complex, and more satisfying.

Before long you need to ping between the various characters pretty much constantly – swinging between platforms as the rogue, and transforming into the warrior before you land to enter melee, or dropping briefly into wizard form to flip a distant physics object before turning back into nimble rogue. This becomes second nature as you play, so that you start to think of possible solutions in terms of combos: can I grapple up to that barrier and smash the thinger with the knight in mid air? Hmm.

What all this means is that Frozenbyte are going to have to be game design ninjas to keep the pace all the way through, and not simply make the game’s hundreds of puzzles increasingly hard as you progress. That – I fear – could cause most of us give up before the end. It’s a tricky pitfall to avoid unless you take your puzzle model in the same direction as World Of Goo, which introduces more things to learn to use over time, rather than making the problem solving about using existing concepts to defeat more and more difficult situations. I hope Frozenbyte can maintain their momentum beyond these opening levels, because what I’ve seen so far is an accomplished and charming little game that I can’t wait to play more of.

Finally, I like this image because it might sum up the fate of Frozenbyte’s game pictorially:

Yes. I’d put gold on this one being a hit. And to finish, that recent trailer again:

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34 Comments »

  1. Premium User Badge

    abhishek says:

    This game is a first day purchase for me. The moment i saw first the trailer a few months ago I was enchanted by how beautiful it looked, and the PC really does lack good 2D sidescrollers. Also, Frozenbytes do good work… I enjoyed the Shadowgrounds games a lot even though they never really were big hits.

  2. Senethro says:

    I’d not heard of this before. Thank you RPS, pointing out the potentially good games that don’t have a noisy hype machine is what I read you for.

  3. Jubaal says:

    It is sounding very nice, it is just a shame that there will be no remote co-op :(

  4. :smith: says:

    I think I’ll be buying this and not only because the developers are my fellow countrymen but also because it looks extremely good.

  5. pkt-zer0 says:

    If your three characters are actually one, Fury of the Furries might be a better comparison than Lost Vikings.

    Also, what’s with the trailer showcasing puzzles that need to be solved with two separate characters? Is that how 2/3P co-op is going to work?

  6. Jim Rossignol says:

    pkt-zero: Presumably. I only had the single player levels. I’ll make that clear in the text.

  7. Wirbelwind says:

    This game looks like a lot of fun to play, it’s only very disappointing there won’t be co-op over a network but only on the same machine …

  8. Markoff Chaney says:

    I have been anticipating this since it was first covered here. More impressions and other mind thinks are always appreciated.

  9. Super Bladesman says:

    I like the look of this a lot – have we any idea when it’s due?

  10. Premium User Badge

    abhishek says:

    It was meant to come out around now (1st half of 2009) but so far there isn’t a peep about the release date or project status from the devs :(

  11. Taillefer says:

    It’s looks stunning. Is there some sort of RPG character development too? Or possibly just an inventory. I notice the warrior had different weapons at different points.

  12. Jeremy says:

    Yowsers, I really want to get this game, it looks great.

  13. LactoseTheIntolerant says:

    Still looking delightful – I await this with hopeful anticipation.

  14. The Hammer says:

    Aww, kinda disappointing to me that there’s only one character on screen which switches forms, rather than three physical characters that you switch between.

    Asides from that, it’s still looking very, very lovely. I was wondering where the developer was from – Shadowgrounds as a pedigree, eh? Nice.

  15. Pijama says:

    It is delightful. Trine surely does look like a gaming jewel. :)

  16. Rei Onryou says:

    Looks very good. Do want moar.

  17. radomaj says:

    Rhymes with “fine”?
    Dooouble Triiiiiiiine!
    [Wait, what?]

  18. jackflash says:

    This one looks like a gem. I may wait until they add internet co-op to buy, however.

  19. HolyShitMatt says:

    I’m looking forward to Trine’s release. As long as it’s price reasonably this is most likely a day 1 purchase for me. One concern I have is with spotting your heroes. From what they’ve shown most of the areas are dark and the heroes colors seem to blend in with the background.

  20. Premium User Badge

    abhishek says:

    @jackflash

    There most likely won’t be internet co-op in this game. This was the number one most requested feature for their previous Shadowgrounds games and they could never manage to implement it due to technical reasons. I’m sure they thought of it for this one too but since they apparently haven’t included it in the game, I don’t think it’s likely to get added in later.

  21. Dominic White says:

    The only reason Shadowgrounds had co-op at all is because they threw it in as a mostly-untested bonus feature at the last moment. I’m under the impression that writing netcode (especially stuff that has to synch a lot of players/enemies/physics objects is pretty damn hard) and time-consuming. Not surprising they wouldn’t want to go that extra mile for very little reward.

    Trine is primarily launching on the PS3, where local co-op is much more viable anyway.

  22. Fedora Freak says:

    Instant buy.

  23. Dominic White says:

    Not even an edit feature can save me from misediting my posts. In the above ramble, move the )-bracket four words to the left to make sense of the garble.

  24. Vinraith says:

    It all depends on how well the game handles single player, since with only coop in-room I’m always going to be playing it by myself.

  25. Shadowcat says:

    This reminds me (slightly) of Imogen, a lovely little BBC Micro puzzler that Ovine made an absolutely superb freeware [url=http://imogen.ovinebydesign.com/]remake[/url] of a few years ago.

    It shares the “transform between three different characters to solve puzzles in a 2D platform environment” aspect of Trine (even if the style of gameplay is really different) and I thoroughly recommend playing it.

  26. Shadowcat says:

    Damn you, ingrained bbcode habits!

    Imogen remake

  27. Premium User Badge

    MonkeyMonster says:

    Curse you shadowcat beating me to the punch. I’m sending an AIM-o-gram round your house now… But still Imogen was ace!

  28. Markoff Chaney says:

    Aww Yeah! Trine hits our PCs on July 10th!

  29. Dan Geiser says:

    They have the Demo on Steam, too.

  30. Howl says:

    Yep this jumped out at me as an Imogen/Cadash hybrid with a modern twist. Both spectacularly good games in their time.

  31. Dave says:

    The demo looks really lovely but is it just me or is the levitation spell broken? I can only seem to nudge things along 1cm at a time which made it impossible to progress beyond the second wizard room.

  32. Ashurbanipal says:

    Dave?

    Eh? You just grab and drag stuff around. The pace of the levitate isn’t blinding, but it’s certainly practical. So I don’t think it’s broken.

    This is a nice game. It feels agreeably smooth and fluid and is a joy to play. Will probably pick it up when I’ve got some money to blow.

  33. Dave says:

    I just couldn’t get the spell to “stick”, but I know now it’s not broken so maybe I was just trying to move things too fast or something. Will try again later because it looks like such an interesting game.

  34. Lilo says:

    it’s only very disappointing there won’t be co-op over a network but only on the same machine