One is a lonely number and three is a crowd. But a crowd can be a good thing. Especially if you have three heroes at your disposal with different abilities such as the Thief, Wizard and Knight. By some weird coincidence (or perhaps fate) they meet up by the all powerful artefact Trine that binds their souls together. Their task is now simply to find the remaining two artefacts and safe the world.
The story is traditional and so is the gameplay. It is easy to call Trine a modern Lost Vikings. The same basic concept is in place where three characters with different abilities have to combine their skills in order to progress. The Wizard cannot throw fire balls, but on the other hand he can create platforms out of thin air and manipulate his surroundings. The Thief is very agile and use his grappling hook to move ahead. He's also a skilled archer. The last character, the Knight, can pick up and throw loose objects, fight and block attacks with his shield. Much like Lost Vikings.
The spirit of Blizzard continues on in the mind blowing design that reminds me of Folklore and World of Warcraft. Wonderful graphics only matched by Shadow Complex as the most visually blessed downloadable games on console. It is as if the enchanted forests and dark castles of Azeroth have been realised with state of the art console technology instead of having to be held back by the constraints of computers dated back in 2004. If not for a inexplicable unstable framerate in the last few levels, granted these are maybe a bit more beautiful, the technology is extremely impressive and pushes the limits of what can be achieved in a side scrolling platformer.
Trine also sports a physics engine that is often put to good use. Both the platforms created by the wizard and those already there are affected by the laws of gravity and much of the challenge has to do with keeping your balance on rotating surfaces. But even more important is fighting. There are hordes of enemies in every corner and both bow and sword get plenty of action. The wizard is not as useful. Sure he can create boxes suspended in the air to drop on enemies, but this is rather tedious in the Playstation 3 version, though I would imagine it is far more effective on PC.
This is one of the problems, the balance between the characters is not optimal. In most cases you can stick with the Thief and only switch characters when there is a need to build a platform or two. This takes away some of the replay value as the motivation to try new solution just isn't there. In order to get all the trophies you will have to find every bonus item on each level so if you are a trophy hunter you will have plenty to keep you busy.
Another shortcoming is the supply of enemies. For the most part (say 90 per cent of the time) I'm fending off variations of skeletons, armed with swords, shields and bows. They "die" beautifully in a collapsing pile of bones, that reminds me of Super Castlevania IV, but nonetheless it is a bit onehanded. There are a few bosses that provide some variation, but I would have liked to have seen more enemy types in a game that excels in design in so many other areas.
Finally the game is too short. A Saturday night of gaming will advance you to the final level and a bit of mopping up the next day will see you finish it. That is acceptable for some of the cheaper downloadable titles, but Trine doesn't fall into this category (€19.99). And I feel as though the game should have offered me something more for that price.
To option of playing three players simultaneously on one console is a big bonus that opens up for even more solutions, such as throwing or move blocks that someone is already standing on. Unfortunately there is no online co-op.
It's hard to score Trine. It is without a doubt a very ambitious project and from an artists point of view complete. The music is extraordinary, the voice acting well executed, and the dialogue even reminds me of Discworld at times (very high praise indeed). And instead of regarding it as a costly downloadable game you almost have to see it as a cheap retail game that somehow got distributed digitally. I'll give it a very strong seven, and much like Icarian and Lost Winds I give it a strong recommendation even though the number of gameplay minutes per Euro isn't the highest. Frozenbyte have joined the ranks of Housemarque and Remedy as the best Finland has to offer the world of gaming. Go Finland!