There had been plenty of indie 2D action/puzzle-platformers before Trine, including those with similar gameplay. Trine would appear to do nothing remarkably different gameplay-wise, though it still is satisfactorily fun – with the exception of the climax of the game, where the developer appears to forget its design policies.
What Trine does refreshingly well is to have splendid visual designs for a game of its time and fantastically expansive voice-overs. These game designs are rarely seen in contemporary indie games.
Trine is apparently set in a high-fantasy world, where there is magic, a feudal kingdom, undead and such that would seem familiar to players that are experienced with such settings.
The aforementioned kingdom is in the process of collapsing into ruin, after having lost its monarchs with no heir to continue the rule. Civil war added to the woes, and just everyone thought it could not get any worse, the magic that once made the kingdom prosperous has turned bitter and dark. Undead rose throughout the lands and loathsome creatures stalk the shadows.
This is where three unlikely would-be heroes come in. A pretty but opportunistic thief, an educated but lazy wizard and a courageous but naïve knight would have their destinies bound together one night in the Astral Academy by the power of the seemingly sentient artefact that is the titular Trine.
(It is worth noting here that the Trine franchise only formally names them in the sequel.)
The very first stage in Trine introduces the player characters and their unique capabilities. In single-player mode, the player can switch to any one of them as long as he/she is still alive; in multiplayer, each player character can be used by one player only. Losing all of them does not immediately lead to a game over; this will be elaborated later as it ties into a significant gameplay element of the game.
Despite being different people, the player characters do happen to have some similarities.
All of them move at the same speed and jump at the same height – even the portly-looking and heavily equipped knight. All of them can change their lateral direction in mid-air when falling, which is very convenient and probably most useful for the thief, as will be described later. All three also appear to have the same hitbox sizes. They also have the same default maximum amounts of health and mana, though each of them has separate health and mana bars.
Next, there are the differences.
The thief has a grappling hook that she can fire straight upwards or up to 45 degrees to the left or right. When it hits wooden surfaces (be it planks or tree bark), the thief can swing about, suspended from a rope that hangs from the hook; the length of the rope can be adjusted, though it does have a (considerable) limit to its length. This is useful for many platforming sequences.
The grappling hook could have been more useful if the thief can fire the grappling hook at any angle, but this is not to be in the first entry of the Trine series.
The thief's only form of offence is her bow. The arrows that she can fire follow arcs, meaning that the player may want her to fire at higher angles in order to hit further.
In addition, the thief has to nock back her bow so that the arrow can be fired with greater speed and accuracy; how far it is nocked also happens to determine its range too. She can pull the bowstring at any time she is on her two feet and even during jumping, but in any other circumstance, such as when swimming, this is not possible. She can only fire her bow when her feet are firmly on the ground too – there is no shooting while jumping.
(Doing that also wastes the effort that has been invested into nocking the bow.)
It is worth noting here that the damage of her arrows is not strongly dependent on how far she has pulled back the bowstring. Arrows that are fully pulled back may hit harder, but the time spent pulling them back may not be worth the risk of allowing enemies to advance when they can be staggered by any hit with an arrow of any "charge."
Players who realize this can attempt to spam arrows at enemies at close ranges, which is an amusingly rewarding tactic.
The wizard may not be able to cast fireballs and such, but at least he has mastered some very useful telekinetic and conjuration spells.
The wizard can move any inanimate object that is not firmly secured into the environment from afar, as long as it is within the screen.
In the case of objects that have their movement partially constrained, such as see-saws and counterweight cranes, he can only have them moving about their axes of rotation and/or paths of transition, whichever applicable. However, he can stand on these while he manipulates them, which provides a solution in certain physics puzzles.
In the case of loose objects, he can levitate them about quite freely as well as rotate them in mid-air, allowing the player to prop them against walls, stack them up high or any other shenanigans. In fact, this tends to be one of the most reliable ways to overcome obstacles in the player's way, at least in the earlier levels: simply stack a ridiculously teetering tower of objects and have the wizard hopping all over them.
Of course, this is only for patient and/or unimaginative players to do; other players may notice that the wizard and thief can be used or can work together to overcome obstacles in more efficient ways.
The wizard can also levitate heavy objects such as stones and shove them into enemies, which can eliminate them surprisingly quickly. However, these have more inertia and take more mana to manipulate.
He can also create crates, as well as metal planks later in the game. For the computer version of Trine, these objects are created using gestures with the mouse, e.g. drawing lines and squares on screen; these can take a while to get used to, but it is unlikely to be too complicated or difficult for most players.
These created objects can contribute to stacking busywork, for jamming machines with, or for dropping on top of enemies.
The wizard's most useful yet most unreliable creation is the floating platform. As its name suggests, the floating platform floats in mid-air, but it is triangular and rotates about an axis, making it rather unstable. There is also a bug with its physics-scripting, as will be described later.
The wizard can seem the most utilitarian of the three protagonists, but he is also the one that is most dependent on his reserves of mana. Using any of his magical abilities will drain his mana reserves.
The knight is meant for combat, or forays through hazardous areas with projectiles flying across the screen. The knight's shield is his main form of defence, being near indestructible and capable of deflecting anything in a wide arc in front of it. The arc can be a bit difficult to gauge for beginners though, so there may be some unpleasant surprises when the player discovers that even if the knight is holding out his shield, certain attacks that are made at sharp angles bypass the shield.
The knight's sword is his default weapon. Although it is quite powerful and has a wide arc, using the sword for anything other than single slashes causes the Knight to lunge forward, which is not desirable. This can result in the knight getting overwhelmed by encroaching bunches of enemies or slipping off platforms.
Each player character will eventually gain more abilities in addition to their default ones; these new abilities happen to be stowed away in treasure chests that are difficult to miss. In fact, these chests are placed right in the player's path.
The wizard typically gets to create more simple but utilitarian objects, such as metal planks. He eventually gets the aforementioned floating platform, though this only occurs late into the game.
The thief gains elemental arrows that are more powerful than regular arrows and have certain uses later; she also gains a quiver that allows her to pull back and fire her arrows faster, which is handy.
The knight gains more combat capabilities, as well as the strength to haul about small but heavy objects, which may be a bit more efficient than having the wizard levitate them around. Eventually, he can switch out his sword and shield for a hammer that is more offense-oriented.
EXPERIENCE & GAINING LEVELS:
The aforementioned abilities can be improved, but to gain the means to do this, the player needs to accrue "experience" for the three player characters. This is the developer's attempt to implement RPG-like gameplay, but in practice, it is really just a system of collecting items and being rewarded for them.
"Experience" is obtained in one of two ways: killing specific enemies that are scripted to have "experience" on them, and collecting bright green potions.
The first method is straightforward, as there are many enemies that the player has to fight. However, knowing which ones actually grant experience is not possible short of trial-and-error, because enemies that do happen to carry them have no discernible visual or aural features.
Green potions are often located in difficult-to-reach places, out-of-sight locations or even obscured within or behind hazards; every stage has a few dozens of these. A curious and thoroughly observant player will be able to find all of them the first time that he/she enters a stage, but everyone else may probably need to resort to guides to account for all of them.
Any "experience" points that have been collected in a stage in any session will be removed from the stage the next time the player plays it again, regardless of whether he/she has completed the stage or not. Enemies that once carried experience no longer yield them, whereas green potions that have been collected are replaced by large mana potions when the stage is reloaded.
Coupled with the issue of knowing which enemy holds "experience", such designs can frustrate compulsive players who want to account for all "experience" points in a stage.
Anyway, after the player has obtained 50 experience points, each player character gains one point that can be spent on their abilities. Certain abilities require more points to be improved, though generally any further improvements beyond the first few become more and more expensive, which is an understandable drawback.
Throughout the game, the game may find treasure chests that are hidden away. These contain items with passive benefits that apply or trigger themselves automatically. Most of them have a benefit or two for each player character to make them universally useful, but some may still be more useful to specific player characters.
For example, an item that regenerates the mana of a character that is not in use is probably more useful for the wizard, especially for players who prefer not to have him out and about except for physics-based puzzles.
Then, there are very special items that only work when equipped on specific player characters. For example, there is a special wizardly artefact for the wizard that reduces the mana cost for levitating objects around.
By default, the player character that opened the treasure chest will get the item, but the item can be shifted around easily using a screen that will be described shortly.
To help the player manage the three player characters' abilities and items, there is a screen that can be brought up at any time during a stage. In single-player mode, this pauses the action, which is convenient.
Shifting items around can take a while to learn, as the game does not provide any tutorial for doing so. Fortunately, it is just simple clicking around. However, the game will not give a cumulative tally of the benefits from the items that a character is using, so the player may have to gauge this on his/her own.
Upgrading abilities is as simple as just clicking on the slots next to the characters' portraits. However, the game does not inform the player that if he/she has been examining the abilities and items of a character, he/she would be considered as wanting to switch to that character. When the player closes this screen to return to the game proper, the player character will switch over to that character. This can be a bit annoying.
Conveniently, this screen displays a tally of the experience points that the player has accrued throughout a stage, as well as the hidden treasure chests that the player has looted. (It is worth noting here that this was not in the launch version of the game, but was introduced later for the sake of players.)
Physics play a big role in the gameplay of Trine. Most of the physics scripts in the game are functional, though there are a few flaws here and there that affect cosmetics more than gameplay. The physics designs in Trine are also intended for gameplay purposes, and not believability.
Flinging the thief around while she hangs from the rope that extends from her grappling hook is something that the player will do early on and a lot later; the player may do it even more once he/she discovers that hitting enemies with the legs of the thief counts as kicking them in. However, as mentioned earlier, only wooden surfaces can be hit with the grappling hook.
Most of the time, the thief will dangle from the rope in believable manners, but not so in a certain level where there are large wooden wheels that she can attach to. She can attach to these wheels and they will carry her up while she continues to hang on, with the same pose that she has when dangling vertically. This can be a silly sight.
Furthermore, the thief's dangling does not appear to apply her weight to anything she happens to hang from. For example, there are wooden platforms that will flip down if characters stand on them, but if the player has the thief dangling from them, they will not be pulled down by her weight.
The thief's arrows have projectile trajectories that the player may want to consider when firing at enemies; the game will not provide any visual indicators for their paths.
Arrows that have been shot upwards will fall down, unless they struck something. Usually, there is not much use for this occurrence, though it might be effective against flying enemies as they may get struck by arrows that are falling down.
When playing the wizard, the stability of the stacks of objects that he can make and/or set up is more important than any other physical consideration. The game does consider lever moments, so any precarious stack of objects will fall if disturbed – and disturbed it will be too, as there is little other reason for the player to build a stack than to have player characters clamber onto them.
The wizard cannot levitate any loose object that he stands on, with the exception of the floating platform. This prevents the player from playing magic carpet with any object.
However, there is a loophole in this restriction; he can place one object on top of another and levitate the one below. The developer may well be aware of this work-around and might have seen fit not to fix this; after all, trying to balance the two objects while having the wizard or another player character (in co-op play) standing on top of them can be difficult.
This work-around also means that in a pinch, the player can deliberately topple a stack of objects onto an incoming, distressingly large bunch of enemies.
There would not be much risk from these falling objects either; any falling object that is not sharp does not appear to crush any player character that it falls on. The only exceptions are obviously dangerous objects, such as stones shaped as fists.
Sharp objects will injure anything that they touch, regardless of whether they are moving or static (though having momentum makes them deadlier). This can be used against enemies, as their pathfinding scripts are not exactly splendid and they may repeatedly make mistakes that bring them too close to these hazards.
There is no fall damage of any kind. This is likely a gameplay contrivance that was included to make the platforming in the game less punishing.
Any player character can fall on an enemy and press them under his/her weight, preventing them from getting up. This is mostly for purposes of humour, but in the case of the knight, he can outright crush any enemy he drops on, provided that he has fallen down a distance of several times his height.
Being a game with fantastical settings, it is not a surprise that the game would have red healing potions and blue mana potions, both of which are typically released as loot drops by defeated enemies.
What is of interest though is the difference in how they persist in the game world. Healing potions float in mid-air where the enemies that released them died, and they have large rotating models set against a backdrop of fabulous flesh-pink light. This makes them terrifically easy to spot.
On the other hand, mana potions are released as objects that are subjected to the physics-scripting of the game. This means that they can drop and tumble all over the place, which can be infuriating if the player is desperate for a mana refill. Moreover, despite their having distinct models with bright blue colour, they lack particle effects.
Such design decisions on the part of the developer suggest that they regard healing potions as more important and thus have made them easier to locate and retrieve, but the game would have been more convenient to play if mana potions were given the same treatment.
Trine being a 2D puzzle/action-platformer, the player may want to suspend his/her sense of belief when he/she sees the stages in Trine.
For lands that are steeped in fantasy and magic, the stages in Trine have a lot of platforms that are suspended all over the place for no apparent reason – if one is to discount the fact that they are just there for the player to jump all over them. There are also a lot of geographical features that are very straight.
However, the game has many pretty ways to distract the player from these design contrivances, as will be described later.
If the player does not care for exploration and only wants to move from one end of the stage (the left) to the other (the right), the path of progression is usually clear.
Most of the earlier levels would be quite easy for veterans of the platforming genre, and as for anyone else, simple solutions like stacking objects and hopping over them works. In the later levels, simple solutions become less and less effective, requiring the player to be more creative or at least more nimble at the controls.
There are floor switches to weigh down, levers to throw, ropes to cut and gates to lift. There is nothing in this game that would surprise the veteran of the platforming genre, though fortunately there are not too many annoying door-unlocking to be done and no key-hunting whatsoever.
There are timing-based puzzles that can be frustrating if the player does not have the reflexes to get through them, but these can be circumvented with some clever positioning of solid objects via the wizard. For example, periodically flipping platforms can be blocked by placing crates or planks under them.
Looking for the green potions and treasure chests is where the true challenge of the game lies. Even if the player has a guide to look for them, getting to them can take quite a bit of effort and brainpower. On the other hand, the game can be played without any improvements to the player character's abilities, assuming that the player can come up with strategies to deal with enemies and hazards, which is not too difficult either.
In addition to traps and mechanical dangers, there are hazards such as pits of acid or lava and spikes. Pits of deadly fluids are definitely not places to go into without good reason (and it is usually because the developer has placed a green potion right in the pit), but pits of spikes are quite harmless as long as the player walks into and across them instead of dropping into them. This is perhaps a refreshing difference when one considers the completely dangerous spike pits that have been seen in so many other games.
It has been said earlier that moving forward in a stage is easy, but it also has to be said here that backtracking is an entirely different matter. The stages were designed for moving forward in mind, but not moving backwards. A player that has noticed that he/she has not collected every goodie in a stage just before the exit may want to backtrack, and then unwittingly discover that his/her progress through the stage may have walled off entire sections of it.
In fact, it may be more efficient for a player to revert to earlier checkpoints (more on these later) or restart the level altogether than trying to backtrack.
There are underwater places in the stages that the player must have the heroes swimming through. Unfortunately, swimming restricts some of their abilities.
For example, the thief cannot use her bow underwater, understandably enough. She can still use her grappling hook, but it is not likely that the player will find anything for her to latch onto underwater. The wizard, on the other hand, can use his telekinetic spells and even create objects underwater.
Both the wizard and thief can swim underwater (and at the same speed, despite their garbs, which should have made swimming difficult), but the knight simply sinks, no thanks to his insistence on wearing armor. However, if there is anyone that is a champ at going down underwater fast, the knight is he. It just so happens that there are stages with deep underwater segments that can be best traversed with the knight.
The knight also happens to be the only one that can attack underwater, but there is not one enemy that appears underwater or is able to go underwater; instead, there are certain obstacles underwater that only the knight can thrash through. Moreover, as the knight ironically has the best footing underwater, his jumps out of the water happen to have greater height than the others'.
All player characters cannot breathe underwater, at least by default. Interestingly, when playing on single-player, the player characters have separate lung capacities. This means that the player can switch between player characters to prevent any one of them from drowning; getting to an air pocket with any player character refills all three's lungs.
However, a special item practically renders this gameplay element pointless in single-player, as it grants the character that is using it unlimited breath.
Going underwater dims the player's view of the player character's surroundings, which is quite understandable. The game uses this to obscure the paths that the player needs to take, which can seem like a cheap challenge.
The enemies in this game are disappointingly limited. Considering the varied locales that the player will be going to, that they are populated by monsters that are reused over and over can be disappointing.
The bulk of the enemies in Trine are the undead; specifically, they are skeletal warriors. The player starts encountering them as naked bones carrying only swords.
Eventually, they will become smarter and kit themselves out with more gear. Skeletons with plank shields appear, introducing themselves as some enemies that have some protection against attacks coming from the front.
Later, the skeletons start to learn the value of holding ground instead of stalking after the player characters. There are torch-wielding skeletons that can somehow breathe flames using them, despite not having any lungs. Afterwards, a few skeletons learn how to use bows and arrows.
Soon, the skeletons figure out that they could last longer in battle by wearing armor and having better shields than ones cobbled together with planks. Even the ones that use bows will eventually wear armor too.
Generally, all of the skeletons that resort to close combat have surprisingly considerable agility; they can jump even higher than the player characters. However, they must perform latching and vaulting animations, which put them at a disadvantage against the player characters (who do not have to perform these animations).
In addition to skeletons, there are evil animals to contend with. Distraughtly territorial bats are the first of these to be encountered, and they come in annoying swarms, either from caves above or chasms below. Then, there are spiders that launch webbing at the player character, not only injuring him/her but also stalling his/her movement. Spiders also happen to lurk in the background, and thus are not affected by most obstacles.
Next, there are mini-bosses, which are typically large and intimidating. Describing them anymore would be to mention spoilers, but it should suffice to say that the doughty knight is the most efficient player character to fight them with. Unfortunately, the same couple of mini-bosses happen to be recycled more than a few times.
It should be noted here that it may seem as if the game has a finite number of enemies that the player can defeat in any given stage. However, the game does have locations where enemies may periodically spawn. This is likely intended to hint to the player that he/she should be moving along.
The game uses a system of checkpoints as reassurance of the player's progress in a stage. However, these are not like the progress-saving checkpoints that have been seen in so many other games; instead, they function more like teleportation beacons.
This is because stages have to be played from start to end in one try; the player cannot quit midway into a stage and continue later. Whenever the player returns to the previously activated checkpoint, anything that the player has achieved in between activating that checkpoint and returning to it is not reversed.
In other words, any collectibles that the player has retrieved remains retrieved, and any enemies that have been killed remains killed.
Crafty players who have discovered this game design are more than likely to exploit the checkpoints for convenient repositioning of the player characters, which can circumvent a few otherwise devious puzzles.
Returning to a checkpoint also restores any slain player character and replenishes some of the health and mana of player characters. This can be exploited for cheesy tactics against enemies.
If the player loses all player characters in battle near a checkpoint, he/she will have to revert back to that very checkpoint, which can result in some frustration as enemies are still there. Still, the player will win just about any battle of attrition anyway.
The game offers three difficulty settings by default, but none of them makes enemies any smarter.
Instead, the differences between them lie in the usual ratio of the damage that enemies can take and the damage that the player characters can take. In addition, they also determine how much health and mana that checkpoints replenish; on medium difficulty, the health and mana replenishments can reach 50%, whereas hard difficulty gives measly amounts.
The highest difficulty setting, which is appropriately called "Very Hard", is locked by default and can only be made available by completing the game's story. This one can be quite punishing, so this is best reserved for gluttons of punishment.
For better or worse, the game only allows local co-op multiplayer – even for the Steam version. This requires the use of much larger screens, as well as a few additional control input devices.
The game resorts to widening the view o accommodate all characters in one screen; there is no split-screen. This requires the players to make sure that their player characters stay as close to each other as possible.'
This may not sit well with players that do not like to wait for tardy friends, but the stages are designed such that all three player characters are needed to overcome obstacles.
In fact, the game may seem to become tougher if there are more players. To illustrate, the player that is stuck with the wizard may find it difficult to keep him away from battle; attempting to participate in fights by lifting and dropping things on enemies may unwittingly cause the wizard to interfere with the knight's and thief's efforts too. The knight's specialization in close combat may also result in the camera zooming in and out as he lunges here and there at the limits of the camera's zoom levels, which can be disconcerting.
However, there may be more flexibility to be had if there are only two players, as one player can switch into the third player character that is not in play.
It has to be noted here that the players can switch their characters out for others – including those in use by other players. This can result in a lot of trolling shenanigans, messy confusions or crafty but cheesy solutions to overcoming obstacles. In any case, this makes local co-op play quite a different cup of tea from the experience that one gets from playing on his/her lonesome.
MINOR BUGS & DESIGN OVERSIGHTS:
Sometimes, the game will forget that the player has purchased upgrades to the player characters' abilities and return them to default levels. This is most likely to happen if the player lets a player character die and then teleports back to the latest checkpoint. Bringing up the inventory screen and clicking away on the slots for the upgrades appear to solve the problem, fortunately.
If the player triggers an in-game cutscene, such as by setting off a switch that opens a nearby gate, he/she may discover that the player character simply stands where he/she is – while enemies advance unfettered. This can result in player characters getting wounded or even killed while the player is helpless, which can be infuriating.
Sometimes, the wizard's floating platform can be pushed by something else into the foreground or background, rendering it unusable and in the case of being pushed into the foreground, a visual obstruction too.
THE LAST STAGE & BONUS STAGE:
Unfortunately, all of that which has been written up to this point in the review does not apply to the last stage, which is practically designed to be very different compared to the stages before it. In fact, the player may get a very rude surprise at how different it is; if not for its drastic differences, it would not have been mentioned in this review.
Firstly, whereas the previous stages allowed the player to progress at his/her own pace, this one forces an encroaching hazard on the player that promises a straight stage-restart if the player cannot outrun it.
Secondly, the game removes the feature to revert to a checkpoint, forcing the player to be much, much more careful than he/she had been in the previous stages.
Thirdly, enemies respawn continuously at distressingly fast rates, hounding the player characters as they attempt to outrun the hazard.
Next, hazards and obstacles that were not in view before will be conjured right in the path that the player would take – something the game does not do before the last stage. This forces the player to resort to memorizing their appearances, giving rise to the impression that the last stage requires the patience for trial and error.
All of these different and sheer challenges in the final stage can be terribly aggravating for players who prefer more gradual increments in challenge – which the earlier stages ironically offer.
To reward players who purchased the license for the game, Frozenbyte released a bonus stage close to a month after the official launch of the computer version of the game. It is designed in almost the same manner as the aforementioned last stage, but interestingly enough, it is a lot easier. However, completing it and collecting all of its "secrets" only rewards a teaser for the sequel.
Most of the lighting in the game is intended for cosmetic purposes, but there are some lighting designs that tie into the gameplay. These will be described first.
Some stages are very dark, requiring the player to light torches with the thief's fire arrows or the knight's sword; the wizard is pretty much useless at illumination work.
(That the knight can light torches with strikes from his sword can be odd, but it may be homage to the protagonist's tendency to put out torches in the older Castlevania games.)
It is worth noting here that each player character is practically a light source too, albeit one that cannot illuminate anything further than a few feet. This can be a problem in very dark places, which are usually places away from the main path and which hide collectibles; the darkness can easily hide gaps that the player character can fall through.
That potions are also light sources is also another design that is worth noting. This is handy when looking for the green potions, which stand out from amongst anything unless they are visually obscured.
The cosmetic aspect of the lighting in this game is dazzling. There is balanced use of bloom and HDR lighting, which further augments the already splendid visual designs of the game's stages.
The lighting does create shadows, but these shadows are not too deep or pervasive as to obscure the details on models. This is pleasing, as the shadows happen to further improve the fairy-tale vibe of the game.
BACKGROUND & FOREGROUND:
The backgrounds of the stages are undeniably the best-looking of Trine's visual assets. Although the backgrounds will not matter much in the actual gameplay (with a few exceptions such as streams of molten metal flowing into the foreground from the background), they still provide splendid eye candy, giving the new player an incentive to move forward if only to see more of the backgrounds.
These are not all flat images, like those that have been seen in so many other indie 2D puzzle/action-platformers, but convincingly 3D objects such as trees and waterfalls. If they are indeed 2D objects, their disguises would have been quite impressive anyway.
Unfortunately, the lavish backgrounds may also give rise to the impression that the developer has not made much use of the backstory of the game. For example, there is one stage late into the game that more than resembles the Halfling village in a certain other medieval fantasy franchise, but it is deserted – at least where its original inhabitants are concerned - and not used much for story purposes.
The foreground is mostly empty, which is fortunate as it would have obscured the player's view otherwise. However, the developer has included objects in the foreground anyway, if only as cheap means of hiding collectibles from plain sight.
In comparison, the plane in which the player characters and obstacles are situated is designed more for function than for cosmetics. As mentioned earlier, they have platforms, ladders and other edifices that are seemingly placed there just for gameplay purposes, without regard for the cosmetic designs of the game.
With the exception of objects such as tree roots, rock outcroppings and some other terrain features that are difficult to negotiate but are fortunately small, anything else in the plane-in-play look unnaturally straight or grid-like.
CHARACTER MODELS & ANIMATIONS:
Every character model is quite lavishly done, especially the player characters'. However, as the game does not offer much variety in the amount of characters to be seen in the game, their appeal eventually diminishes over time.
Appropriately, the player characters have the best animated models in the game.
Although their jumping animations may be a bit too fast to be believable (though fast enough for ease of gameplay), their falling animations are a lot more convincing. The wizard lands with visible difficulty as befitting someone that is canonically not used to physical exertions, the knight hits the ground with a stomp and the thief lands with grace as befitting her chosen career.
Fortunately, the player does not have to see these animations; he/she can have them hit the ground running.
As mentioned earlier, there is a silly oversight in the thief's dangling animations, but otherwise she swings around with gusto. Her pulling back her bow while she is running about can be an odd sight, but her arrow-launching animations are otherwise quite believable.
There is also an oversight in how the game produces the model for the rope that follows her grappling hook and the positioning of her character model. The observant player may notice that she might not face the direction that she is firing the hook at, which can be an odd sight.
When playing as the wizard, the player will see him waving his arms about as he manipulates and creates things. There is not much variety in these animations, but at least he turns and faces the cursor in order to track its movement, which is a nice touch.
The other characters with plenty of animations are the skeletons. The ones that resort to close combat stalk forward menacingly, shifting into a full run with weapons raised when they are close enough. Each of them has short tells for when it attacks, so eventually the observant player may recognize which ones are about to inflict harm on a player character.
The skeletons are the only characters with climbing animations, which are quite amusing to look at. Another amusing animation to look at is when a player character jumps and steps onto them; they stoop and splay their legs outwards, unable to do much.
All skeletons can be staggered with attacks, which would render them vulnerable to further punishment. This can make dealing with individual skeletons quite trivial, but that is perhaps why they often come in force.
The animals in the game are less well-animated, however. They have far fewer animations, though they have very distinct models that should make them stand out quite well from the rest of the visuals – which is appreciated, as they can be annoying.
For better or worse, the game resorts to ragdoll physics for animating corpses. While this is appropriate for the skeletons, which are expected to crumple in outrageous ways given their lack of flesh, it is not for other characters.
On the other hand, as ragdoll physics are wont to do, there can be very silly results to be had from the application of said physics. For example, watching the thief getting killed while she is swinging to somewhere can be entertaining.
Most of the particle effects in Trine are mere sprinkles and splashes of colour with the occasional shockwave-like effects, but they are adequate enough to give the game a fittingly fantastical and magical vibe. The player is more likely to appreciate them for their relevance to gameplay.
To cite some examples, health potions exude colour-coded particle effects, making them easier to spot even if their distinctive models are obscured. Shockwaves emanate from enemies that have been hit with attacks, letting the player know that damage has been inflicted. Similarly, small splashes of red and orange appear from the player character when he/she is hit, which should tell the player that he/she is getting hurt if the red flashing of the screen does not already.
VOICE-OVERS & SUBTITLES:
Somehow, despite (yet perhaps due to) being an indie developer, Frozenbyte has managed to garner a large number of voice talents to provide voice-overs for the main characters of the game.
By default, the game uses the English voice-overs. In this case, all major characters are appropriately voiced. The Wizard's academic background is well portrayed by his soft-spoken voice-actor, whereas the Thief receives a fittingly cynical and slightly mischievous tone. The Knight sounds boisterous, which suits his fearless and slightly dim-witted personality. The narrator exudes wonderment as he describes the progress of the trio.
The French voice-overs are of similar quality, and may perhaps sound even more enthusiastic. The same could have been said for the Deutsche ones, but the narrator sometimes lacks inflections.
As for the Italian voice-overs, the voice talents for the three player characters are plenty satisfactory, but the narrator can seem a bit too excited at times.
The Spanish voice-overs are perhaps the least entertaining. The voice-over for the knight is more convincingly enthusiastic than those for the other characters, who sound like they are quite in a hurry to get the recordings done with.
Regardless of the voice-overs, observant players will notice that the non-conversational utterances of the player characters, such as their grunts and groans, are provided by the English voice actors and actresses.
Like the voice-overs, there are five different sets of subtitles. However, changing the subtitles also happen to change the text in the menus, which may not please some players.
The voice-overs mostly occur during the loading screens and the start of the stages and there is not any lip-synching to be seen. Considering the more than decent voice-overs, these limitations can be a bit disappointing.
Most of the sound effects that the player would be listening to are the rigors of combat or objects being manipulated.
Of the former, the ones that the player would appreciate the most are the sounds of bones crumbling, which denote that skeletons are being effectively damaged by the player's attacks. Any other noise suggests that the player's attacks had been ineffective. The pairs of different weapons that the thief and knight use also have different sound effects, in case their different visual designs are not enough for a player.
The player may also want to keep an ear out for the tell-tale noise of skeletons spawning into the stage. If he/she has surround-sound systems, the player can hear which directions the skeletons are coming from too.
As the player stacks objects with the wizard, he/she may want to listen for any noises, which may suggest that the object stack is becoming unstable. This is especially so for the wizard's crates and planks, which have moving parts that do actually interact with their surroundings and can cause unexpected stability problems.
Then, there are ambient sounds. Most of these are just there for aesthetic purposes, such as running water, fantastical tinkling and such, but others are more useful, such as the ominous bubbling of acid, sizzling of lava and grinding of machinery to inform the player that hazards and moving platforms are near.
Other than these, there are satisfying bubbling noises to be heard whenever player characters run over potions and flourishes when the player gains experience points.
For its time, Trine has some of the most pleasant musical soundtracks to be heard in indie games. They are not all memorable, but all of them fit the themes of the game. Given that they are composed by Ari Pulkkinen, who has not formally studied music, these tracks are still quite impressive achievements.
Trine's gameplay would not seem refreshing to players that are already familiar with its individual gameplay elements, but the game brings these elements together to create an experience that is more than decent, even in the least. Its final stage can be infuriating, however, as it appears to have been designed with an entirely different vision on the part of the developer.
What can be considered undoubtedly positive about Trine are its splendid graphical designs and its considerable selection of mostly convincing voice-overs. It is with these production values that Frozenbyte would use to produce its later games with, making Trine quite memorable just for being the game that made Frozenbyte better known than most indie developers.