It plays and looks like countless other games, but never steps out from under their shadows.

User Rating: 5 | Trine PS3
Trine is set in a medieval fantasy kingdom under siege from the undead. Amidst the war, three disparate characters (a thief, wizard, and warrior) stumble upon an artifact that binds them together and sets them on a journey to find a remedy. The thief is quick and can easily traverse obstacles, the wizard can summon objects, and the warrior smashes stuff. The tale of the likely trio and kingdom with an undead problem is told mostly through oration during loading screens. If this sounds very ordinary, that's because it is.

Over the course of completing the various side scrolling levels, the player will do a mix of platforming, puzzle solving, and hacking up undead. The variety seems to be there, but everything eventually turns into a slog as its all so familiar. Platforming obstacles are generally just stretches of skinny ledges and rotating planks. Seemingly despite the modern physics engine, puzzles are well worn designs involving floor switches that need the firm weight of boxes (the wizard can conveniently summon such boxes out of nowhere). The rickety skeletal foes can be dispatched by using the wizard to pushed them into hazards, but its more easily done by mashing away at the attack button. I want to call these systems old fashioned, but many such games in their heyday at least were lovingly crafted.

Additional users can play simultaneously in a cooperative mode. Having multiple characters on screen at once seems to stretch the story conceit of the trio being bound together as one, but I was thankful for the feature as it leads to the best gameplay possibilities. For distant enemies that aren't easily smashed, one player might fire arrows while another guards against return volleys with a shield. For platforms that seem too high, the wizard can summon a box for another player to stand on and be levitated upwards. There are other little cooperative tricks to be found that give the generic situations a little life. Sadly, this mode is subject to a bothersome camera that doesn't always track everybody. Sometimes the offscreen character will get teleported to the frontrunner, but in other cases they are stuck until their teammate goes back for them.

Perhaps it is fitting that I can't remember if this mythical kingdom has a name or not, because it is so reminiscent others. However, Trine's sin is that it doesn't feel as good as its predecessors. There are some bright spots. The whimsical visuals, while never being jaw dropping, mesh well with the nonsensical environmental hazards (just how many fireball traps are necessary?). The cooperative mode can be fun, although that walks all over the game's meager story and is often let down by a poor camera anyway.

The rest of Trine is hard to recommend even passingly. The combat never even comes close to the likes of Golden Axe or Contra, the platforming has none of the character of the 2D Mario or Sonic games, and side scrolling games of today are so full of great puzzle design that its hard to even give Trine a second look. Perhaps these games are stiff competition for some, but I think every game needs something to hang its hat on and we shouldn't settle for mediocrity.