This is an essential lesson in how 2D gameplay is still a force to be reckoned with. Trine’s levels are deceptively simple with the aim generally being to progress to the far right of the map like many past classics but with some physics based gameplay puzzles. This platformer looks far from retro though with some gorgeous fantasy realms inspired level design that sparkle with HD richness.
The story is old school basic as a trio of strangers accidentally bound together by the Trine artefact set off to rid the land of the Undead and be free of each other too. These strangers conveniently tick the fantasy genre boxes of Wizard, Knight and Thief. You can swap between them at the press of a button, with you selecting another if one dies, even then they can come back at one of the frequent checkpoints.
Interchanging between the three characters is key as they’re all needed to progress. The Knight takes care of fighting and can also block pretty much anything with his shield, intuitively controlled with the right analogue stick. He’ll also do a bit of heavy lifting and can cut through rope that might be holding hidden treasures above.
The Thief has a bow and arrow that is fired by holding the right analogue stick in the desired direction while she pulls back the bow further for a harder, more accurate shot. It never gets old as there’s a surprising amount of depth to the aiming arc, but the best shot is firing three into the sky directly above you as the Undead surround you, closing in for the kill, only for them to get nailed to the ground by the eventual return of your cloud dusted arrows.
What makes her the most fun to play though is her grappling hook which attaches to any wooden surface, enabling you to swing around the levels with much more style than the two. It works best when you have a longer swing to gain momentum and really fling yourself across the level. The only sticking point is the awkwardness involved in trying to get on top of the platform you’re directly attached to underneath.
The poor old Wizard must feel constantly under-appreciated in such company as he can’t fight at all. He’s in charge of levitating objects or creating metal cubes and planks. But it’s actually the Wizard that makes Trine the great alternative to the competition that it is. Most puzzles involve the manipulation of moveable objects to make a path for the trio. This could be pressure pads to open gates, putting boxes onto spikes or into water to create stepping stones or using boxes to steady the see-saw bridges. He can also repair rope-bridges by lifting the broken end out of the depths and reattaching it on the other side and… well you’ll have to work the rest out for yourselves.
All the characters can be upgraded with either enhanced weapons (no, not you Wizard) or extra objects to conjure up. This is done with the Experience points found lying around the levels or from certain defeated foes. Everyone levels up at the same time and is given their own points to spend. Special items can be robbed from hidden chests that will enhance the wearer with health benefits, better strength, extra objects to create or a new weapon.
The levels are beautifully designed, evoking memories of Final Fantasy titles and of the criminally overlooked Folklore. Everything keeps in line with the fairy tale vibe with enchanted forests, crystal walled caves, dark mines (which can be lit up by the Thief’s flaming arrows), ruins and abandoned castles. There are frequent standout areas that you wish there was more going on so you could stay a while, such as the forest waterfall with the sun filtering through the trees creating a rainbow through the water’s mists.
The sudden (I thought I’d died at first) underwater sections are well handled with all three characters having their own supply of oxygen, so you can spend quite a while down there. You can save time though by using the heavily armoured Knight to sink to the bottom, and then change to a lighter character that can swim.
The 15 stages are broken up by a map loading screen while the next part of the story is narrated. Fans of Golden Axe on the Mega Drive will instantly recognise the nod here to the similar map screen. They’ll also be reminded of the old franchise when they see the skeleton Undead that populate the game. They have a great design as you can hear the little scamps snarling at you across the way and when you finish them they go flying with their bones clattering around with some amusing rag-doll physics.
As good as the skeletons are, the game falls down with its lack of enemy variety. Skeletons, shielded skeletons, giant skeletons, spitting spiders, bats and the odd troll boss are all that you’ll find in Trine’s kingdom.
While not the longest of games, extra play can be gained from going back through the levels to pick up vials or EXP that you missed first time around. And with a silver Trophy on offer for emptying each level, you might as well. This is where the game really shows off its physics-based gameplay with some real brain-teasers to reach tough spots.
All this can be made more interesting by drop in offline co-op that will let two of you play through the game and bicker over whose fault it is when your self-made platforms collapse.
This is one if the best PSN games I’ve played in a while and works hard to prove itself worthy of its hefty £15.99 price-tag. If you’re after some classic platforming that requires a bit or serious thought at times and some quality visuals then this is for you.