Trine is the best co-op game you’ll ever play by yourself.
Or, for that fact, it’s one of the better ones you’ll play with other people. It’s clever like that.
The concept is simple, and that’s part of the appeal; three generic adventurers (wizard, thief and warrior), all happen to be in the same place at the same time, and all touch the same magical gem, that just so happens to fuse their souls together, meaning the occupy the same body. What this means in terms of playing the game is that you can switch between all three instantly, and also let your friends play as one (or both) of the others. You then must work your way through dungeons, forests, forges and evil towers to allow the three to be freed, all the while killing skeletons and manipulating your environments to advance.
The skeletons die relatively easily, and the puzzles are similarly simple when on your own, either requiring the thief’s light step and grappling hook, or the wizard creating some cleverly placed blocks. For a £20 game, it’s a little on the brief side, allowing you to breeze through it within a few hours, regardless of difficulty for the most part. The most appealing thing about it is the versatility of the puzzles, each having presumably dozens of different combinations of boxes, jumps and runs to complete, with little more than a few see-saws, an unreachable point and some spikes for you to play around with. It’s never frustrating, and the liberal placings of checkpoints means you never have to redo a puzzle too many times.
The game really comes into it’s own when you play with a friend, though. The thief’s grappling hook is no longer the win button it was before, meaning you have to actually be crafty with how you approach each puzzle. The warrior, relegated to just killing skeletons in singleplayer, suddenly has to be used as soon as someone messes up, due to the way the death system works (three lives, each one a character. So die with the wizard, and you can only use the thief and warrior.). New strategies arise though, such as using the wizards levitation to manipulate objects he’s not standing on, but the other character is, meaning you can reach previously inaccessible locations, as well as create hovering bridges without having to secure them. I can only imagine the difficulty having three players presents, as you can’t even switch out which character you are. The puzzles which have previously seemed over simple suddenly become gargantuan undertakings, and you realise this is the game as the developers intended.
The visuals, too, need to be lauded. I’ve never seen a 2d platformer so gorgeous, with each incremental detail wonderfully animated and fleshed out. Mushrooms release puffs of spores when you land on them, and lava bathes everything around it in a wonderful warm glow. The skeletons are suitably brittle, collapsing in a heap of archaeology when boxes and fat men in armour fall on them. Within the limited 2d plane, this is as vibrant a world as could be imagined. Things go on in the background and foreground, lending illusionary depth and visual fidelity as you advance from left to right. Sounds, too, work wonderfully, each thwack of the sword and thunk of an arrow adding to the overall level of polish on exhibit.
Of course, there’s a blemish, present in the obscene difficulty spike of the last level, a classically misjudged change of pace to the enjoyable platformer. It’s hardly enough to tarnish the impression the game leaves, but it’s enough to frustrate and annoy, not least just questioning it’s presence in the game. In my eyes, lava should stay at a consistent level in all games, and never get airs above its station.
There are a few RPG-lite elements, allowing you to level up each character, adding arrows to each pull and release, or permitting you a few more planks before the earlier ones fizzle into nothingness. Allowing you to choose which skill to level up seems a little impotent to begin with, each choice forced upon you, but later on you have to make mildly game-changing choices on which skills to max out, which could act as a nice incentive to play through again, at least with a friend.
Similarly, there is treasure and loot, increasing health, energy and the like, with a few breaking from convention and providing some more uncommon benefits, like last minute health replenishment and resurrection abilities. They’re hidden throughout the level in chests, a pleasant reason to explore beyond arbitrary collectibles that have no effect on the game other than to feed the obsessive compulsive within you. Finally exploration is rewarded tangibly, the muted gleam of the metal reinforcement on the chest an incentive to push your logic bridgebuilding skills a little further, allowing you to reach the unreachable ledge.
The glaring flaw in all of this is a lack of internet multiplayer. It would perhaps be frustrating to both be fixed to the same camera, and maybe the potential lack of voice chat a few gaming luddites would incur would make getting past puzzles more than difficult, but at the same time, not everyone has an extra controller for their pc, and having two seems frivilous at best. So to play with three people locally seems slightly unattainable, something an internet connection should be able to solve. It’s more annoying because of the potential for fun, rather than having any adverse effect on the game as is, but it’s still an annoyance.
None of this does anything to ruin Trine, however. It’s a brilliant platformer that, while perhaps a little pricey right now, will no doubt be a steal when the price drops due to a sale or just over time. If you’ve got a spare controller for the PC, and a friend who’d be willing to put up with whereever your computer is kept, it’s certainly worth picking up. The single player potential is a little on the light side, but it doesn’t bore, and only ever excites and entertains, and I’m going to stop in case I use up my hyperbole quota for the month.