I Want To Be Playing This Game: Trine

Click... Click... BLOOM!!!

I know it’s a belaboured point, and that I’m the seven billionth person to say it. And I know that leading off a blog post with this makes me about as original as an 18 year old uber-nerd sitting in his room writing his long-awaited science fiction opus, “Star Battles”, pitting a small but courageous group of heroes against an evil overlord, while listening to the soundtrack from Gears of War on his 4 terabyte iPod. But dammit all, I’m going to say it anyway: PC games tend towards being a brutish, awkward sort. When we’re not pretending to be angry dwarves from the land of Netherfallen or something stupid like that, we’re pretending to be army men with gigantic guns, or spacemen with gigantic guns, or normal men forced by circumstance to take on a malevolent evil, using gigan… Oh, you get the idea.

So how nice it is, then, to find a game that’s utterly, completely lovely.

Look at it. It's gorgeous and shiny, like Olivia Wilde wearing some tinfoil.

So, yes, courtesy of Finnish developers Frozenbyte: Trine (rhymes with “sunshine”, rather than “Charlie Sheen”). The demo was released this week, and I played it approximately 170,000 times. It’s wonderful, you see. But before I start into a bit of a rant about why I like it so much, let me show you the trailer.

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This game is clearly the polar opposite of Call of Duty 15: Modern ‘Splodes – less focused on the wanton destruction of life, more focused on a rich, fairy tale ambience. The tale is classic myth: a knight, a wizard and a thief are forced to team up to defeat an invading army of ghouls and skel’tons. It’s all explained in the cutscene that opens the demo – a beautifully illustrated animation sequence, topped off with a narration more akin to what you’d find in a 1970’s children’s cartoon than a 2009 video game. Already, Trine is a perfectly splendid thing.

Then you hit the game proper. The opening level introduces you to your three heroes and their abilities: the thief can shoot arrows and slingshot her way around using her grappling hook; the wizard can create boxes out of thin air and levitate most worldly objects; the knight can hit things really hard. But it also introduces you to the cute innocence of it all: the knight is a pot-bellied bumbling type, out to prove himself a worthy warrior; the wizard has given up trying to learn a fireball spell and instead focuses on trying to trick people into thinking he’s learned it. The characters are video game archetypes, for sure, but they’re also delightful cartoon twists on the norm.

This wizard is only slightly less charming than the one who sang "I Wish It Could Be Christmas Every Day".

And best of all, it plays like a dream. The incredibly gorgeous levels (3d, on a 2d plane, clearly the product of a lot of loving attention – it’s fair to say that the setting is the game’s biggest star) play host to a shedload of enemies and puzzles that require your characters’ various abilities, and it quickly becomes second nature to swap between them as you spot a possible solution. That giant stone fist, hanging by a chain above the skeleton’s head? The thief can shoot out the chain with her arrows, dropping the fist on the skeleton, not only crushing the beast, but collapsing the rickety rope bridge he’s standing on. See that energy potion on a particularly high ledge? The wizard can create two boxes, stack ’em vertically, and clamber up.

Or better yet, combining their abilites. A chasm, with a wooden roof overhead, and a pit of spikes at the bottom. The wizard can magick a box, place it in the middle of the spikes as a platform. Swap to the thief, use her grappling hook to swing to the box, land safely, then swing again to the other side of the chasm, swapping to the knight to casually wallop the bejesus out of the skeletons waiting on the other side.

(That’s just singleplayer, mind. The game also allows for co-op play, opening up the possiblities of direct teamwork. It’s an option I sadly haven’t had the opportunity to try.)

The skel'tons really do call to mind ye olde Prince of Persia, in the best way possible.

And, y’know… Look at it. So very few games look like that. Every single moment of gameplay is framed by a backdrop that’s incredibly vibrant and attractive. It’s a glowing, bloom-soaked bonanza of colour, perfectly complemented by some wonderful character animations and particle effects. It simultaneously looks like  the original Prince of Persia, Pixar doing medieval fantasy, and a dream. It’s utterly beguiling.

Oh, and I should give mention to the soundtrack. The work of one Ari Pulkkinen, it’s simply fantastic. Just listen to the theme in the trailer, and consider that he’s composed an individual theme for each of the dozen or so levels in the game. (Also, the theme can be downloaded from Pulkkinen’s website: here.)

I’ve made a fuss before over how excellent it is when video games stop being action movies and start to be fairy tales – it’s what made Prince of Persia: Sands of Time such a magical, glorious treat to play through. And it’s a rotten shame what Ubi Soft did to the franchise with Warrior Within, stripping out the childlike innocence and the charming banter, and replacing it with generic bloodlust and sweary adolescence. Trine is the first game I’ve played since SoT that has captured that same feeling of magic and wonder, and that’s the most excellent thing it could possibly do. I can’t wait for it to be released – July 3rd really can’t come soon enough.

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One Response to I Want To Be Playing This Game: Trine

  1. Excellent read, I just passed this onto a colleague who was doing a little research on that. And he really bought me lunch cause I found it for him.

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