Score one for considering Facebook a useful part of society. Due entirely to the fact that I am a “fan” of a certain Facebook game news page, I received a message telling me about The Humble Frozenbyte Bundle; a special limited promotion where indie game developer Frozenbyte offered three of its games, along with soundtracks, editors, a pre-order for a new game and access to a canceled prototype project, all as part of a single bundle, and the buyer could name their own price. Even better, the buyer could choose how much of that money went to the developers, and how much went to one or both of two charities. Good games, good price, and helping to support both an indie developer and charities, while I am looking for games to play and evaluate. It was an easy decision, especially since one of the games, Trine, had been on my “radar” for a while.
Trine is, at its most basic, a simple platform set in a medieval fantasy world. A handful of traits and mechanics serve to set it apart, however. First of all, Trine is absolutely lovely to look at. I have called several games “colorful” or “brightly colored” lately, but Trine’s fantasy world is indeed super-saturated and whimsical, filled with giant mushrooms, enormous clockwork machines, stone fists on chains as traps and other such over-the-top fantasy elements. The plot starts out as generic fairytale fantasy fare, and as a backdrop, it is; this “genericness” is purposeful, though with the serious goals of the game serving as “straightman” for its more subversive elements. The story is straight up heroic fantasy, but the heroes seem hardly heroic; in fact, they are comically un-heroic. The female thief is simply seeking treasure; the confused wizard is a sleazy would-be ladies man who is missing his trousers and can only be distracted from his hedonistic tendencies by immediate danger or greed for magic, and the “heroic” knight is a bit of a glory hand and frankly just seems a bit dim. This combination of colorfulness, straight story, and subversive humor reminded me a bit of the similar balance achieved by the Fable games.
Trine’s gameplay is also somewhat unique in that all the characters have become linked, so a single player can play as all of them at once, switching between them as he/she plays. This is particularly interesting given that each character plays very differently and possesses not just unique skills, but unique play mechanics. These all interact with the game’s mostly physics-based obstacles, meaning that the game feels “free form” in a way that, for example, Portal doesn’t. While a few obstacles clearly are meant to be cleared in a certain way, most can be cleared in a variety of ways through clever manipulation of the object in the game world. The thief has a grappling hook, but as she uses it, momentum and her own weight are a factor; she might pull things down even as she pulls herself up, for example. The warrior is the most straightforward to play but is very satisfying. Far better than his companions at dispatching enemies, he also has a shield that is very useful in getting past certain traps.
The wizard is the most interesting character. Extremely weak and having no direct way of dealing damage (at least at first), the wizard has a levitate ability that allows him to directly move objects around in the game. Further, he can also conjure up a box or cube by using a fun little mechanic where the player draws a cube onscreen with the cursor and the cube appears. This cube makes a good stepping surface or a counterweight, and it can even be used to jam up things or push around objects that are out of reach.
I only spent a little time with Trine but I like a lot of the mechanics. I’ll be digging a little more into it later.