Trine Hands-On Preview

2D platforming continued its comeback at E3 in a big way, with New Super Mario Bros. Wii and Shadow Complex leading the charge. So it’s easy then to overlook a fairly anonymous downloadable 2D platformer like Trine. That would be a mistake, because Frozenbyte’s upcoming title was easily one of the best games I saw at this year’s E3.

At its core, Trine is a 2D physics-based puzzling platformer. In its single player, you can toggle between its three characters at will, namely the Knight, the Thief, and the Wizard. The Knight can slash enemies with his sword, and use the right analogue stick to block with his shield from any direction. The Thief shoots arrows in any direction, and can grapple Bionic Commando-style under wooden objects like walkways and boxes. The Wizard summons boxes (one at a time) into existence by drawing them, and can move objects like bridges and boxes telekinetically.

What makes this interesting is Trine’s co-op, played by two or three players, in which you cannot assume the same role as another character. This makes the puzzles harder, as you’ll all have to work together to find a solution for getting each player across the game’s chasms. Here’s an example: a path ahead is covered in spikes while there’s a series of platforms high in the air. The Thief can grapple across the platforms from underneath, but the Knight and the Wizard have to jump across them, and reaching them can prove tricky. First off, the Wizard creates a box to stand on, then the Knight throws said box, with Wizard perched on it, up towards the platforms. Then the Wizard summons a box for the Knight to stand on, and then the Wizard telekinetically drags the Knight on the box using his wizardry. If it sounds complicated, don’t worry, because it’s actually easier said than done or thought out. The game is all physics-based, so where the Wizard grabs the box with the pointer will actually effect how it will move, as does where the Knight is standing. Working in tandem to keep one player perched on a box is just one example of how teamwork in Trine will really pay off.

Don’t be fooled, though, because playing as one character offers its own challenges. Even though you’ll have all the powers available to you, you won’t have anyone else to help you, meaning the puzzles take a life of their own in the single player. Each puzzle offers multiple solutions based on whether one, two or three people are playing. The only downside seems to be that Trine is not balanced well towards two players (no pun intended), as you can always switch roles around as required, but still have the help of a co-op partner.

Checkpoints are handled similarly to last year’s PS3 sensation LittleBigPlanet, but are unlimited, and thus more forgiving. If you die as one character, you automatically respawn as one of the remaining characters. If all three die, you go back to the checkpoint with everyone magically resurrected.

Visually, the game looks extraordinary. The setting is high-fantasy fare, but the art style is fantastic thanks to the use of 3D art overlaying on the 2D plane. Trine is what games would look like had they never gone 3D. It’s similar to LittleBigPlanet, only more somber and without the cumbersome plane swapping.

With new Super Mario Bros. Wii being more action-focused and competitive, and Shadow Complex being exclusively single-player and more exploration-based, Trine sets itself apart from other titles in the 2D resurgence thanks to its heavy focus on puzzles and physics. It also offers up appreciably different playthroughs through its single player and co-op gameplay. It’s estimated to be 8-10 hours long, with plenty of replay value through hidden collectibles and of course in its co-op play. Trine is an excellent prospect, one that could reach the heights of last year’s TGR game of the year Braid, another 2D puzzle platformer. That’s enough to make me very excited, and it should be enough for you too.

Trine is slated for release this summer on PSN, XBLA, and PC.

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