Tuesday 24 September 2019

Trine 3: The Artifacts of Power Review (Switch)

It’s no secret that we are big fans of the Trine series at Retro 101. We’ve covered both the original games across numerous formats and rated them very highly. Indeed, there’s just something about them that fills the Lost Vikings sized hole in our lives. Frozenbyte promised to try something different with Trine 3 and now the 3D experiment has made its way to the Switch.

As always with the series, Trine 3 looks jaw-dropingly gorgeous. The environments leap into life with colour and flourishes of detail that you just don’t find in many games. If you have the ability to play the game in 3D then things get even more beautiful as well. It’s simply stunning how good this looks and playing anything else afterwards is a real comedown in the visual department.

The big change is that now the game is in 3D. You can run into and out of the screen and the levels now scroll into the play field as well as left and right. This allows for some nice sections with the three heroes floating and swinging along but also brings with it some changes that not everyone will be happy with.

The main issue is that levels feel less focused than in the previous 2D outings. Puzzle solving is less complex and there is more emphasis on general combat and platforming. Using the wizard has become a bit of a pain as well as moving his objects around in the 3D landscape never really feels as natural as it should. There’s also an issue with depth and it can be hard to tell if you are going to land where you think you are. It’s kind of like an N64 platformer with the most beautiful graphics ever.

The characters have now lost the ability to upgrade their skills as well (though they are given selected skills to start). The Knight can stomp, charge, deflect and float with his shield while the thief can now tie her grappling hooks to things to hold them in place. The wizard is more limited with his abilities and now restricted to the summoning of a single box.

The new approach to skills is made use of well though and you will need everything to progress. The fact the heroes start with their skills also allows the game to throw things at you right from the off and get you thinking. It’s good the game does throw you in quickly because it is somewhat shorter than other games in the series. Starting out with a level to introduce each character you then get five main levels to fight through. Upon completion you are faced with a cliff hanger ending which hints at more to come. What form that will take will remain to be seen.

There are a host of shorter levels to unlock as well which focus on an individual character and as such effectively give you one life to complete them. These are tougher and designed to fit skill sets of the respective characters. Though brief they are fun to play and never out stay their welcome.

Both main story and side levels are unlocked by collecting glowing triangles. We don’t really like things like this as it can work as an artificial game lengthening device that forces players to go back to levels and hunt around for the missing twenty or thirty they need to progress. We didn’t have much trouble with getting the requisite amounts but it’s something we’d like to see removed in any future games.

Overall, while there has been a lot of a change in mechanics and progression the game never stops being fun. It’s certainly a more knock-about kind of fun than before but it remains humorous and throws up enough adventure to keep you interested until the end. When the 3D works in the games favour you can see exactly what the team were going for and there are some solid foundations here for future forays into it. It may not be up there with the near perfection of the 2D games but it has bucket load of potential if the team ever decide to revisit the idea.

Overall 7/10

Monday 16 September 2019

Trine 2: The Complete Story Review (Switch)

Trine follows the adventures of a mage, knight and thief bound together by a magical artefact known as the Trine. A 2D puzzle platform game, Trine 2 tries to do something new with a genre more typically found back in the 16-bit era. Indeed, we found our thoughts drifting to The Lost Vikings as we began utilising the three hero’s unique abilities.

The knight is best at fighting and can use his shield to reflect light beams and deflect objects. The thief shoots arrows and can use a grappling hook and the mage can conjure and move objects. Each character can be upgraded by seeking out experience points in the form of magic bubbles. This unlocks further abilities such as exploding arrows, stealth abilities and a number of other things which help fight off the many Goblins and giant spiders you'll encounter along the way.

With the different abilities on offer and different ways to play the developers have given the players multiple options in how to solve the puzzles. Playing single player has one character on screen which can be changed at any time, while multiplayer has all characters on screen at once. This means that certain puzzles would by default need a number of different ways to get through them.

The great thing is that the Trine world and physics are very tactile and effectively sets up a big toy box for you play around with to accomplish your task. Players who prefer the mage will be able to upgrade his abilities to summon large numbers of boxes and ramps to get around. While those using a mixture of the characters will find the need to use a combination of grappling hook swings, magical platforms and brute strength.

You could for instance spend time re-arranging pipes to get the water level right to reach a high ledge. Alternatively you could use an ice arrow to freeze the pool and then stack some mage created boxes on it, while in multiplayer there would be much more opportunity for cooperative lever pulling . The choice is yours. We found this flexible approach refreshing and it meant that progression was always steady as you weren’t left searching for the one way the developer intended you to get through an area.

The first thing that strikes you about the game is just how jaw droopingly gorgeous the whole thing is. The backdrops and landscapes are beyond stunning. We have never seen a 2D game that looks so good. Sunbeams shine through leaves, ice glistens and everything looks as magical and enchanting as seems humanly possible. The attention to detail is staggering and this combined with the physics engine creates a solid and immersive world that you never tire looking at.

The music is also suitably epic with bold fantasy themed tunes subtly underscoring your adventure. Even better news is that Trine 2 has an excellent script and group of voice actors. As the heroes adventure their comments and conversation can’t help to raise a smile. Everything seems to have been done with just the right amount of tongue in cheek humour.

Graphics and sound are all good but don’t mean anything if the game doesn’t play well. For the first hour or so we were a little worried that the controls wouldn’t gel. While we had a few issues when we first started to play this on the Wii U, the Switch version hits the ground running straight away.

The game itself is very smooth with everything acting as it should and combat working well. The only slight issues is that after years of playing games like Flashback and Prince of Persia we instinctively expect the edge of a platform to be in a certain part of the graphic. Trine 2’s is a little deeper and this left us missing jumps a number of times (especially in handheld mode). Again, once you get used to it there is very little here to complain about.

This is a good thing as the game is pretty sizeable with the normal quest taking around ten hours and the add-on content pushing that up by another five to eight depending how good you are. Searching out all the hidden chests to get paintings, poems and the maps pieces needed to access the extra area will also take a fair amount of time.

Every level is strong and there was never a time when we found ourselves wanting the game to be over. It’s one of those titles that eats up your free time without you really realising it. When it ends you just wish there was more of it and we can honestly say this is the most pure fun we've had with a video game for years.

Everything about Trine 2 just makes us smile and anyone slightly put off by the fact it’s been around a while really shouldn’t worry. The amount of value and enjoyment present here is to be commended and it’s clear the developers really have gone that extra effort to make something that deserves to be held up with the very best in the genre.

If you haven’t guessed by now we like this game a lot. It takes players on a magical and beautiful adventure while always remaining enjoyable and throwing in some absolutely stunning design. If you own a Switch this game is as essential as anything else you can buy. This is definitive version of one of the best games to come out in an absolute age and still holds up expertly. There really is no excuse not to own it.


Tuesday 10 September 2019

Trine: Enchanted Edition Review (Switch)

Regular readers will know that one of our first reviews was Trine 2 on the Wii U some time ago. We liked it a lot and gave it an impressive 9/10. Now, the whole trilogy is making its way to the Switch. We will be putting all three of the games through their paces to see if they still hold up and how suitable they are for play on the go.

If you haven’t come across a Trine game before it’s basically a platform/puzzle game where you control three different characters. You have the Knight who can fight and use his shield to block and gains abilities to break down walls. The wizard can create blocks and shapes which can then be used as platforms and the thief uses a bow and can attach to wood with her grappling hook.

The characters can be cycled through as you play and the real genius is that most of the puzzles don’t have a set way of being completed so that any of characters can get through. This allows players to work things out in a way that best suits them and gives a wonderful range of flexibility to play. Co-op is also available for added chaos.

As characters progress they level up by killing monsters and collecting vials of experience from within the levels. This then allows them to unlock and upgrade their abilities allowing for more shapes to be summoned, fire arrows or charge attacks. Any essential skills are given to you so you can’t level up in the ‘wrong’ way.

The real stars of the show are the levels themselves as they are brilliantly designed. Perhaps not quite as flawless as the levels in Trine 2 - but of a stupidly high standard none the less. They also look absolutely gorgeous running in the Trine 2 engine. If ever you were waiting for a game to use that share button on the Switch then this is it.

It’s also worth saying that the game is different enough from Trine 2 to be worth looking at as well. The basic gameplay is the same but the levels are unique enough and the enemies moving from goblins to the undead also further separates it from the sequel. The plot is just as stupid but it all moves along at a quick pace and the whole thing never stops being enjoyable.

The game runs well in handheld mode as well. We didn’t notice anything that got in the way of the flow of the game and it still looks absolutely beautiful. The only real issue is the sheer amount of detail on screen. We found it difficult at times to identify objects and the separation between the backgrounds and foregrounds could be clearer. This could be a colour blind issue on our part or simply that the screen is too busy for handheld mode. It’s a tricky one as its lovely to see all the detail make the transition to a smaller screen but it is clear that Trine is meant to be viewed on something larger.

Overall, it would have been easy to dismiss the original Trine with a new game in the series on the horizon but it is still well worth getting into for newcomers of the series and fans looking for a mobile adventure. The mechanics still work as well as ever we found it to be an impressive and magical adventure throughout.

Overall 8/10