Developer: Frozenbyte | Released: 2009 | Genre: Platform, Puzzle
This is a post in a nostalgic series with transcriptions of my diary sessions of the games I played many years ago, translated and adapted from Danish. There will be spoilers in these diary sessions.
Once again I’m back with this series again after another long hiatus. I’m going to try a few snazzy things this time. First, I’ll let Google Translate turn the Danish text into English, since it’s probably much better at it than I am these days anyway. I still have to adapt it here and there, though. Second, I’ll post this with the publish date of when I completed the game. Hopefully that will make more chronological sense.
July 30, 2012
I managed to play the first 5 levels out of a total of 16 over two rounds today. Trine was a sideways puzzle platform game, but in a very nice 3D engine with good lighting (typically wavy and sliding all over) and with nice background music and themes. The game scrolled from right to left in levels with checkpoints (so no quickload) and it was also a little harder than what I had heard.
I controlled three characters which I could switch between in the heat of battle – a wizard, a thief and a knight. With a wizard I could draw boxes and later planks in the air that materialized and fell to the ground. Then they could e.g. be stacked or squash a skeleton. It was also possible to lift certain things up with levitation, such as a platform on rails in the ceiling. A thief could swing a loose rope shot up into certain selected pieces of wood under the ceiling, or I could fire an arrow – the longer I held the button, the more powerful. And finally, a knight could strike with a sword, protect himself with a shield against arrows and sword swings, and I could lift and throw heavy things.
Puzzles, platforms and the enemies along the way required regular switching between all three characters, but it often seemed like there were multiple solutions. Still, I often fell down in the same place and had to try again and again, and here the lack of quickload was quite annoying.
Other minor observations:
- When guarding with the shield, a knight could also determine the direction using the mouse. In a few cases, stones fell from the ceiling and then the shield naturally had to be held upwards.
- A wizard could smash useless crates and planks by me pointing at one and then pressing a hotkey. But other than that, there was some sort of queue that automatically removed the “oldest” crates. By the way, my boxes were “grids” (with gears on them), which meant they couldn’t float in water.
- Skeletons were the main enemy in this first session and they were downright annoying. First and foremost, those with swords (and later also shields) could jump and crawl just as well as me. This reminded me of the guards in Assassin’s Creed, who were also just as adept at imitating our hero jumping across rooftops. In addition, they occasionally respawned quite a few times in the same place, which was especially annoying when I’d been dragged down for the umpteenth time.
- Between levels, a narrator rambled on far too much about a rather unimportant story. It was possible to start before he had finished his waffles, but I usually couldn’t bring myself to do that.
- Many platforms and box puzzles involved levitation, heaving, swinging and other goodies that clearly utilized a good algorithm for gravity. However, it was too much of a good thing, because I was often delayed by the boxes falling between each other or some platforms swinging around too much.
- I could get XP from green bottles – either by killing skeletons or from hard-to-reach places. As soon as 50 of these were drunk we leveled up and I could expand some abilities on a very simple screen with items. My wizard could, for example, draw several boxes at once or even later a long plank.
- A neat but difficult trick I later taught myself was to draw a box in the air with my wizard and then instantly jump onto it as a link up to a higher platform before the box fell all the way to the ground. It’s great that the game developers have allowed this – it has helped me in several places.
- At the end of the session I fell into water and had to swim up into a cave. My knight just sank to the bottom in his armor and then had to drop off from the bottom to get back up. The other two could just swim around as they pleased. As usual, there was also a bar for the oxygen.
- In addition to skeletons (some with swords and some with bows) there were also swinging axes, spear traps galore, regularly fired fireballs and whatever else you find in this type of game.
To be completely honest, I wasn’t that excited about Trine. I thought there was a bit too much falling down and then I had to jump up many times to get back to where I was. I also died a few times, which even only happened when all three characters had kicked the bucket, and that on the lowest difficulty of probably four levels. At the next checkpoint, at least any dead characters were revived and the bars filled up a bit. In addition to three health bars, I also had ditto mana bars. For example, to create boxes out of thin air.
September 21, 2012
I finally pulled myself together and got through the last two thirds of this sideways platformer in that exceptionally good looking 3D engine. I’ve put it off time and time again for more or less intuitive reasons, and I was quickly reminded why. It was one thing when I fumbled a jump and tumbled down for the seventeen hundredth time and had to start all over again – checkpoints wouldn’t allow me to retry the exact same spot – but what was even more annoying was the game’s burdensome cornucopia of skeletons and bats. Skeletons in particular spawned like an Olympic gold medalist, and they scurried around, shot arrows, swung swords, and were generally always in the way. Typically, it happened that I arrived at a new challenge – for example a series of small platforms in a flywheel, the necessity of using my wizard to make boxes and platforms, and my thief to pull himself up in his suspended rope. Just as I finished my deep breath and stepped onto the first platform, those damn skeletons started spawning right, left, over here, and over there. They tumbled after me and were very distracting, if not actually causing me to lose my concentration so much that I dropped several screens for the eighteen hundredth time. Occasionally they were peppered with flocks of bats that could be just as annoying.
When I got a little over halfway through the game, after a string of levels in the afternoon, I had enough and found a web site on the Internet with tips on how to cheat. I edited a save game (script format) and added astronomical health and energy so at least it wasn’t a problem anymore. It helped a lot with the slightly sour mood about the game, but unfortunately I still couldn’t avoid being smacked down for several minutes from hard-to-reach places. It was a bit of a shame actually, because I have a feeling that I would have liked Trine much better if only the enemies had been throttled down significantly more. Then there would be more peace and quiet to jump properly, and I might have been more inventive too. The game allowed for a creative use of the boxes and platforms that my wizard could conjure out of thin air – e.g. bridges over bridges with a box as a counterweight or a bridge over two ferrous gears – and when I managed to come up with something clever, it felt quite rewarding.
Of course the difficulty ramped up towards the end. The last level was a vertical affair of jumping up on a bunch of easily collapsible platforms, all while a ghost spawned boxes and platforms to annoy – the same ability as my wizard, just with red paint on things. There were no checkpoints until I got all the way up, and although I often fell a little downwards, at least I never dropped all the way to the bottom. I don’t even dare to think how furious I would have been if that had happened. I have read that there should also have been lava slowly filling all the way up, but I saw nothing of that at all. Maybe they nerfed it, or maybe they removed it entirely for people on the easiest difficulty.
If so, thanks! I had enough of that kind of nonsense in the last level of Braid.
Apart from the squeamish skeletons and bats, there were a few more details that also pissed me off. One was that some gaps between two platforms felt like they were deliberately made so that you just couldn’t reach it. It felt like the last 0,0001mm was missing. Then I had to climb all the way back up and then try to be creative with my wizard. The other detail was that I often missed being able to scroll the screen slightly to the edges to see what was waiting. Sometimes I could only just accurately sense something interesting at the edge of the screen – maybe a green XP potion – maybe more? Until I wasted a lot of time looking up there I couldn’t be sure. Extra scrolling or a subtle zoom on a button would have been cool.
But if the game was annoying at many points, at least it was amazingly beautiful. Pure love for the eyes. Screenshots don’t do the game justice at all – its pulsing lights and animations just have to be seen. And also the music was mostly delicious and melodic. However, I found the mentioned points so annoying that despite this I still decided to give the game 6 out of 10. So it’s a good example of how graphics and sound are certainly not everything – gameplay is always king. If it’s not right, it falters.
Other minor observations:
- In a few of the levels, certain areas were quite dark until my thief lit a few torches with his flame arrows. Incidentally, these flame arrows were also good against skeletons and bats.
- Due to the fact that my thief was good with his flame arrows, I didn’t get to use my knight very much. However, there were a few situations where he could smash his way with a storm hammer.
- In addition to creating boxes and bridges with my wizard, I was also able to create a box and use it to push morning stars on chains to the side without getting stung.
- Late in the game, my wizard got access to make a triangle. The triangle got stuck where it was created and could be used to jump across. Later I upgraded it to be made of wood so my thief could use it to shoot a rope up. This was so effective that it was used frequently in the last few levels of the game. It actually felt like a little bit of cheating.
- Here and there – typically once or twice in a level – there were chests with an artifact. One of them was being able to breathe underwater. I gave it to my thief, which I used the most anyway. I didn’t find much of value under water – not that I examined the water baths too thoroughly.
When I got through the game there was an extra level, “Path to New Dawn”, in the same setting as the last vertical level. This one was also a bit vertical in style and featured falling rocks, but on the other hand had no voice acting. Steam thought it had taken 6.3 hours in total. 5-6 hours probably sounds about right.
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