Sometimes, a game comes along that hits just the right notes in just the right order.  Trine is one of those games.

Note: This review is for the PC version

Originally released on the PC in July 2009 (and on the PSN in October 2009), Trine is a sidescrolling platform puzzler game reminiscent of The Lost Vikings.  The storyline is simple but engaging: there once was a kingdom in which no war was waged.  After years of peace, the King passed away without an heir, which sadly sent the kingdom spiraling into chaos.  An undead army arose and begun taking over, forcing the subjects to flee the lands.

The Astral Academy, a once grand place of learning, has turned into an abandoned heap of rubble, burying untold treasures and knowledge deep within its stone walls.  A wizard, who has stayed behind to study astronomy, a knight, who has stayed behind to guard the ruins, and a thief in search of treasure simultaneously happen upon a mysterious object known as the Trine.  The Trine binds their souls to one another, allowing only one of them to exist in the physical realm at a time (this is the story’s explanation for the character-switching mechanic.)  Lucky for them, breaking the power of the Trine and stopping the undead menace both require the same actions to be taken.  Off they go, and the adventure begins.

The gameplay is quite simple.  You control the three characters (although only one at a time), and each one is suited for a different situation.  The knight is the main fighter, and has a shield that can block everything from enemy attacks to pieces of the environment that fall apart.  The wizard can manipulate and conjure objects, while the thief can fire arrows, light torches, and has a grappling hook that can attach to wood surfaces.  The need to switch characters is somewhat reminiscent of The Lost Vikings, although in Trine the characters aren’t quite as one-sided in their usefulness.  Experience can be gained by either collecting green bottles or by defeating enemies, and grant upgraded abilities to the three heroes.  There are also treasures that can be found, which provide boosted abilities (such as increasing your maximum energy), support functions (such as a health potion that automatically refills a portion of your life), and other miscellaneous things.  I generally prefer a more complex inventory/leveling system, but in this case the simplicity helps keep things flowing; you won’t spend much time trying to decide what kind of “build” you want, or which character should get which items.  Most of your time with Trine will be spent actually playing the game and admiring the environments.

Oh yes, the environments.  While other games may have more realistic graphics, or better looking textures, Trine still qualifies as one of the most beautiful games I have ever seen.  Advanced lighting effects and incredible detail make the world come alive, and if you have a full 1080p flatscreen TV or computer monitor, the imagery pops off the screen.  Style generally doesn’t affect whether I like a game or not, but it’s impossible to ignore Trine’s striking visuals.  You will explore a wide variety of locales, ranging from a beautiful forest to abandoned ruins to a hot-as-hell forge to dark catacombs.  Each level/environment is very distinct, and each one looks fantastic.  Every other step you take is worthy of a screenshot, so keep that F11 button handy!

The actual gameplay is extremely fun and addictive, if a bit simplistic.  You have unlimited lives, and you keep any experience or items found when you perish, so the need to retread old ground is very limited.  There are checkpoints spread throughout a level as well, so no matter where you die in the level, you never are pushed back very far.  Aside from the visuals, the game is technically sound.  There are some minor hit detection issues when enemies climb certain terrain, but other than that I encountered no problems.  If you are going to play this one on the PC, I very highly recommend you use a gamepad; besides being a platformer, utilizing the thief’s grappling hook is infinitely easier with a controller than with a mouse.  Most of the puzzles are of the simple “find a button to open this closed gate” variety.  The puzzles that aren’t the “find a button” variety tend to involve the excellent physics engine, which grants everything mass, velocity, and balance.  It’s not QUITE the best physics engine out there, but it’s certainly near the top.

Trine is a fairly short game; I completed it on normal difficulty in about five and a half hours.  While I’ve come to appreciate shorter games due to the decreased amount of free time I have, I found myself quite sad when the end credits rolled.  Trine is a game that I wished never ended, as its world is captivatingly beautiful and immeasurably fun.

Trine now rests firmly in my top five favorite games of all time.  I can’t recommend it highly enough…make sure this is the next game you play.