Physics-based puzzle games were all the rage before zombies started putting their undead fingers into all the pies, and one of the biggest names in the genre was Trine, a delightfully simple, yet addictive puzzle/action combo featuring three very different heroes with very different abilities. Pontius, the knight and main combatant, Amadeus the wizard, master of levitation and conjuration, and Zoya the thief, handy with a grappling hook and her trusty bow, accompanied me on many an adventure back in 2009.
Granted with the power of immortality, demonstrated by their ability to respawn at the beginning of a level despite any injuries, these three heroes are entrusted to protect the people by Trine, a mysterious, intelligent artifact that, after a few years of silence, has once again summoned the heroes to save the day. With Zoya’s wits, Pontius’ strength, and Amadeus’ magic, they’ll have to overcome deadly traps and dangerous monsters.
Unfortunately, my nostalgia wasn’t enough to overcome the weaknesses of Trine 3: The Artifacts of Power. Previous installments focused on two planes of movement: up and down, and side to side. Here developers Frozenbyte have decided to add a third dimension to the game: front and back. While this does lead to some interesting exploration of the environments, which are even more beautiful than ever before, it can make the gameplay much, much more frustrating, especially since many of the puzzles require precise movements that just aren’t feasible in tense moments of action.
Each level consists of various puzzles and combat sections designed to let you decide which character to use to bypass them, although some of the challenges could require multiple characters. This is where the co-op mode really shines as it lets players to work together to reach the end, a bit like Portal 2 but with less sarcastic robots and more goblins.
In addition to the normal levels there are also several ‘challenge’ levels which only allow the use of one character, often telling a short story of what they were doing right before being summoned by Trine. However, this section could have been improved immensely if a death didn’t mean restarting the entire level, as some of these puzzles are downright mean and having to constantly repeat the beginning of a level over and over again just feels like cheap padding.
In the larger picture, of course, this is a minor grievance, and if it was the only problem it wouldn’t have bothered me at all. Sadly, it wasn’t. Even after three hours of playing I was enjoying the story, the characters, and the environments, and wondering just where this adventure was going to take me when, suddenly, it just ends. And on a cliffhanger. I felt let down, because while the game does offer co-op and challenge modes, the game was unbearably short and felt almost unfinished, as if the second half of the game had just disappeared. I’m not the only one to notice this, of course, and many people are feeling betrayed for getting so little out of a 20 dollar game.
Perhaps if developers Frozenbyte had spent more time on fleshing out the rather sparse story of Trine 3: The Artifacts of Power, or at least cut the price, and spent a little less time on alternative modes of play, they wouldn’t be receiving the amount of backlash from the community they have been. With the sour taste lingering in our mouths, the very concept of a Trine 4 is up in the air, but perhaps the series can be saved yet.