This time it's a game I downloaded as part of Steam's summer camp sales week in July, and it was totally worth the $5 I paid. Take a gander at the physics-based platforming of Trine.
Trine is a platforming game by tiny Finnish studio FrozenByte, which I had never heard of but might keep an eye on. The gist is that three strangers (a knight, thief, and wizard) simultaneously and independently find an ancient artifact called the Trine; when the three grab it simultaneously, the Trine "binds their souls together", having them share the same body, with only one active at a time. This makes me think of Castlevania 3: Dracula's Curse, except they actually try to justify the character-switching.
The three must find the Trine's two partner artifacts in order to separate themselves, but on the way they notice that the kingdom that they knew only a few days ago to be a happy, prosperous place has become dark, twisted, and infested with undead; now they have to try and save the kingdom along with freeing themselves of the Trine. They do so by traversing through several stages full of skeletons, bats, spiders, and lots and lots of clockwork gears, platforms, and bridges.
Trine brings an interesting medieval / steampunk aesthetic, which wouldn't be out of place in Lord of the Rings if it weren't for all the brassy gears and mechanical works. The Wizard is also able to conjure clockwork boxes, bridges, and floating platforms to help you get from place to place, in addition to using telekinesis to move around inanimate objects. One thing he CAN'T do is a fireball spell, which is a sensitive topic for him. The lovely Thief is an archer to can fire arrows in any direction the mouse button guides them, in addition to using a grappling hook and burning arrows to light torches. The knight is a bruiser that can block things with his shield, smash walls with his hammer, or hack undead apart with his sword. If you couldn't already tell, you'll need to use all three characters in concert to make your way through the game's stages.
The stages themselves are at times a little indistinguishable - this would be a problem if the game ever got tedious, which it thankfully doesn't. Still, I mean, you've seen one wooded ruin with hanging platforms and wooden bridges, you've seen them all. The game's use of light and shadow, while looking fantastic, can also make seeing things like treasure chests, spikes, or switches a little difficult. Potions that you use to heal health and energy (which powers each character's special abilities, natch) pop out of the screen easily, but I don't doubt I missed a few treasure chests along the way due to brightness.
The game's action itself is the major highlight. The game's physics engine is fantastic (what's with Finns and physics games? First Angry Birds, and now this?); every tumbling boulder, swaying bridge, and spinning windmill can be manipulated and interacted with flawlessly - your characters seem to be unusually good at jumping off of near-vertical steep slopes, but this is a welcome feature and not a complaint. There are very few bosses in the game, to the point where they're considered obstacles more than epic encounters, and there isn't really a final boss either - you just make your way to the end of the stage while the game's main antagonist harasses you, and you defeat it in a cutscene when you reach the finish line. Really, the game's not about combat (although there is some), but rather about jumping, puzzling, and collecting.
There are a fair number of widgets hidden in each level that you'll have use some tricky grappling or telekinesis to find - treasure chests hold equippable items for each character, and green experience potions allow characters to level up their skills. The only problem is that there aren't enough of them. There are (I think) fourteen or fifteen stages in the game, not counting the special post-game challenge area, and you can beat each one in ten to twenty minutes. I was cruising through stages as late as the game's second half in under 10 minutes, because for some reason it all just clicked and I could suddenly make jumps and move things that I couldn't figure out how to deal with before. Sadly, if your goal is completion and not 100% completion, then you can beat the game in under 4 or 5 hours easily.
Trine's good, but brief. That's the long and the short of it. It's available on Steam, XBLA, or the PSN, so if you see it on sale for under $10 it's worth consideration. Trine 2 will be out in the next few months, and its trailers look gorgeous - they're trading the character-switch mechanic out for some sexy, shiny co-op multiplayer. Definitely on my radar.
Games Beaten: 2011 Edition
1. Mario vs. Donkey Kong
2. Primal Rage
3. Torchlight Hat Trick
4. Ghost Trick
6. Batman: Arkham Asylum
7. Sly Cooper and the Thievius Raccoonus
8. Sly 2: Band of Thieves
9. Sly 3: Honor Among Thieves
10. Tales of Eternia
11. Marvel vs. Capcom 3: Fate of Two Worlds
12. Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII
13. 999: 9 Hours, 9 Persons, 9 Doors
14. Dragon Quest VI: Realms of Revelation
15. Dragon Quest Heroes: Rocket Slime
16. Dragon Age: Origins
17. Legend of Heroes: Trails in the Sky
18. inFamous Evil Finish
20. inFamous 2 Good Finish
21. Big Bang Mini
22. Final Fight: Double Impact
23. Breath of Death VII: The Beginning
24. Cthulhu Saves the World
25. Ninja Gaiden: Dragon Sword
26. Dragon Age: Origins - Awakening
27. Disgaea Infinite
28. X-Men Legends II: Rise of Apocalypse
29. Jeanne d'Arc
30. Dragon Age II
31. Jade Empire
32. Cthulhu's Angels
33. DeathSpank: Orphans of Justice
34. Disgaea 4: A Promise Unforgotten
35. Marvel: Ultimate Alliance
I'm 95% sure the next item on the list will be Prince of Persia, which I started last week and I really enjoy so far (sorry for the bad tenses there). Odin Sphere, Prinny, Phantom Brave, and lots of other projects are in the works.