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Trine: The PS3's Next (Not So) Sure Fire Hit

| 9 Jul 2009 20:48
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If the PlayStation Network has one thing in abundance, it's gorgeous, innovative games that are widely overlooked as gimmicky fluff. French developer Nobilis no doubt hopes players see its upcoming platformer Trine as more than just another pretty face.

Trine product manager Oliver Vermeille took to Sony's official PlayStation.Blog this morning to explain the game, a title he characterizes as "a fantasy action and platform game that combines 2D gameplay with 3D graphics."

That's when a bizarre bit of disconnect creeps into Vermeille's post. Glancing toward the handful of Trine screenshots on display, that initial comment seem both generic and surprisingly self-deprecating.

Confused by what initially appears to be the least successful PR campaign in gaming history, you read on, and realize that Vermeille has been saving his enthusiasm for the game's big draw: its physics engine.

Because physics is at the core of the gameplay, there is not just one solution for each puzzle; in fact you can even find a way the developers have never thought of!

You can control one of the three characters of the game and switch at any time to solve the puzzles in a different manner. Each character has a unique ability, so choose the one you think is best suited for the situation.

The Wizard can create and move objects around to build a bridge or crush his enemies with a box. The Thief uses her bow to attack and her grappling hook to move quickly and avoid dangerous traps. The Warrior is better suited for close combat and tends to hit before he thinks!

So you can play through the 16 levels of the game, switching from character to character, but you can also play with one or two friends in a cooperative mode. Play the whole adventure together and find new solutions by combining your characters' powers.

So, in short, Trine is one part Prince of Persia, one part Gauntlet and one part Portal? Where do I sign up?

Between this "choose your own adventure via the joys of interactive physics" concept and the attractive trailer on offer, I'd say I'm intrigued. Or, more specifically, I'm confused at how Sony consistently fails to focus marketing efforts on quirky, intriguing games like this, despite the company's ongoing dearth of new gaming series.

The studios developing these titles obviously put a lot of time and effort into the various Trines, Flowers, and Echochromes, and yet they never seem to find the sort of audience one would expect from games that have readily apparent aesthetic appeal combined with clever design, genuine bang-for-the-buck value and noteworthy additions to their respective genres.

Unlike the other two titles I mentioned above, Trine is not a PS3-exclusive release. By offering a PC variant of the game, Nobilis guarantees itself a bit of protection against Sony's baffling history with quirky new games.

Whether this was an intentional choice by the game's creators or a fortuitous twist of fate, it's almost sad that a development studio should be applauded for shying away from too intimate a relationship with the once-mighty creator of the PlayStation.

While this mini-rant may have started off as a prayer that Trine lives up to what I see as near-endless potential, I'm really quite curious for your collective feedback on what exactly is going on here. Gamers at large, do you all simply refuse to buy new, quirky games, or should the blame be placed at the foot of Sony's in-house kingmakers?

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