TRI, by Rat King Entertainment, is a new kind of puzzle platformer with some oddly familiar aspects. As hinted in the title, it’s closer to Portal than a lot of platformers (it was a unique concept, for sure), but of course there are no portals in this game – instead of a physically-improbable gun, you get a device which helps you to create platforms that are triangular in shape. You use these triangles to navigate across chasms, up to higher platforms, to bounce lights, and all kinds of other functions that are definitely puzzling when you first get the device, which, of course, is called the TRI artifact. This artifact is found in the Odd Gods’ world, which is populated by two foxes, whose origins and purpose are not known. Your goal is to find fox statues and use them to gain access to the next level.
Gameplay is accomplished with the keyboard, but if you’re a die-hard controller user (I fall into this category, in most cases), you can change the key bindings in the options menu. The in-game tutorial, however, still uses the keyboard instructions, so keep your custom functions in mind – you might tie the actions to those you’re familiar with in other games. For example, I modeled mine after both Portal and Far Cry 3, which worked out fairly well, though I had to use the directional pad for forming the triangles (you use one key to set the points of the triangle, and you can delete them with another – they’re usually the mouse buttons). Everything is fairly standard, though looking around with the keyboard is defaulted to the arrow keys. I’m not sure if that’s a good or bad thing, but it might take some getting used to for some players. The one problem with movement is that the look-around function is kind of slow. I felt like I was crawling in circles at time. You can sprint when moving forward, though, which is nice.
The puzzles range from “Oh, I’ve got this,” to “What the…what do I do? How the heck do I get up there?” I said some rather colorful phrases in the third level, trying to get an idol (they give you access to bonus content, and the number of idols in each level increases almost incrementally, so while they’re easier to spot, they’re also harder to get to), and even finding the next place to go was very difficult. There is a monk (the temple is to honor the gods, which happen to be strongly-bonded foxes) who gives you some instructions in a sort of riddling fashion, but he stops being very helpful by the third level, and begins pacing the floor in one of the rooms where the puzzles take a spike in difficulty. Standing in front of him and pressing the action key does nothing – I tried several times to irritate him into talking, but he literally pushed me to the side. For folks who aren’t willing to do significant work to advance in some areas, or who aren’t coordinated with jumping across a bunch of gaps in succession, this game may prove to be a bit difficult or frustrating. For those who like that kind of thing? This game is something that should probably be put on your wishlist, at the very least.
The sound design is at times both odd and very good. The music ranges from sounds that are very “temple-like,” as in you hear men making noises with their mouths as percussion (one of them sounds like he has the hiccups, honestly) to very soothing music that kind of fades into the background, and isn’t distracting. In fact, the percussive noises usually come around when you’re at a point in the game where getting a bit distracted by sound doesn’t really cause a problem. So many games don’t pay attention to how their stereo sounds work – some just make their soundtracks mono, which is okay, but having stereo really adds to the experience. TRI is one of those games that makes very good use of stereo sound, so if you turn around when your guide is speaking, he sounds like…well, like you’re turning and he’s standing in the same spot. There’s a neat Doppler effect with the in-game sounds, as well, where they almost sound like they’re changing pitch as you move position. I’m not sure if that’s what’s happening, but I really did enjoy the sound design in the game.
The graphics aren’t the most modern, or even the most beautiful, but they really are interesting, and they somehow fit perfectly. They’re geometrically-formed, from the columns in the temples to the leaves on the trees (which resemble cherry blossoms). Of course, in a game where the main movement device is a triangle-tool, you’d expect the rest of the environment to match. The colors are vibrant, and there are color cues for the triangles that tell you whether or not the triangle you placed is usable (yellow) or not (red). Basically, any triangle that’s at or above a certain angled degree will cause you to immediately fall, so you have to pay attention when you’re placing triangles, or failure is imminent.
TRI is, to me, an innovative game just for the functions and puzzles. While yes, there are similarities to Portal and even Tomb Raider, there is such a unique feel to it, and I got completely sucked into the gameplay – and I’m terrible at platformers, so that’s saying something. If you’re into puzzle platformers, you’ll likely enjoy this game, which is being released today on Steam. There are two editions available for purchase: The Monk Edition, which is $12.99, and The Fox Edition, which is $19.99. Both editions are for Mac/Windows/Linux. The Fox Edition also includes the soundtrack, hence the price jump. There are 16 levels in each version, and gathering idols yields the same bonuses. I would like to see some more levels, but overall, it’s pretty solid as it is, now.
If you’d like to try before you buy, there are demos available on itch.io and IndieDB. If you’d like more information, Rat King Entertainment’s page about TRI can be found here. Follow them on Twitter, “like” their page on Facebook, or visit the developer’s website here.