Friday, October 2, 2009

Trino: Try it, buy it.

I just finished a play session with Trino, an Indie game available on the XBM. What a fantastic experience. Very relaxing, engaging, and fun from moment one. An excellent example of a game that starts simple and layers on interesting game play as you go.

The learn-as-you-play was great. Yes, the control scheme was simple. But other games have failed to make learning even the basics fun because they don't break down the core experience into its component parts and let players discover, master, and grow in expertise as part of game play. No boring billboards. No pausing of the action. Just a well designed initial level that provided enough safe interactivity for players to grok the basics -- and when ready, move on to new challenges.

First. Move (LS).

Then. Make Triangles (LS + A).

Then. Eat Powerups (LS).

Then. Close the Map (LS + A).

Of course, it helps that the core mechanic -- making triangles -- was relaxing and fun to do. The music and visuals made this a relaxing endeavor. Unlike other similar games (like Robotron or Geometry Wars), the music stayed calming even when the action got more and more frenetic.

In some ways, this represents a much more casual approach to its otherwise hardcore breathren. Really, it's a great timewaster game that makes me think more of Bejeweled. I wonder if this is because building triangles with three dots is kind of like playing a connect-3 game?

No real criticisms so far. I know that there are a few more advanced tricks I need to learn -- and I'm curious to find out how the game teaches them to me (bombs, shadow triangles).

The main critique I have is in regards to player death and respawning.
  • Death results in the immediate disappearance of my ship and the object my ship collided into. This is sometimes frustrating because I'm not sure *how* I died if I was glancing around looking for my next move. I actually felt somewhat cheated a couple of times because I could have sworn (based on memory) that I had enough space to avoid an object, but I ended up dying. Had player death been followed by some sort of visual freeze-frame of the incident, I could quickly direct my attention to the crash and validate in my own mind that, whoops, I did bump into something.
  • Respawning doesn't really have any obvious visual or sound cue. At some points during later levels I actually hadn't realized I spawned in right away because my eyes were drawn to all of the enemies that were circling the board and my craft was "hidden" by the lines that border the game space. The game is so relaxing that I kind of need a quick "wake up" reminder that it's about to start up and I need to interact as opposed to just sitting back, watching the pretty visuals and listening to the music.
All in all, great game and well worth the 540 points ($6).

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