Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Indie Impressions - TRI

TRI: Of Friendship and Madness

Now Available on Steam

Developed by Rat King 


Transported to a world of colorful and almost paper-mâché like surroundings, set to the eerie trip-hop beats of the rhythm and its mysterious sounding eastern strings weaving in and out of your eardrums; TRI is certainly a world of mystique and ancient mystery, and it bleeds with a style that stands out from the rest.

You find yourself in a peaceful garden of zen, a wise robed and masked figure greets and leads you through your relaxing surroundings to the base of a shrine. Here he explains the story of two foxes with a symbolic relationship obviously revered by the people of this temple. As the title suggests, the friendship of these two once playful spirits has been driven to madness and your spiritual guide requests your help in locating and finding out what really drove these two sacred beings apart from each other.

As you step through the portal you've been led to, this is where the game takes a twist from the relaxing to the oddly enchanting and mystic world of the Odd Gods.

Your objective for each ancestral act of the game seems simple enough; collect the three shining fox statues scattered throughout each sprawling temple of dream-like obstacles and bring them to their pedestal to activate the strange portal. As you'll soon discover after only a couple short levels, these fox statues all seem to be out of reach. Luckily, you quickly come across the very free-form and useful triangle creating ability that the game centers around. This allows full creativity and endless possibilities that are downright fun to explore with how you construct your spiraling walkway towards each out-of-reach goal.

Lost in these ancient maze-like structure feeling like some kind of wild animal wandering throughout a huge human contraption. You'll weave your triangles into complex structures to create stairs and bridges, and when you look back you'll marvel at a unique pattern of your own making like a proud spider with its completed web.

As you move through through each esoteric structure that acts as a separate stage you'll come across your spiritual masked guide again who pushes you in the right direction and fills you in on the rich lore and history of the world you've become enshrouded by. Who is this masked entity, though? He obviously feels very compelled to protect the friendship between the two main fox gods, but his motivation and identity remain decidedly unclear throughout the story.

It's easily the most entrancing and thought provoking setting I've seen for this kind of a game, and it's actually enjoyable to play through to the end which was a bit of a surprise considering my rough history with puzzle-oriented games.

I loved the concept of Antichamber and it's ilk of mind-bending brain teasers but just could not get into it. The concept was a mind opening experience but it was soul crushingly challenging, games like that or Portal often times made me feel dumb, I love them to death but I just spent most of the time wishing I could keep going without getting stuck every other room and taking in the beautiful and shifting visuals around me.

TRI challenges you just enough but keeps you moving fluidly through its surreal and colorful world, the pacing is impeccable. Instead of making me feel slow and inadequate like other puzzle games it makes me feel crafty and wise like the ancients who roamed its hallways before me, these seemingly impossible to reach spaces become closer to reach as you craft your serpentine bridges and staircases of colorful triangles with ease and just a touch of contemplation.

Aside from following the trail towards the end of the story, TRI brings the replay-ability in the form of collectible baby fox statues spread throughout each area, and their placement is as cute as the statues themselves always tucked away in tiny little cubbie holes somewhere random looking adorable.

Throughout the entire journey for the wise and playful fox god new powers are being thrown at you, and they do a fine job of shaking things up and keeping the pace exciting. Most notable was the acquisition of the wall walking relic which allowed me to traverse the surface of any connected triangles of my creation, even while sideways or upside down. Within minutes I was constructing interweaving triangle stairs that spiraled up the side of walls and upside down against ceilings giving me a serious feeling of vertigo as I hung high from the tops of the palace.

The levels often times play tricks on your mind, and you can catch a glimpse of a fox sneaking by as you turn around and re-enter a room and notice everything has been completely turned upside down. Is it the elusive and playful fox god we give chase to that plays these tricks on us as we navigate the puzzles of the world of the Odd Gods?

TRI is exactly the kind of memorable and thought-provoking sleeper hit I would expect Rising Star Games to take notice of and pick up, and having another strange, beautiful and otherworldly title in their growing library of modern classics is why they're at the top of my list of favorite publishers right now.

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