Rat King Entertainment recently launched TRI: Of Friendship and Madness, a beautiful and peculiar puzzle game about Odd Gods, foxes, triangles and messing around with perspective. Despite the fact that I am the least able member of GoPlayThat when it comes to puzzle games, I decided to give it a shot and see if my brain could handle it.
Puzzle games don't tend to float my boat, really. I tend to get frustrated easily with the kind of mind-bending shenanigans necessary to overcome the challenges presented in games of this ilk, so it was a pleasant surprise to find out that my first hours with TRI passed both quickly and enjoyably.
The faceless and nameless protagonist is recruited into the service of the caretaker of the realm of Odd Gods, who has apparently lost a fox. Foxes are playful and immortal spirits, and for one of them to have disappeared entirely has caused the caretaker a bit of consternation. The aim therefore is to navigate this weird and wonderful world looking for clues as to the fox spirit's whereabouts.
After a quick tutorial level, our character grabs herself a mysterious artifact called a TRI, which grants the ability to conjure triangles into the world. These triangles are mainly used as platforms to reach previously inaccessible spaces and ledges. The early puzzling comes from how to best use this ability to explore the level and find three hidden fox statues. Chuck in a bit of crate moving action, and you have all the ingredients for a standard puzzle platformer.
However, things do not stay simple for long. Grabbing another TRI artifact allows our protagonist to create and scale triangles on vertical surfaces, wildly shifting the perspective of the game. Trapped at the bottom of a shaft? No problem - just draw and create a load of triangles up the wall and off you go. Later puzzles involve using your abilities to find out of the way switches and reflecting light rays to progress.
Even without the perspective shifting madness that TRI brings to the table, the game would stand out for a couple of reasons. Firstly, the level design is really quite ingenious. The levels are usually simple enough to navigate if you are only intent on grabbing the statues and getting to the end, but the added challenge of collecting all the hidden golden statues (which unlock bonus content such as behind the scenes information and commentary tracks) means that even the early levels will test you. If compulsive collection isn't your thing, the levels also seem to be designed to tempt the speedrunning crowd.
Second of all, the art style is great. The levels are different enough while still retaining a common theme and identity, and there is a strong Japanese influence which is aesthetically pleasing without being over the top. A film grain effect and motion blur while running add nicely to the overall dreamlike quality of the atmosphere. Ludwig Hanisch's soundtrack ties the whole thing together with an eerie but catchy trial feel.
My only gripe with the game is that it suffers a little from floaty movement, meaning that when navigating narrow beams or making precision leaps you can be undone through no fault of your own. Thankfully, the lack of a fail state means you don't really lose anything from falling into an abyss, and the respawn points are usually really close to where you fall.
In conclusion then, TRI: Of Friendship and Madness is a charming platform puzzle game that encourages the player to relax, think and explore at their own pace. The perspective shifting mechanics are interesting, and the whole package is tied together with nice art and cool music. With an average play time of 8-10 hours, it's definitely worth a look!