by William Thompson
reviewed on PC
Of Foxes and Triangles
I'll admit to enjoying a good puzzle game. One that requires a little grey matter to get from A to B. It is a bit of a change up from the run of the mill First-Person Shooters or sports titles that flood the market. TRI: Of Friendship and Madness is one of those puzzle games, one that has a couple of nice game mechanics and an original story.
The Friendship in the title seems to belong to a couple of foxes. These appear to have been worshipped and as a result the game centres around finding three fox statues in order to open a portal leading to the next level. Other idols can also be found, but these are not necessary to the continuation of the story. Instead, they unlock the game's bonus features. Cutscenes between levels give the story of the two foxes and their friendship, whilst in game, the story and information is passed on by a mentor-type character.
At first, the game seems quite easy with the initial level acting as a tutorial on movement and basic mechanics. The first couple of levels simply have you gallivanting around in search of the rather easily accessible fox statues. But as you progress through the levels, finding the fox figurines and the portal to the next level can be tough, requiring players to use a number of new abilities added to your skill set.
These added abilities involve the use of a special device known as the TRI. This device, as its name suggests, allows gamers to produce triangles at will. These triangles can be used as ramps, platforms or in certain areas they can be plastered vertically which enables you to walk on walls like Spiderman. The triangles can even be used to reflect light in certain situations. The TRI works in a similar fashion to the portal gun in Portal, but in this case three points need to be selected in order to create the triangular shape. The TRI only allows triangles of a certain size though, so higher areas can’t be reached simply by creating a massive triangular ramp.
Due to the nature of the TRI abilities, the levels can often become vertical. So rather than simply walking through corridors, many puzzle solving requires looking up and traversing various heights. This can often cause some issues with pacing within the mid to later stages of the game, because there are times when there are so many directions that you can head that you get lost. And the different functions of the TRI make matters worse, as they mean that you can technically reach any area with the use of the different functions. There is no hint system apart from a small icon showing the general direction of the closest statue, and as such there were a couple of levels where I was wandering around aimlessly in an Escher-like maze until I spotted a ledge high above or a niche in a wall that enabled me to continue on.
The bulk of the areas have a non-linear design, allowing gamers to collect the fox statues in any order. But having said that, there are levels (or parts of a level) that can only be completed in a certain way. This is because there are switches and doors that must be opened in order to reach the area that houses the fox statues. There are also areas that are impervious to the use of the TRI, and other strategies are required to move through those areas.
The visuals have a somewhat blocky look to them, but I believe this is as intended, giving the game a somewhat polygonal quality. This definitely suits the triangular nature of the game. This caused other problems, occasionally making it difficult to determine whether there were platforms at a higher vantage point or not. It was often only until I reached these higher areas that I was able to tell if the areas were indeed useful. The settings, the story cutscenes and the mentor all have a Japanese feudal feel, though this is diminished to some extent by the fully voiced story with slight Scottish accent. The voice acting is quite good nonetheless, and combined with the background music give the game a more polished feel.
Great puzzles but ultimately a frustrating experience
Unfortunately due to the pacing of some of the levels, TRI: Of Friendship and Madness wasn't able to keep me engrossed. I certainly felt a sense of achievement when I completed a level, but it was often a frustrating experience making it through to the end of each level. The mechanics of the TRI work well, allowing a unique puzzle experience, but the frustrations of finding my way around the later levels ultimately diminished what could have been a much more enjoyable experience.
Fully voiced story, unique puzzle mechanics
Pacing can be an issue, particularly if you get stuck on where to go next.