I’ll be honest, the Trine series has largely passed me by. I knew of it but never really had the curiosity to give the games a look. That’s changed with Trine 5: A Clockwork Conspiracy arriving on the Playstation 5. Frozenbyte have spent well over a decade polishing the cooperative puzzler and I’ve managed to maintain a level of enthusiasm, despite some pacing issues and some familiar issues.
The story in Trine 5: A Clockwork Conspirary is a fairly standard setup. The heroes of Trine are being stitched up by a scheming Lady Sunny and Sir Godrick. The duo don’t exactly seem on the same page but this results in our protagonists being marked as villains. It’s simple stuff but the cartoony nature of the characters gives it some energy.
Our heroes’ personalities haven’t altered much over the years. Amadeus is something of a cowardly wizard, still pining for his lost love. Zoya remains a thief with her head on her shoulders and the closest thing the group gets to a straight shooter. Pontius is a gullible, bulky knight who has a dopey innocence to him. They play off each other well, although you can go while without getting any further story beats.
There’s 20 missions in total with most of the exposition coming before and after a successful level. The little storyboard interludes are lovely and do help show your progression across the game’s tapestry of locations. Maybe there could be more character moments but Trine 5: A Clockwork Conspiracy feels like a game concentrating on gameplay.
As the story progresses, our heroes discover more abilities. Zoya gains more arrows, Amadeus can conjure up more objects and Pontius’ brutish strength can be unleashed. It all plays into the puzzles and I feel it gives players alternatives when it comes to solving a problem. The opening missions introduce the characters solo. Whilst it’s a lengthy beginning, it’s a solid way to expose each of their unique abilities.
And the gameplay is largely as it was with the previous efforts. As a solo player or with friends, the objective is to use the heroes’ distinct abilities to solve platforming sections. Zoya is a nimble thief who favours archery and rope-swinging. Amadeus is a wizard who can conjure boxes, planks and spheres out of thin air. Pontius is largely about demolishing obstacles with his strength but can use his sword as a temporary platform.
Combining these abilities is where the formula shines and Trine 5: A Clockwork Conspiracy continues that tradition. There’s strong puzzle design throughout and I do enjoy figuring out each room. It’s certainly a more interesting experience with friends. In multiplayer, puzzles are changed to accommodate the extra bodies and it now allows for four players. The opportunity to coordinate gives the game a quicker pace. Going solo, I found I would spend more time pondering.
The pacing seems determined by just how quick you are to decipher a route through each level. I’m a bit of a slow learner but I would frequently clear a few rooms only to be stumped by something. It’s the nature of the beast but each puzzle is very self-contained. I didn’t require any backtracking and the single-screen nature of things meant I could eventually suss a solution out.
Combat also features, usually as a momentary breather. Pontius is clearly designed for it but Zoya’s arrows can deal plenty of damage and Amadeus can add destructive capabilities to his conjurations. It does somewhat belittle the tech tree. Everything in there seems focused towards combat rather than aiding with puzzles. As such, I’d rather combat wasn’t there. It’s feels underdeveloped, despite the extra abilities.
At times, it does feel relentless. Combat can break up the monotony but, when thinking is most you’ll do in Trine 5: A Clockwork Conspiracy, it was tough for me to tackle this game in long stretches. At first glance, the campaign seems decently sized but the downtime really does add up. You do get the occasional hint but these largely evaporate once you’re away from the tutorials. Not that Trine 5 feels like a difficult experience. Challenge can be tinkered with at any point. Combat can be simplified, penalties for death can be diminished. For those that just want to tackle puzzles without lives becoming a factor, this has them covered.
Honestly, I enjoy the moments where a hero is going solo. You have limited options and, as you’re usually being taught how to use a new tool, these can feel focused. I find it a solid way to introduce you to a new mechanic without being battered with information.
Visually, the look retains the stylised, cartoon aesthetic that the series has become known for. It won’t push any technical boundaries but the physics remain sharp and the visuals are clean. Obstacles and things to interact with are easy enough to notice. These can also be highlighted by Zoya and Amadeus. This left me plenty of time to know what I could tinker with and experiment.
A couple of flourishes come from the side-on perspective. It’s rare but I do like when our heroes mingle into the background whilst some story is being dished out. Outside of Zoya’s intro mission, it doesn’t feature much. Music retains a whimsical, fantasy approach. Appropriate for the tone and setting and the exaggerated character animations work well.
Despite getting high in the numbers, Trine 5: A Clockwork Conspiracy still manages to continue the series’ strong puzzle design. The core trio still remain a compelling ensemble to play around with. It can become exhausting with levels being quite lengthy. Still, in shorter bursts, it should keep players engaged. Co-operative play changes up the puzzles substantially and the chance for coordination and chaos is where the game has always shined.
+ Clever puzzle design.
+ A strong, lengthy campaign.
+ Charming characters.
- The skill tree doesn't offer much for puzzle solving.
- Perhaps too familiar and safe.
- Pacing can dip during the campaign.