TRI: Of Friendship and Madness PC Developed by Rat King Entertainment Released in 2014
Talk about a game lost in backlog purgatory, I don’t even know how I ended up getting TRI. Was it a part of some forgotten bundle purchase? did its wacky title inspire me to purchase it on the cheap? I have no idea, but that’s all the more reason to finally give this game the honor of being installed, even if I couldn’t push myself to actually complete it.
TRI: Of Friendship and Madness is a puzzle platformer. The ‘friendship’ part of the title refers to its plot, which is a combination of fantasy and folklore. You play as an apostle who arrives at a peculiar temple that honors two fox deities who are close friends, however the foxes have disappeared and possibly had a falling out. You dive into the realm of the Gods to go find them, but this is hardly a story-driven game, despite how much effort it makes to paint an interesting-looking world. You are accompanied by a priest who encourages you and offers cryptic advice, yet these interactions are sparse and don’t really tell you much about him or the foxes. Most of the actual development is done in a rare few cutscenes, which I must admit weren’t that interesting to watch. I wasn’t hooked in and really didn’t care about learning more of the plot.
The gameplay was a lot more interesting. The goal of each stage is to find 3 fox statues hidden across the level and return them to a shrine to activate a portal out. You can press a button to display the general location of the statues in the 3-dimensional stage, so they aren’t exactly hidden, it’s just a matter of trying to get there. While at first you just have some basic first-person platforming skills, later on you find the TRI, a relic that allows you to create triangular platforms by clicking on three different places with your mouse, which of course have a limit to their size to prevent things from being too easy. Puzzles involve creating bridges with the platforms or tactically removing triangles already present in the stage, though later levels begin to add different elements.
The levels TRI places you in are complex and oftentimes feel like trying to make your way through an Escher paintings. Rooms twist around unexpectedly or lead back into each other, sometimes gravity switches around and you have to reconsider how to make your way through a room you crossed previously, and there are multiple paths that can lead to any one objective. Navigating puzzles through making your own platforms is also enjoyable and it controls really well. A nice feature is that the triangle will color yellow if it’s possible to walk on it or red if it’s too steep or angled wrong. The boundaries of how far you can stretch the triangles are also clearly marked, making it always clear what you can and can’t do.
The platforming can be a bit bothersome though, depending on how much you are going to need it. Your character is kind of slow and clunky, so it’s a bit of a bother when you need to repeatedly climb over obstacles or cross large rooms. Since you have no feet, it can also be a bit of a struggle to cross narrow platforms when you have no other choice; it’s difficult to interpret how wide you are, which gets especially obnoxious when gravity begins to shift and turn, causing you to fall in all sorts of strange directions. Due to the way levels are build, it’s also possible to lose significant progress with just one bad fall. And that’s really what ended up bothering me, the levels simply became too labyrinthine for me to enjoyable work my way through. I prefer my puzzle games in the format of Portal, where every puzzle is served up to you and fixing it is its own reward. In TRI, by comparison, half the challenge is in even finding the puzzle.
Story & Gameplay score: 6.5/10
Exotic and busy
At a distance, TRI looks like an interesting game if you go merely by its screenshots. Promising “madness” in its title, the game presents you with a bizarre world filled with Japanese-looking architecture. Except… that is just Asian-looking stuff, that’s not mad at all. After a while the levels just kind of blend together as a mixture of colorful, but rather samey hallways with obtuse layouts. I can certainly understand the “friendship” portion of the game’s title, but especially in the medium of video games there is a higher standard for what qualifies as “mad”.
I actually did find the game somewhat headache inducing, as it appeared blurry with way too many bright colors, light sources, and particle effects. The wobbling camera and the violent way in which it jerks into place when gravity changes didn’t help either, it’s just all-around not something I was fond of at all.
Presentation score: 3/10
Gold reward, gold times
Each level keeps track of how long it took you to finish, allowing those who would like to speedrun it to record their times. You also get other statistics, such as how many triangles you made and deleted. Those who prefer to be thorough instead of fast can also scour each level for golden statues that lead to achievements, but are otherwise quite useless. It’s nothing special, but a nice inclusion to have.
Extras score: 6/10
I enjoyed TRI’s interesting puzzle mechanics, but just wish it toned down of the visuals a bit and offered its content in a more linear fashion. Trying to make sense of its large, complex levels wasn’t something I found fun. I can handle a little exploration and it gives you a lot of room to optimally use the triangles to navigate, it’s just a little too much for me in TRI, especially considering how ponderous your movement is. Still, if you enjoyed games like Antichamber than this is a must-play, regardless of the subjective score I attached to it below.