In the world of first-person puzzle games, it is often very difficult not to mention THAT first-person puzzle game (or it’s sequel) as a basis of comparison. TRI: Of Friendship and Madness, however, is one of the few games of the sub-genre to negate the need for petty comparisons to a seven year old game with evil computers and cubes.
Boasting a rather minimalist, abstract aesthetic, TRI succeeds in creating an almost calming atmosphere. Much of the architecture appears oriental in inspiration; a theme which carries through into the animated cut-scenes which split the games sixteen levels, which are nicely differentiated from each other through changing colours, music and features.
Sound is a hit and a miss. Despite the games two deities which take form of foxes, the only other character, a robed, masked gentleman, will frequently speak to you, fleshing out the story, which like the aesthetics is as minimalist as can be. The plot didn’t do much for me, a fact not probably helped by the unusual choice of voice acting for this character which stuck out like a sore thumb among the winding corridors, lonely towers and gargantuan halls. However, the background music more than makes up for this, further emphasising the mollifying effect of the visuals
TRI does not fall into the trap of forgetting it is a game. Some of the puzzles truly stumped me for a while, and there are plenty of additional motives for exploring, namely collecting the numerous optional golden statues, along with the obligatory red fox statues which are required to open the portal to the next level. The end of each level also provides a score screen, allowing you to see how many collectables you missed, and how many TRI’s you used.
The games namesake is its most valuable asset; TRI’s are player created platforms shaped like triangles which can be generated in the world with three clicks of the left mouse button. This power later allows you to traverse any (non-wooden) surface within the game. This mobility is refreshing, and yet is not overpowered to the point where it can’t be equaled by the challenges thrown at you.
In short, TRI is a fantastic example of what the pacifist first-person puzzle genre can deliver, only let down by a plot which feels disconnected from the actual experience, and voice acting which, while not bad by any means, feels somewhat misplaced when compared to everything else the game offers, which can be summed up in nine words as eight to ten hours of relaxing, hyper-mobile fun.