If you’ve played an entry in Activision’s now-dormant Skylanders franchise, then you’ll have a good idea of what Trifox entails. This too is a top-down action platformer with light puzzles and RPG elements, such as visible damage points. It’s even set in a similar fantasy world that melds magic, medieval fantasy, and sci-fi, allowing for an enemy roster with wizards, pirates, and mechs. Just to reinforce the comical tone further, the plot sees our wily lead out to retrieve a stolen TV remote.
Just like those once-annual Skylanders games of yore, there’s a gimmick too. The ‘tri’ part of the title relates to the three playable character classes: warrior, mage, and engineer. During the tutorial, you’re asked to pick a class, with each having a default dash, hover, or teleport ability to move swiftly while airborne. From thereon, cash can be used to purchase new abilities from the small hub world, all of which must be manually assigned to the trigger and bumper buttons.
While this may sound innovative, it basically amounts to having three skill trees to pick and choose abilities from – all of which must be purchased prior to experimentation. During a couple of harder sections (Trifox has a few difficulty spikes, mostly at the hand of iffy collision detection) we did wonder if we had the wrong move set equipped to deal with the tasks at hand. This was later confirmed during a stage rife with explosive barrels – the warrior attacks with a wide axe swing, and if this collides with a barrel, you’ll take significant damage. This means it’s essential to either have the mage’s homing projectile attack or the engineer’s mini-gun equipped at all times. Or in other words, it doesn’t seem possible to play with a full warrior build.
The engineer’s mini-gun turns out to be one of the defining abilities, effectively turning Trifox into an impromptu twin-stick shooter. Together with the ability to place flamethrower turrets, the engineer can deal a lot of damage without directly engaging enemies.
When the ending credits rolled, after roughly 5 hours of play, we had only unlocked around half the skills. If you find yourself wanting to gain 100% competition (each stage has hidden gems) you can expect to add a couple more hours to that total, duly unlocking all the abilities in the process.
While it’s clear the developers spent a lot of time implementing the trio of character classes, it’s the level design that excels the most. Each stage feels different from the last, introducing something new or having a defining set piece. You may have to fight off waves of enemies while a generator powers up, traverse a watery maze by leaping onto rafts, or zip around a canyon in a minecart with a mounted turret. The penultimate stage is one of the largest, featuring four areas that can be tackled in any order. Bosses are mostly creative too, being quite similar to that found in the recent Kao the Kangaroo reboot, each having multiple phases. But while this may sound promising, there are only three worlds with four stages and a boss battle each – it blitzes through its ideas quite quickly.
There’s also a slight lack of personality present, although not for a lack of trying. There’s very little in the way of written or spoken dialogue, which was perhaps to save money on translation and localisation. Instead of voiced cut-scenes, there are TV news reports between stages in which the animal hosts recap recent events, which don’t really add much to the experience. The bosses get the most screen time, resulting in our foxy lead being something of a blank slate.
The presentation is mixed elsewhere – some stages have distance blurring, which looks quite attractive, while others don’t and consequently appear quite dated and barren. When the camera is zoomed in, it’s apparent that the character models are low poly, almost having a flat-shaded look. We also encountered a few glitches, with the first boss falling through the floor, and one stage omitting the ability to pick up and carry items, which of course prompted a restart.
Trifox scrapes by with its creative level design, which is ultimately its saving grace. Glitches, unbalanced skill trees, and the aforementioned difficulty spikes – which can also entail too many enemies within a single area – make for a bumpy and uneven experience. It didn’t have me cursing or biting my tongue, but I did feel as if a game with such a comical and light-hearted tone should have offered a smoother ride. Trifox? Maybe when it goes on sale.
Glowfish Interactive’s Trifox is out 14th Oct on all formats. Published by Big Sugar.