TriO: The Great Settlement
Long ago, a race of Orbics lived peacefully together. They lived pretty normal lives (well, as normal as you'd expect for a race with no arms or legs) but they had a special quality - whenever three Orbics of the same colour were in close proximity, they could do magic! As is always the case with these things, some mysterious entity decided they wanted to harness this power and so they captured the Orbics, sealing them off in individual cages. Enslaved, the Orbics despaired. But there is an ancient legend, one that states a stranger will one day arrive and rescue the Orbics in their time of greatest need... could that be you?
TriO is a variant on that well known indie standard, the match-three puzzler. Stacks of crates containing Orbics are positioned on each level, and you drop more crates on top of them with the aim of getting three or more Orbics in close proximity to each other. Doing so releases their magical effect, clearing those crates from the level. Your task in each level is to remove all objects from the level - Orbics and other items alike. Matching Orbics beside chests will break them open, scoring you cash, and there are numerous other challenges to face - including flooded chambers, conveyor belts delivering more Orbics, stronger cages, mine trolleys, walls, bombs (those are fun!) and the terrifying Dark Orbs! Do all this within the time limit, and avoid the stack of crates growing above the red line!
TriO is a tad different to the standard Columns variant. Crates don't just drop straight down, but react within the environment - water makes them float, they'll slide or roll off the landscape and you can "throw" them somewhat by dropping them and moving the crane at the same time. Crates are also somewhat "sticky" when they touch each other, so you can end up with some rather bendy "towers"! Gravity affects these crates too - a particularly leaning tower is apt to topple, which can often lead to combinations of matchings. Nice! This more dynamic environment adds a huge amount to an otherwise stale genre. Well done, Lopens! The controls are virtually entirely mouse and so simple that I doubt I even need to explain them here - move the crane left and right, and use the left mouse button to drop the current crate.
Between levels you return to the Orbics' island. Having been freed from their prisons, they don't really have anywhere to go - so, between bouts, you can spend the money you've earned in the main game on improving their new home. Simple things like houses for them to live in can be supplemented later with paving, a tavern (!) and more besides. I'm not sure these upgrades do much beyond pretty up the place and occasionally advance the game plot, and they certainly don't seem to affect the main game, but they are a nice touch. You also have the customary trophy room, where you can view any rewards you are given by your rounded chums.
Graphics are fairly bright and bouncy, fittingly enough! Your island paradise is filled with lots of Orbics wandering about the place, with little thought balloons expressing their feelings and desires, while the main game is a touch more two dimensional. Everything is clear and easy to see - a good thing too once the game gets more frantic - and the Orbics themselves vary in facial features as well as colour. New features are described by your two guiding Orbics, Redrice and Ello. The main qualms I had with the graphics were the level timer, which seemed rather small and subtle at first, and the way that the shape of the levels can occasionally blend in with the background. Generally, however, the graphics are to a very good standard.
About five music tracks accompany TriO - two for the island view, two for the main game, one for the game credits. They don't intrude too much and are quite happy, bouncy pieces (there's a lot of bounciness in this game). Sound effects are considerably more varied, with lots of sounds for the various effects that can be triggered. The crunch sound as Dark Orbs turn your guys into more of themselves is particularly nasty!
Very easy to learn, I've managed in a fairly short space of time to arrive on the second island. My second Orbic village is coming along nicely! The controls are easy to learn and the game is actually fairly forgiving about what colour Orbics you are given. If you fail a level you are able to retry as often as you wish, and if you find it truly painful there is also an option to skip a limited number of levels. I generally find restarts are sufficient as a second attempt has a new, random outcome. Levels that got complicated and messy the first time can clear much faster the second. Things are also made easier by the way that matching three Orbics is done by proximity, not alignment - they don't need to be in a row or even directly touching for the effect to activate. Matching Orbics will counter virtually everything else in the game - Dark Orbs, chests, bosses, and so on - as well as activating bombs and such. I particularly like the O-Ray! Zap!
With varying difficulty levels and a fairly long story arc, TriO could last you some time. Unusually there is no "continuous play" option where one can simply match Orbics, though you can replay any levels you have unlocked in the story mode. This means that, once you have completed the game, you can't carry on - it's either replaying individual levels (in an effort to beat your previous time/score) or starting again from the beginning. This is a little disappointing, especially given that I guessed the twist in the plot from the first few levels! It would be quite easy to say there are still more Orbics lost in the cave, and you can keep exploring to find and release them.
One minor irritation I had was with the autosave. The game supports multiple player profiles, and your progress is saved if you return to the menu and/or quit, but any buildings you put up or story exposition count as part of the next level, not the last, so if you have a lot of natter between Redrice and Ello before you stop playing you'll get it all over again when you continue. The worst experience I had with this was with the attempt to open a portal - this took about three minutes... twice! This minor niggle aside, the quality of play is generally very high. The game text could use a little proofreading (it is clear that English is not the developers' first language, though I am unable to comment on their Russian) but otherwise it seems to have been well tested.
I had a fun time playing TriO, which to my mind really should have been called "Orbics: The Great Settlement", and my efforts to research minor points for this review tended to take up much more time than intended - always a good sign of an addictive game! Hold on, the telephone's ringing... hello? Redrice? Yes, they're just reading this now... oh, the prophecy? I'll tell them. Bye! ... As I was saying, TriO is a fun and addictive game, and according to an ancient Orbic legend, you're the one supposed to go and save them all. What are you waiting here for? Get cracking!
Keywords: trio: the great settlement review, lopens reviews, lopens games, trio: the great settlement scores, pc game reviews, indie game reviews, independent gaming.