Trine 5: A Clockwork Conspiracy review: Teamwork makes the dream work

Trine 5 comes out the gates swinging with new features that make it the strongest entry in the series.

THQ Nordic

The Trine series has come a long way since the first game debuted back in 2009. The fifth installment to the series, Trine 5: A Clockwork Conspiracy, sees the return of the heroes of Trine as they embark on yet another harrowing excursion, this time uncovering a dastardly scheme that hits the heroes close to home. Trine 5 retains the vibrant visuals and dynamic puzzles the series is known for while introducing new elements that make it the most engaging and accessible entry yet.

Thick as thieves 

A screenshot of Zoya walking through room with stained glass windows and a dragon statue in the center.

Source: THQ Nordic

For those unfamiliar with the series, Trine is a 2.5D side-scrolling platformer that blends co-op combat and physics-based puzzle solving in a medieval storybook setting. Each entry tasks players with controlling the three heroes of Trine, Amadeus the Wizard, Pontius the Knight, and Zoya the Thief, as they embark on a journey that takes them through a variety of graphically stunning locations full of challenging puzzles and even more challenging enemies. Trine 5 mostly sticks to the formula, straying only to improve the visuals and elevate the puzzles with new gameplay features. You don’t need to have any experience with the previous Trine titles to delve into the fifth entry. Though you may want to recruit a couple co-op companions to make the most of the game’s systems, the campaign can be enjoyed entirely solo.

One of the most notable features of Trine 5 is its beautiful scenery and backdrops. The gorgeous storybook setting is brought to life with crisp graphics and vivid colors that culminate in a feast for the senses. From vibrant gardens, lavish castles, and gem-encrusted caverns to shady back alleys, foggy ship docks, and waterlogged passages, there are plenty of sights to take in along the way. Those who go out of their way to reach certain vantage points are often treated to lovely vistas that encourage you to slow down and enjoy the view. 

Learning the ropes 

A screenshot of the three heroes riding on the back of a huge hedgehog.

Source: THQ Nordic

In the single-player campaign, you take control of all three heroes, swapping between them to utilize their individual skills as needed. Most levels consist of solving environmental puzzles to make your way to the next checkpoint, with some combat thrown in. While some puzzles are as simple as moving a block or grappling to a platform, most puzzles require time and experimentation. The fifth entry introduces several new gameplay elements, including magnets, light, and electricity, adding a layer of complexity to the puzzles that prompt critical thinking. 

The three heroes are equipped with new abilities as well. Amadeus can shift gravity, Zoya learns to ricochet arrows off surfaces, and Pontius can now throw his sword at objects and enemies. Though each hero is useful on their own, their capabilities truly shine when used in tandem with one another. Hero skills synergize well together, by design. Pontius’s thrown sword can stick into walls and act as a makeshift grapple point for Zoya’s rope, for example. The controls are responsive and easy to pick up. The physics and interaction between objects can be a bit wonky, but sometimes that can work in your favor by revealing details you may not have considered. The varied toolsets at your disposal allow room for more creative solutions, prompting you to constantly think in terms of all three heroes.

A screenshot of Zoya aiming to ricochet an arrow off a wall.

Source: THQ Nordic

Although no puzzles left me entirely stumped, there were plenty of puzzles that left me scratching my head for longer than I’d like to admit, which made solving them all the more satisfying. While there are no direct clues to refer to in the menu, the heroes will chime in with vague hints to help nudge you in the right direction when the game thinks you’re stuck.

Like previous games in the series, the progression in Trine 5 is based on collecting vials throughout each level and spending the skill points to unlock new abilities in the Skill Tree. Each hero has their own Skill Tree, complete with additional offensive capabilities and enhancements. You can redistribute your skill points at any time, giving extra wiggle room to experiment with different skills without having to permanently commit to them.

Wearing many hats 

A screenshot of Pontius and Zoya teaming up to fight a large robot opponent

Source: THQ Nordic

When you aren’t racking your brain with puzzles, you will be fending off enemies in a smattering of combat scenarios and boss battles. Bosses are a bit more dynamic this time around, as most bosses involve getting through multiple phases in order to be defeated. Just like with puzzles, you will have to swap between heroes to thwart their defenses and efficiently take down each one.

Although each hero is effective in their own ways, I still found myself relying heavily on Pontius during fights. His sword and shield are effective both in and out of combat, even more so with his sword-throwing ability. Even aerial combatants can be taken out with a well-timed ricochet off his shield. That’s not to say Zoya and Amadeus aren’t useful during fights, but it does not help that some of their combat skills are locked within the Skill Tree, like Zoya’s bomb or Amadeus’ wind ball, whereas Pontius' sword-throw and Zoya's ricochet are granted through side excursions during the campaign. Perhaps the reliance on Pontius could be better avoided if the heroes were each given more offensive capabilities from the start, though this would also have an impact on puzzles and progression. At least the Skill Tree offers the flexibility to respec points into offensive skills when necessary.

Only as hard as you make it 

A screenshot of Zoya battling a pair of gangster rats.

Source: THQ Nordic

You may be tempted to enlist the help of friends through co-op, since multiple minds are better than one. Players can team up with others through local and online co-op, with options to host your own custom games. It is worth noting that the difficulty goes up based on the number of players in the game. However, Trine 5 offers a customizable difficulty system that allows players to raise or lower the difficulty mid-game. There are separate difficulty settings for puzzles, combat, and resurrections, giving players the freedom to fine-tune which aspects they want to be more or less challenging. A higher combat difficulty raises the number of enemies and increases their health and damage, while a higher resurrection difficulty will decrease the number of lives you have available. The puzzle difficulty settings are limited compared to the other two, as it only offers Normal and Hard.

A hoot and a half  

A screenshot of a statue of the heroes of Trine in the town center.

Source: THQ Nordic

Although I did experience some technical issues during cutscenes, like screen-tearing and occasional audio glitches, the rest of the journey went off without a hitch. The comedic story and dialogue are delivered with just the right amount of wit and whimsy, with zany characters that are brought to life with solid vocal performances. While the combat leaves some room for improvement, the dynamic puzzles, inventive hero skills, and visual splendor more than make up for its minor shortcomings. Whether you’re a long-time fan of the Trine series or simply have a penchant for co-op puzzles and are looking for a new challenge, Trine 5 does not disappoint.

This review was based on a pre-release PC review code provided by the publisher. Trine 5: A Clockwork Conspiracy is now available on PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4, Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, and PC.

Contributing Editor

Larryn is a freelance contributor who creates video game guides and reviews for Shacknews and has more than a decade of experience covering games across various outlets. When she's not gaming, Larryn can often be found watering houseplants, playing D&D, or teaching her cats new tricks.

  • New hero skills make for more dynamic gameplay
  • Beautiful scenery and graphics
  • Complex, challenging puzzles
  • Excellent voice acting
  • Funny story and characters
  • Customizable difficulty settings
  • Controls are tight and responsive
  • Combat felt somewhat unbalanced
  • Minor technical issues during cutscenes
From The Chatty
  • reply
    September 1, 2023 6:00 PM

    Larryn Bell posted a new article, Trine 5: A Clockwork Conspiracy review: Teamwork makes the dream work

    • reply
      September 1, 2023 8:04 PM

      There were more than 2 of those prior?!

      • reply
        September 1, 2023 8:10 PM

        3 tried to make the leap to 3D platformer. Everyone hated it.

        4 went back to the side scroller formula and was a return to form.

        5 is more of the same which, if it works more power to them but man what a weird week to decide to launch it.

        • reply
          September 1, 2023 9:32 PM

          I need to play 4 I guess. I really enjoyed 1 & 2. I still listen to the soundtracks on occasion

      • reply
        September 1, 2023 9:36 PM

        Yeah I only knew about the first two I think. Have some catching up to do.

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