When I first fired up the trailer for TRI: Of Friendship and Madness, I was immediately impressed. With gorgeous-looking graphics and a curious premise, I couldn’t wait to sink my teeth into Rat King Entertainment’s bizarre first-person puzzle game. Originally created for the two-day game-jam competition Ludum Dare 20 back in 2011, which challenged creators with the theme ‘It’s dangerous to go alone, take this!’. TRI: Of Friendship and Madness has evolved quite a bit since then. Has it changed for the better, or does it play like something you’d expect from Ludum Dare’s quick-and-dirty development cycle?
The thing that struck me first about TRI: Of Friendship and Madness was that, as advertised, it was full of a dreamlike beauty. The visuals are stunning, with muted colors and soft effects working in concert with movement and physics to craft the world of the Odd Gods into a surreal, ephemeral place. The game provides a quick tutorial level to allow you to get acquainted with the controls, though they’ll largely be familiar to anyone who’s played first-person games on the PC. They’re pretty intuitive and functional, with just a touch of slow responsiveness that feels intentional and adds to the atmosphere more than taking anything away.
After allowing you to acclimate to the controls, TRI: Of Friendship and Madness starts to open up. With the help of an ancient artifact, called the Tri, you’re able to create triangles within the world. Within some limits of size, you can place these nearly anywhere that you can find space to anchor all three points. Later, these triangles take on other properties as well, allowing you to walk on walls and ceilings – provided you can craft a pathway. The triangles you create can even serve as anchor-points for additional “tris”, making this path-crafting mechanic very versatile. It gives off a Portal vibe at many points, but with a less-linear nature of solution since there are fewer restrictions on how these elements can be used in the world.
The puzzles strewn throughout TRI: Of Friendship and Madness are mind-bending more often than not, and you’ll have to be clever with your placement to make your way through the winding labyrinths and hallways. Each level contains a number of hidden idols, that when found, will unlock bonus content, along with three fox statues that must be collected and placed onto pedestals to open a portal to the next stage. Between worlds, the story unfolds through narrated cutscenes telling the tale of strange playful fox gods, and the unity that two of them once shared. The writing isn’t likely to win any awards, but even so, the plot that unfurls is engaging and curious.
All told, TRI: Of Friendship and Madness is a gorgeous, surreal puzzle adventure that plays well and feels wonderfully polished. While it can get frustrating, with some confusion trying to navigate rooms that look essentially the same, the serenity and calmness of the aesthetic and feel keep it from becoming too much. With a tidy $14.99 price tag on Steam, there’s plenty of brain-bending content and hidden-item searching to make the purchase worth it for fans of the genre. It also puts an interesting enough spin on things to be a solid choice for anyone who’s on the fence.