If you’re looking for a grand, overarching, narrative-driven Legend of Zelda game – then Triforce Heroes is not what you’re looking for. If you’re out to rekindle your love for Four Swords, then it’s not quite what you’re looking for either. Triforce heroes is an odd game, distilling Legend of Zelda and its dungeons to their most basic, simple puzzle solving. Only you’ll need to do that with two others, co-operatively.
There’s a bit of a story here, though it’s only really there to pad out the emptiness. It’s set in the fashion-centric world of the ironically-named Drablands, where high fashion and costumery and a sense of style are key. The region’s princess is cursed to forever wear the dullest and drabbest dubs, her ashen accoutrement bringing shame upon the royal family. Prophecy suggests that a hero; a green-tunic’d, pointy-eared, yellow-haired boy will be key to solving this most taxing fashion faux pas.
So you’ll play as a hero who matches that description; somebody who isn’t, but fits the Link archetype – and it’s your job (along with two of your similarly prophesied heroes) to retrieve the right clothing to break the curse and give the princess back her sense of chic, and some lovely new, colourful clothes. It’s a perfunctory sort of narrative that really only serves to get in the way of the action, and not as any sort of impetus to play the game.
Your not-Link, and the world around him share the same sort of aesthetic as the excellent A Link Between Worlds, mashed up with a bit of the cuter look found in Wind Waker. There’s an overworld of sorts, but it’s really limited to a tiny village, offering you a merchant, a tailor and somewhere to look at other people’s photos.
It also grants you access to the castle, from whence you’ll set off on your adventuring. The game is designed (as its name suggests) to be played co-operatively with 2 other people. You can play locally with others who own copies of the game, online with friends or strangers or through the magic of the 3DS’ download play. I’m fortunate enough to have a family of willing gamers, and 2 extra 3DS, so I used this option most, playing on the couch with my kids.
The stages themselves are tiny little levels, things that take generally no more than ten minutes to beat. Using a variety of Zelda-esque power-ups, you and your fellow triumvirs need to work together to get to the end of the level, step on the glowing Triforce symbol and be whisked away to the next one. Each of the very Zelda-esque 32 levels (8 Worlds, Four levels) is split up in to four smaller ones, posing minor obstacles, right through to ones that may cause you a bit of chin or head scratching.
One of the game’s core mechanics is the Totem pole, which has each faux Link picking up the next and building a tower of ‘em– handy for things like shooting an arrow at a switch that’s perhaps too high, or for throwing the top Link in the totem to a point of higher ground. The items you’ll get are restricted to each level, and only allow each player to carry one; things like boomerangs which can not only retrieve objects, but also help bring players over ravines or streams of lava; Gust Jars are great for not only putting out fires or revealing things hidden in sand dunes, but also for blowing other players across gaps and areas they’d be otherwise unable to cross. That player could then use their boomerang to bring the player equipped with gust jar over –and the whole thing plays out this way, like a series of logic puzzles. It starts off on the ludicrously easy side, and stays that way for a fair bit of it, but it does become quite challenging in later worlds, requiring deft timing and excellent puzzle-solving skills.
When it works, and you’re playing with friends and like-minded people it’s positively brilliant – but finding those people can prove troublesome especially given that you can’t really play in a group of two. The game is made for one player, or three players – and that’s it. You can’t for example, mix a download play lobby with an online one, or even a download play lobby with a pure local one and when you do join an online lobby and only one other player is around to help, you could potentially end up sitting for ages waiting for third.
My experiences online were mixed, both in terms of technical performance and overall fun. Some games had a perceptible, jarring level of lag where inputs registered a second later, while others were smoother than Irish butter milked from grain-fed cows.
Because of its online, co-operative nature, who you play with becomes incredibly important. In a few games I had, one of my co-op partners (the ignoble cur!) kept on picking me up and throwing me off of the ledge, trolling away for his own jollies. As health, and the energy required to use items are shared between all players, this is just the sort of thing that raised my ire and had me waggling my first in the air. Thankfully, there’s a robust blacklisting system that brands jerks like that as false heroes, making it so you never have to play with them again.
With the right group, I had some wonderful games online. The only method of communication is via eight touchable emoticons and gestures, and it’s immeasurably rewarding helping a teammate solve the puzzle at hand through pictograms alone – but it’s all about patience and working together.
And yes, you can play it alone, too. Instead of a group of AI controlled players (which I’d imagine would be far too chaotic to control, akin to herding feral cats), you get to switch between doppels; soulless husks of heroes that do nothing until your soul, at the press of a screen, jumps into their bodies. You can only control one of the three characters at a time, so it becomes like playing Towers of Hanoi; moving one piece of a puzzle before you move the next, to move the next and so on. While it’s serviceable, and completely playable that way, in some levels – particulary boss stages – it’s rather clear that the game was designed to be played with three human beings as they seem to require being in two places at ones, or dextrously switching between characters at speeds my aging brain can barely comprehend.
The fashion element comes in to play within the game’s mechanics too. After besting each world (usually by beating an end level-boss) you get to select from three chests, each containing different materials of varying rarity. You’ll use these materials, in conjunction with the rupees you collect through the levels, to buy new costumes which buff certain abilities, or grant your hero with new ones. Buy the Goron suit, for example, and your Link is now immune to fire damage, even able to swim in lava. Some suits give you bigger bombs, better boomerangs or a host of other effects.
Finish a world by defeating its boss, and you unlock bonus challenges that make it harder and more exciting; play with fewer hearts, escort an orb around the level, finish the stage within the time limit, that sort of stuff. They result in better end loot, which allows you to fashion even better and more powerful suits. There’s a sort of MMO-esque grind to it, because the game expects, and wants you to replay levels using these challenge modifiers, which is great for people who like that sort of thing. Me? Once I’m done with a level I tend to be done; no lure of loot is going to suck me back in to do something I’ve already done.
If you can get past the fact that the game’s made up of unconnected, small and disparate levels, and have friends to play with, you’re bound to have great fun with Triforce Heroes. If you’re looking for a proper adventure, hate others or have nobody to play with, it can be quite a chore.
Last Updated: October 21, 2015