A good co-op puzzler is a hard thing to pull off. You need a balance of inventive mechanics, clever level design and clear advantages to playing with a group of friends instead of alone. But, fun as those things are, they aren’t the most important part of a good co-op puzzle game. No, the most fun part of these games is the failures. The hilarious sight of you and your friends trying to figure things out and goofing up and dying or sending someone else to their doom in ever more inventive ways. Really, the best co-op games are as much fun to fail at as they are when you’re succeeding. And this central concept, more than anything else that The Legend of Zelda: Tri Force Heroes does, is what makes it such a fun time if you’re playing with other humans.
Tri Force Heroes marries the top-down perspective of old-school Zelda games like A Link to the Past with several innovative ideas like stacking Links on top of each other, switches, boomerangs, bombs and a lot of running helter-skelter. Through its 32 levels, Tri Force Heroes pulls out all the stops and makes you nostalgic about playing Zelda games while you’re guffawing because you’re failing so spectacularly to cross a ledge or throw a projectile exactly where it’s supposed to go. In its finest levels, the game gives each of the three playable characters a different tool and asks them to work together to complete a puzzle. For example, you might get arrows, a gust jar and a hookshot and you have to collaborate to shoot the arrow at just the right place before you have to hook onto the ledge that appears. It’s clever, and it’s a lot of fun.
Combat is fairly simplistic. You hack away at things until they no longer exist on your screen. There’s one small twist – you don’t have your trusty shield. That’s right, you and your Link clone brethren must make do without a defensive item and rely on agility and dodging projectiles instead. You’ll have to distract giant snakes while your buddies chase it around and try to hit its tail. You’ll have to wait for just the right opportunity to toss an exploding surprise into Margoma’s weak spots during the boss fight.
A lot of teamwork is required to get through this game. Which is why it is best played with two other people who are in the same room as you. When you’ve got your friends on the same couch, you can yell, cheer and direct each other easily. When you’re online, things become much tougher. This is a constant problem that many other Nintendo multiplayer experiences have suffered. You just don’t have efficient means of communication to collaborate with someone who is in a different geographical location. All you have at your disposal are eight emoticons which correspond to different actions and signals. Unfortunately, a lot of online games have the tendency to devolve into three players running around the map, each doing their own thing while spamming emoticons at the others. Yes, you can see that one of your teammates is constantly putting the “Noooo!” emotion through, but you can’t really be sure what they want you to do. More often than not, you’ll have to play a game of trial-and-error until all three of you realize what it is that you need to do. Surprisingly enough, both local and online games suffer from some lag issues. For puzzles that require split-second timing, this is a major problem.
If you don’t have an internet connection or just don’t want to deal with other players, don’t worry. Tri Force Heroes offers a single player mode too. Unlike most other co-op puzzlers that attempt single-player modes, Tri Force Heroes manages to be entertaining even when you’re playing it on your own. It’s a completely different challenge when you have to control all of the three characters yourself. It’s not as good as the multiplayer version, but it’s a good change of pace. The single player alone will give you around 12-15 hours of solid gameplay.
The Legend of Zelda: Tri Force Heroes is a refreshing departure from all of the solo adventures and AAA titles that have been released this year. As a co-op puzzler, it offers a lot of tricky situations, clever levels and entertaining combat. It’s tough to communicate with other online players using the eight emoticons available to you. But when you’ve got your friends in the same room, it is an absolute blast. For Zelda fans and puzzle fanatics alike, this is a guaranteed good time.
Game Review Score: 7.0 Out of 10