Pine review for Nintendo Switch, PC

Platform:  Nintendo Switch
Also on: PC
Publisher: Kongregate
Developer: Twirlbound
Medium: Digital
Players: 1
Online: No
ESRB: E10+

The first sign that Pine might not live up to the incredible promise of its trailer comes right off the bat: you start a new game, and you have to immediately sit through a loading screen that literally lasts a few minutes.

The good news is the rest of the game isn?t quite so bad, at least in terms of loading times. You can enter caves, you can run across the vast fields, you can do all kinds of things, and you?ll only have to wait a few moments, plus the odd time where the game freezes for a few seconds. It?s only when you?re starting or loading a game, or when Pine is taking you back to your last save point after death, that you have to sit there and watch a loading screen for a couple of minutes.

Unfortunately, that doesn?t mean the rest of Pine is flawless. On the technical side, there are the freezes I just mentioned: you don?t lose anything, and nothing happens, but the stutters still last long enough to be noticeable. There?s also plenty of pop-in happening throughout the game, and not just on the horizon, either. There were plenty of moments where the world would suddenly appear in my immediate vicinity, whether it was grass or trees I was walking through, or people I was supposed to talk to, or entire structures. Given that the game frequently sends you on quests to find locations and items, it?s hard to know when you?re walking in the right direction if those locations and items don?t appear until you?re literally standing right next to them. To be fair, there?s nothing I came across that was game-breaking, but there are lots of things here that will make it difficult to enjoy the game.

Of course, this may also be because the gameplay was so uninspiring. While Pine?s trailer may show the game?s hero, Hue, rushing to get involved in a battle between humanoid moose and humanoid crocodiles, the reality is far more mundane. You wander around a large map, collecting items and carrying out fetch quests, and you occasionally engage in highly repetitive combat. If you?re lucky, you?ll stumble across something that moves the story along, but those moments don?t happen nearly enough to keep you engaged or invested in what?s happening, let alone frequently enough to justify the tedious gameplay (to say nothing of those long loading screens).

There is a neat idea here, to be sure: you have to build allegiances with warring tribes, which will help you control more territory. The execution, however, leaves a lot to be desired. You collect a bunch of items, you drop them off in donation boxes near enemy camps, and they become more favourable towards you. It?s hardly complex, and you have to grind your way through picking up lots of rocks and branches and plants to build up allies.

In other words, the execution is as boring as everything else Pine has to offer. It?s a shame that the finished (or, given the technical issues, maybe that should read ?mostly finished?) product doesn?t come anywhere close to living up to the incredible potential displayed by the trailer, because that game could have been great. This game, however, is in dire need of improvements, and until it gets those you can skip it pretty safely.

Twirlbound provided us with a Pine Switch code for review purposes.

Grade: C+