Reviewed: December 22, 2011
Released: December 21, 2011
It’s a bit ironic, especially in a year with so many great video games, that I may have just stumbled upon one of my favorites with just over a week left in the year. Trine 2 came out of nowhere and took me totally by surprise with its charming storybook delivery and stunning, rich, vibrant, gorgeous, amazing, (excuse me while I consult my thesaurus…) , dazzling, astounding, elegant graphics. And it probably didn’t hurt that Trine 2 also offers some of the most satisfying platform-puzzle gameplay that mixes the best parts of Lost Vikings (look it up) and Portal 2.|
All hyperbole aside (if that is even possible), Trine 2 is quite simply the must-own game of the 2011 holiday season and at only $15 there is no reason for you not to be playing, especially with its cross-platform release on PC and the 360 and PS3. Do it…now! Stop reading and go buy this game. What? You need more convincing?
Obviously, Trine 2 is a sequel, although since I had never heard of this game I wasn’t aware of the original, although I plan to purchase it the first moment my schedule allows. Thankfully, the game doesn’t require any knowledge of the first as we meet up with Amadeus the Wizard, comfortably napping after long hours researching the elusive Fireball spell. A rush of wind forces the door of his cottage open extinguishing the lights, then a bright light shines through the window waking him up. Amadeus staggers outside into a lush storybook wonderland that serves as your first of three tutorials.
Once Amadeus meets up with the Trine (a magical beacon of light), you will link up with the other two members of your team, Pontius the Knight, and Zoya the Thief, who each have their own introductory tutorial levels that showcase their unique skills and abilities. Pontius is your fighter armed with sword, shield and hammer while Zoya uses her bow and grapple for ranged combat and platform navigation. Together, these three are an unstoppable force once you learn to master their unique talents.
There is also a nice leveling-up process that requires you to collect these glass jars scattered about the levels. Some are quite obvious while others require special feats of navigation and acrobatics, or perhaps magical intervention or even the forceful smash of Pontius’ blade or hammer. For every 50 you collect you will obtain one skill point that can be spent to upgrade any of the three characters in various ways.
Amadeus skill tree allows him to levitate a monster or increase his initial conjuring ability to include multiple objects or even a plank; a nice alternative to the normal boxes he can summon. Zoya can upgrade to fire and ice arrows or even unlock a stealth ability while Pontius can upgrade his shield so it freezes his enemies or give his hammer a Thor-like throwing ability. The various upgrades get progressively more expensive, so you often have to bank your skill points and save up for the more powerful enhancements.
Gameplay, or at least the concept, is eloquently simple by design but the actual game provides some of the most fiendish puzzles of any game to date. And thanks to a wonderful physics system, there is an unparalleled ability to experiment and solve these navigation, combat, and item collection puzzles in a multitude of ways. I came away from 90% of the puzzles in this game thinking I had “tricked the designers” and had done something "nobody else would ever think of".
Playable with mouse and keyboard or a gamepad, I found the mouse offered more precise control when it came to summoning boxes and planks, objects that you must literally draw in space to create. I could draw a box, balance a plank on it, then create another box above and drop it to springboard me into the air in less than five seconds, whereas the analog stick on the gamepad was much slower and less precise. You easily switch characters using the 1-3 keys or even better, assign that function to an unused mouse button so your left hand never leaves the WADS cluster.
If you are playing Trine 2 solo then you can only have one character active at any time, but you are free to switch them out on the fly, even in mid-jump. This presents some creative opportunities for solving a great many of the game’s puzzles. But when you play the game with one or two others all new possibilities present themselves because now you can have two or three active characters working in concert to solve these puzzles.
Sadly, the wizard and his ability to create a box or plank negates nearly every puzzle in the game when played cooperatively. Instead of playing the game as intended it is much easier to summon an object then have player two ride it to the exit then have that player swap to the wizard and return the favor. It also makes collecting any items scattered high up in the level or reaching impossible ledges a breeze. The camera also needs to pull out a bit more in co-op play. Way too often you are fighting the edge of the screen (and the other player) to grab an object just out of reach.
While worthless in combat, Amadeus is still my preferred character or at least the one I actively play when not required to switch to the other two. His ability to conjure boxes is critical in just getting through the levels, and the more boxes and planks he can summon, the easier it is to get through the game and get a 100% collection. He can also levitate the environment like rocks, logs, leaves, and even these deadly spore-shooting plants that can be aimed at the enemy. You can also affect the environment like jamming a summoned box into the gears of some machine, moving pieces of pipe to create new air streams, or tug on a curled leaf to redirect water flow to irrigate a seed into a climbable plant.
Pontius comes into play whenever the game throws a batch of enemies at you. He can slash his way through most with ease; others require being stunned first, and others require a pounding with his hammer. Zoya is great for targeting enemies perched on ledges or shooting fire arrows into exploding barrels. Her grapple is perfect for zipping up to the top of the screen or swinging across bottomless chasms. And when it comes time to go swimming, you can enjoy three individual air meters, effectively tripling the time you can spend exploring underwater as long as you switch characters.
There is a steady progression in difficulty in both the gameplay and the puzzles yet Trine 2 never gets frustrating thanks to its wonderful healing and checkpoint system. About every two screens scrolled there is a glowing orb that will heal your party and resurrect any dead characters. There were even a few combat encounters that take place on the same screen as one of these orbs, effectively making you indestructible. You’ll never have to repeat a combat or solve a difficult puzzle twice in this game.
As “hinted” at above, Trine 2 is simply the best looking game you can play on the PC. Sure, it doesn’t sport the photo-realism of Crysis 2 running in Ultra-DX11 mode, but pixel for pixel, you won’t find a more enchanting game on your PC; one that will captivate you with each new themed chapter and each new scrolling screen. From the textures and the lighting to the wonderful character design and animation; Trine 2 works on every level and sets a new standard for fantasy PC graphics.
The sound design is right up there with the visuals thanks to quality voice acting, mostly by the narrator, but also the three individual characters who will often chime in with their own quips and remarks showcasing their unique personalities and their group dynamic. Ambient environmental sound effects like wind, rain, flowing water, fire, explosions, crumbling rocks, the splash of acid, the roar of a dragon or the bellow of an Ogre king all mix in to create a living fantasy world; one that is uniquely complemented by the magical score composed by Ari Pulkkinen.
Trine 2 is a solid 10-12 hour game based entirely on how easily you can figure out the puzzles it presents and whether or not you are playing alone or co-op. There is a built-in hint system that you can tweak to provide hints after a certain amount of time. Co-op is a separate session from the solo game, so there is no drop-in/out, but it can be played locally or online. Completionists will want to go for the perfect kills and collectibles, both XP jars and hidden treasures, plus many fun and challenging Achievements, and there are interesting Game+ modes to experiment with after your initial trip through the game.
Alone or with friends, Trine 2 is simply one of the best PC games you can play this year. You can check out the demo on Steam if you need further convincing because words and screenshots simply don’t do this game justice. Just make sure you experience the magic of Trine 2. It is an unforgettable adventure that will keep you glued to your PC for days and weeks to come.