You might remember Trine, Frozenbyte’s excellent downloadable action-puzzler that released to critical acclaim back in 2009. If you do, then you’ll definitely know what to expect from Trine 2, since almost all of the original’s physics-puzzling template is carried over wholesale into this sequel. The knight, wizard and thief characters return largely untouched, and that much-lauded balance of physics-puzzling and action sequences carries a similar ratio.
Whether or not that’s a good thing depends on your persuasion. Although the original Trine ended up as somewhat of a critical darling, the actual experience of playing the finished product (at least in my informal discussions) tended to split the audience with some bemoaning imprecise and floaty jumping mechanics, or having gotten stuck on some fairly lacklustre combat. On the flipside, there were those that absolutely fell in love with switching their characters on the fly and thinking laterally to solve mind-bending puzzles that tested even hardened players.
Trine 2 is still a side-scrolling, absolutely gorgeous, action game at its heart then. The knight, wizard and thief are brought together by the mysterious Trine artifact, and tasked with working together to defeat stage after stage of enemies, puzzles and traps. Each of them has unique abilities, with the Wizard able to conjure objects out of thin air or shift things around the screen, the thief swinging from wooden beams or firing arrows at enemies, and the knight marauding around with sword and shield to mop up any ground-based threats.
A typical puzzle will require the use of two or more of those characters to solve, so playing solo means switching between them in real time. As a basic example, the wizard might create a new platform so the knight can jump over an obstacle and slay enemies on the other side. Whilst that’s perfectly fine in and of itself, multiplayer is really where Trine 2 manages to shine, and particularly in local mode. Online modes work well, but this is a game that really picks up with people arguing and shouting in the same room, and the convivial sense of accomplishment on beating a difficult puzzle is hard to beat.
That said, there aren’t that many tough moments in Trine 2, and with a couple of brains working together most of the stages can be beaten with relative ease. Of course there is still an element of skill required for most of the solutions, so simply coming up with a plan isn’t enough. Various sequences require timing and gamepad dexterity to fulfill their requirements, but even relative newcomers can practice their way to success. Checkpoints are frequent and well-placed, and good players can resurrect their comrades simply by reaching a new one.
Those newcomers might also be taken aback by just how gorgeous the art style of Trine 2 can be, and it’s a significant step up for those that delved into the original. The diverse environments are spectacularly coloured with greens, purples, oranges and everything in-between, lending the visuals a fairy tale quality that few other games manage to achieve. The screen is a little too cluttered at times however, and although a decent PC resolution helps to separate objects, there are numerous occasions when characters are simply lost amidst the colourful chaos.
About the only disappointment then is that Trine 2 is simply more of the original, with few improvements thrown into the mix. Physics and the nature of character movement remain floaty and occasionally imprecise, and whilst there are new puzzle mechanics to play with (fluid dynamics mainly), the sense of deja vu will be prominent for those that played the 2009 offering.
There are extended modes, collectibles and the some ingenious achievements for those that are susceptible to their draw, but unless you really fall in love with the physics and puzzles, you’ll likely play through the campaign once and be done with it. Even in those terms however, Trine 2 is good value, and if you’re one of the people that didn’t delve into the original title, there’s absolutely no reason not to succumb to the charms on offer here. Just try and play it on the PC if you can, the resolution helps no end.