A few years ago, developer Frozenbyte released Trine. Initially a PC title before being ported to the PS3, it was a side-scrolling adventure in the same vein as The Lost Vikings but with a more balanced emphasis on combat and puzzle platforming than humor. It was also a local co-op affair for up to three players that made the experience more entertaining than the character-switching in the single-player game. The game did very well with both critics and players, as it provided an extremely polished experience. Like most games that do well, we now have a sequel, simply titled Trine 2. This time, the game isn't just good; it's better.
The plot is pretty typical of a sequel. We find Amadeus the wizard asleep in his cottage, trying hard to learn the fireball spell while away from his wife. Suddenly, a white light pours in from his window, waking him up. Upon going to investigate it, he finds that the light is coming from the Trine, a mysterious artifact that bound his soul all those years ago. The Trine soon reunites Amadeus with Pontius the knight and Zoya the thief, and soon all three are once again on a quest to do the Trine's bidding.
Like before, the game plays out like a side-scrolling puzzle platformer with combat elements. Your trio of adventurers possesses special abilities that, when used separately or in tandem, help you overcome the various situations. Zoya can fire arrows to attack enemies or destroy ropes that hold down other objects, and she can also grapple and swing from wooden platforms. Amadeus can create blocks out of thin air as well as make certain objects move via telekinesis. Pontius acts as the muscle of the group as he fights with either his sword and shield or warhammer. He can also break down barriers with those tools and use his shield to deflect objects careening toward him. As you collect experience vials, you earn points that can be used to upgrade each character's abilities. Zora gains invisibility when she isn't moving, and her arrows begin to take on elemental properties. Amadeus can conjure up more blocks to appear simultaneously as well as gain the ability to create planks and use telekinesis on enemies. Pontius can throw his hammer create big shockwaves, and he can also imbue his shield with elemental properties.
When playing Trine 2 solo, all three characters won't appear simultaneously. Instead, only one of them shows up on-screen at any time, and you can switch them out whenever you want, which makes some of the platforming easier to deal with, as you only need to get one character across instead of three. While there is your usual spate of combat against giant bugs and goblins and trolls, that doesn't make up a bulk of the gameplay. What you'll encounter more often are platforming puzzles. Some are as simple as levitating objects to reach certain areas while others require you to hit various switches to get a gate to drop or something rolling to smash open a wall. Like most good puzzle platformers, new elements are gradually introduced, such as portals and pipes, to reroute things and create new and challenging riddles for you to solve.
One thing that makes the game enjoyable is the seemingly open-ended nature to the physics puzzles. With the exception of a few, every scenario can be solved in any way you want using any character you want. Whether it's having Zora use her wall-climbing technique in conjunction with her grappling hook to get over a chasm or having Amadeus use a combination of boxes and planks to cross the same obstacle, the game doesn't penalize you for taking an approach that wasn't originally intended by the developer. In fact, doing this becomes rewarding on its own since it often encourages you to come up with crazy but effective solutions to any given problem. In order to do this, the energy system from the previous game has been removed. While you'll still have health to monitor, you won't have to worry about running out of energy to perform special character moves; it was a hindrance to those who wanted to experiment with their abilities in the first game.
There are a few criticisms, but they don't seem big enough to dampen the enjoyment. You'll go through a number of worlds, but your enemy will always be the same no matter what. They also don't improve in their tactics or strength, making them more of a nuisance than a challenge. The number of tools at your disposal feels more limited than before, especially for Amadeus, who loses the ability to build some block and plank types. While that means there's less to memorize when it comes to his moves, it also means that strategies, such as creating explosive planks and makeshift seesaws, from the original game no longer apply. Finally, the quest only lasts about six hours, give or take an hour if you choose to seek out all of the secrets. With the current state of stories, though, that's less of a complaint to hold over a game, especially a downloadable one.
Multiplayer has greatly improved in Trine 2. Local play is still available, as you can have up to three people on your machine playing simultaneously. Like other games that do this, there are advantages to having this many people, namely the ability to access unreachable areas for hidden experience orbs and chests. There's also an advantage with some puzzles, as the presence of all three characters means you'll spend less time solving the puzzle since you won't have to switch between them. The game has online multiplayer, which was often requested by players, and it performs without a hitch. Without any noticeable lag, the game performs as well as offline co-op play, even with voice chat enabled. While the game can certainly be completed solo, the co-op aspect is more fun.
Graphically, this game is breathtaking, and most of that praise belongs to the backgrounds. The forests, for example, appear lush with some apparent foreground and deep background layering to give the impression that the area is bigger than it appears. The same can be said for places like the snow lands, while caverns and castles feel more claustrophobic but still deep enough to wow onlookers. A rich palette of colors bathes every element to the point where things like leaves and large animal skeletons sport an unimaginable level of detail. Light also plays a big role, as it casts dynamic shadows all over the place. One need not look further than the title screen to see how well the lighting enhances the environment, but going further into the game wields similar results. Characters both large and small are affected by the shadowing, which, like the environment, gives them some details not visible in the first game, though that could also be attributed to the camera angles, which feel more zoomed in than before. Their animations are very fluid, and the particle effects come through wonderfully. What amazes more is the fact that all of this detail and light play isn't lost to those running the game with the bare minimum specs. Having the right upgrades enables more detail at higher resolutions, but even if you're sporting the minimum required parts, you'll still be treated to a beautiful game.
The original game featured some great sound, and the same can be said for the sequel. The score still has a whimsical tone, and it comes close to matching an epic, sweeping score like most medieval titles but consciously stops itself from going into such well-worn territory. The sound effects come off pleasantly, with nothing sounding off and no signs of compression. The voice cast is the same as the first game, so both the tone and the delivery are done as well as before. The dialogue is quite good, and while some of the attempts at humor fall flat and predictable, the overall script is pleasing enough that you'll want to listen to everyone speak even if you don't care too much for the story.
Simply put, Trine 2 is an excellent game. All of the best elements from the first game, from the puzzles to the use of persona switching, come through with minimal changes while the addition of online multiplayer brings in a much-desired feature. The game's sound is great, and the controls are easy to pick up on both keyboard/mouse and control pad configurations, but the graphics will mesmerize even those who run the game on the bare minimum specs. Trine 2 may be imperfect, especially when it comes to combat and game length, but compared to everything else that the game does right, those complaints don't weigh down the game too much. Unless you loathe side-scrolling puzzle platformers, you should get this game.
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