Trine 2, the second game in what I hope becomes an ongoing franchise, is a fantastic example of when several different game genres and play-styles coalesce into one solid, polished package. Taking elements of role-playing-games, physics-based puzzles, platforming, and button-mashing combat, Trine 2 draws gamers in with its excellent gameplay and gorgeous visuals. And despite only a few missteps here and there, this downloadable title is of such high quality that I can only hope other developers take lessons in how to create a memorable, addictive adventure.
Each level of Trine 2 is laid out like a traditional 2D platformer, tasking players with moving from one side of the level to the other, traversing pits while avoiding and dispatching enemies. But even with these familiar basics, the game adds plenty of twists and turns to make it stand out.
One major departure from the standard platformer formula is the fact that you don’t play as just one character, but three—Amadeus the Wizard, Pontius the Knight, and Zoya the Thief. Each character has their own set of powers and moves, and the single-player campaign allows you to cycle through each character as you play with just a button. A two-player game means that each player can swap out for the unused character at any time, while a three-player game means your character choice is locked in. What’s interesting is that no matter how many players there are, each character’s skills and powers make cooperation and teamwork a must. For instance, Amadeus can conjure boxes and planks and levitate objects, helping you to climb tough-to-reach areas, cover gaps, or block fire-spewing plants. Zoya is equipped with a grappling hook and bow and arrows, allowing her to swing into inaccessible places or escape from enemies, or take them out with a well-placed shot. As the tank of the group, Pontius uses his shield, sword, and warhammer to excel in close-combat situations, or bust down some walls with a hammer-throw.
All together, the characters rely on each others’ strengths to solve interesting puzzles and cross treacherous environments filled with spikes, acid, mushroom trampolines, and lots of goblins. What’s more is that it seems as though each puzzle can be solved in plenty of different ways: sometimes a stack of boxes that you levitate will get you where you want to be, though you could also try timing your jumps across a bunch of platforms just right.
There are RPG elements present as well; as you play, you collect blue orbs scattered throughout the levels or after you kill enemies, which provide you with XP. Hitting 50 orbs gives you a skill point, which you can use to give your characters new and different powers, like conjuring more objects on-screen, a frost-powered shield, explosive arrows, and so on. A great aspect of this mechanic is that you can reset all of the points you’ve spent at any time in the game. So if you want to reallocate your points to access different or higher-level powers that you think will help in a tough section, you can do so with no penalty.
In all these ways, Trine 2 lets players feel as though they really are in control of the action and feel even more invested in seeing the adventure through to the end.
With the way multiplayer is shoehorned into many games these days, it was incredibly refreshing to play a game that seems to understand what a co-op gaming experience should be. The only downside to this is that the levels are unchanged, so if you've already beaten the game in single-player, there won't be much challenge for you in co-op. If you are looking for a fun game to play with friends, on the other hand, this is a good option, especially considering the unlimited gameplay mode, which allows all three players to play whichever character they want. So if all of you want to be the paranoid wizard or the food enthusiast knight, you can.
Considering how interesting and open the gameplay is, the story and combat tend to take a backseat. The tale unfolds through short storybook blurbs between levels as well as through poems and notes scattered throughout the game. The entire plot is fairly generic -- the kingdom is in trouble, there is a bad guy and a damsel in distress -- and not very engaging, but the poems do help to flesh out the backstory a bit. Like the blue orbs and bottles, the poems (found in chests throughout the game) are usually out of the way and hard to find. Opening them up, however, gives more depth to the the characters in the tale. Again, finding the poems is not necessary, and you can bypass them completely, but like with most of the game elements, finding them will only add to the overall experience.
Combat, on the other hand, is very straightforward and not terribly difficult, even when the enemy is a boss. It is just about guaranteed you will die because of the environment or puzzles, but it is far less likely that you will be slain by a foe, even a boss. While there is still a good amount of variety in how you can tackle opponents, this may be the least interesting aspect of the game. It is possible to kill monsters using the environment itself (goblins are just as weak to lava and acid as you are), but that can get old fast, and while fights are never bad, they aren't usually great either.
By and large, though, Frozenbyte knew exactly what they wanted to do in Trine 2; they wanted to make a beautiful, fairytale puzzle-platformer that allowed players freedom to find their own solutions to the challenges presented, and in that regard, they succeeded. The ability to switch between characters whenever you want makes for a unique take on the puzzling genre. The world of Trine is breathtaking and a joy to explore, and the developers have a solid, enjoyable game in the second story of the Trine heroes.
All told, even with the small problems here and there, Trine 2 offers an old-school gaming experience with a new, unique spin. It’s already a great game with its engaging puzzles and addictive gameplay; add cooperative multiplayer to the mix, and Trine 2 is a must-have that can bring friends together for some excellent adventuring.