Trine 2 PC Review
It’s a bit strange how most 2D platformers nowadays are created by indie programmers and studios; after all, it seemed like only yesterday when the console gaming market was dominated by Mario, Sonic, and the hundreds of knockoffs trying to recreate the magic from both franchises. Nowadays it’s hard to find a game that doesn’t involve one dude shooting a million other dudes, let alone a perspective besides the first-person.
Whether due to nostalgia or small budgets, many of the most well-known indie titles are 2D throwbacks, from Super Meat Boy to Cave Story. One title in particular that stood out was Frozenbyte’s platformer/puzzler Trine; rather than revert to 8-bit inspired nostalgia, Trine instead took a unique spin on a familiar perspective, allowing players to instantly switch between three characters, each possessing a unique ability that was required to advance to the goal in each area. It was a quirky title with an intriguing mechanic, and in this industry that’s all that’s needed for a sequel. Well, that and a publisher willing to fork over the cash.
The story of Trine 2 reunites the original’s chosen trio; despite receiving adequate closure at the end of the first game (including being happily married with kids, in the wizard’s case), the mystical Trine artifact has summoned each of the heroes to join together and embark on a new journey, this time in a faraway land filled with cannibalistic goblins, gigantic wildlife, and a mysterious princess.
The story is noticeably more story-driven than the original, particularly with regards to the three characters. Previously they received little development and even less dialogue, this time around they are fleshed-out considerably more (we now know their names) and generally have a good rapport with one another. Beyond that, the plot is nothing too special, and the narration and music are the same renaissance faire variety that plagued the original (though your mileage may vary on that).
But just like before, the main draw lies in the gameplay and puzzle-solving; once again, you have the ability to instantly switch between Pontius the warrior, Zoya the thief, and Amadeus the wizard in order to advance to the end of each area, which usually features a few roadblocks in the form of locked gates, falling rocks, long chasms, or hordes of enemies. Depending on the situation, one character’s abilities are best suited to solve each problem; Amadeus can create crates to act as stepping stones or to hold down switches, as well as levitate different objects strewn about the level; Zoya can shoot arrows to take down enemies or switches from a distance, and also has a grappling hook that can allow her to swing and propel across hard-to-reach places; finally, Pontius can use his sword to slay groups of enemies, his shield to block incoming attacks and hazards, and his war hammer to open hidden paths through breakable walls.
As far as the core mechanics go, nothing has really changed from the original game save for a few new skills that each character can learn by collecting experience orbs (which are littered throughout the levels, often hidden away or in plain-yet-unreachable-sight), including a stealth ability for Zoya that hides her from enemies and a frost shield for Pontius that slows them down upon contact. As shallow as it sounds, the biggest improvement lies in the visuals. The first Trine featured surprisingly impressive graphics, the sequel goes above and beyond what anyone would expect…to the point that it can easily stand as one of 2011’s most visually stunning games.
The term “like a painting” has been overstated this generation, but one need only look at a sampling of Trine 2’s screenshots to be convinced; lush forests teeming with outstretched plant life, snow-filled caverns and magical witch houses are just a taste of the fanciful areas you’ll be coming across, and the successful completion of puzzles typically result in more dynamic visual effects occurring in real-time. Such examples include manipulating a stream of magical water to create enormous plants to step on, or distracting a huge frog blocking your path with a delicious apple, not to mention some of the even bigger boss encounters like a multi-tentacle undersea horror or a literal dragon out of nowhere. Combined with the detailed physics engine of the original game, Trine 2 makes a strong case for strong graphics resulting in stronger gameplay.
As an added bonus, the sequel also includes three player co-op, both online and local. It works surprisingly well and features the same levels as found in singleplayer mode. The multiplayer almost feels like a time trial version of the main campaign as the three independently-controlled characters can solve puzzles and cover ground much faster than a single person could. Consequently, this also makes deaths more frequent, but fortunately players can respawn as many times as they want from the nearest checkpoint. Unfortunately, the game doesn’t respawn you automatically, instead requiring you to open the menu every single time.
Session hosts also have the ability to decide whether or not players can choose the same character types without restriction, which can lead to some impressively entertaining sequences like a trio of thieves Bionic Commando’ing around the levels, or three sturdy warriors to making very quick work of opposing foes. For games that restrict it to only one character for each player, expect the wizard to do the majority of the legwork while the other two players sit back in frustration that they couldn’t contribute more to the team.
In the end, while the core gameplay remains wholly unchanged from the original (not to mention that expert players can still cheese their way through most areas by abusing the wizard’s crate-creating spells), the stunning visual details and effects do more to enhance the already-robust mechanics then one might expect. Like most sequels released in 2011, it’s more of the same, but built around a better looking and more polished package, and for fans of Trine, that’s more than enough incentive to grab the sequel.