The first thing that immediately springs to mind when you boot up Trine 2 will be simply how gosh-darn beautiful it is. In a great use of its fairy tale-esque presentation, the game simply delights in showing off its gorgeous colour palette, its extensive attention to detail, and its various other visual effects in a variety of luscious, eye-popping environments. In fact, it kind of gets a little overwhelming at times; there’s just so much amazing-looking stuff that there’s barely any breathing room for your eyes, no time to just sit back and relax for a bit.
And you’ll need that space because Trine 2 is, at heart, a puzzle-platformer and thus requires a bit of time to sit back, look at a situation, and think your way through it. Sure, there’s a bit of rough-and-tumble brawling every few minutes as you fend off swarms of goblins or giant spiders or what have you, but the combat is really just something to distract you momentarily from the puzzles.
If you’ve played the original Trine you’ll know what to expect: side-scrolling puzzle-platforming/combat that allows you to
hotswap between three different heroes, the Wizard, the Thief and the Knight. The Knight is totally combat-focused, while the Thief mixes it up with arrows and a grappling hook that sticks to wooden objects, but the
Wizard is probably where you’ll spend the majority of your time. Using his arcane magics, he can move objects from a distance as well as conjure up additional boxes to jump on – invaluable abilities in any puzzle-platformer. And he’s no longer shackled by mana requirements, either, which is handy.
There’s an inoffensive if not terribly compelling story lurking around the edges, but by and large your objective is simply to get from the left side of the level to the right side of the level and hell take anything that gets in your way. Ploughing through goblin hordes isn’t especially difficult and mostly involves a lot of clicking, since your strategic options are fairly limited, as are the various types of enemies.
You’ll pick up collectibles primarily in the form of experience, short poems and concept art. Experience – also earned by, surprise surprise, killing enemies – can then be poured into various unlocks for each character, earning abilities such as fire arrows, hammer throwing, charging and so on. Unfortunately, these new powers don’t make all that much difference to combat since the basic-level strategy of click-click-click jump-dodge-shoot will work just fine and half the time you’ll be fighting right next to a respawn orb anyway, so death feels largely inconsequential. Basically, the combat isn’t all that deep.
The Wizard’s skill tree, on the other hand, allows you to summon more crates and planks of wood and is therefore most useful for puzzle-solving and platforming, which comprises the bulk of the gameplay. Manipulating objects within the game’s robust physics system is a delight; you’ll be creating rickety wooden towers to climb somewhere, constructing temporary aqueducts to redirect the flow of magical water
streams, or attempting to shield yourself from environmental hazards. It all flows together in a rather satisfying kind of way, especially when you feel that you’re not necessarily merely completing the game’s pre-set answers but making your own solutions work within the game’s various systems.
Co-op is the preferable way to play Trine 2, although it’s perfectly alright as a singleplayer experience. There’s the simple satisfaction of teaming up with a friend to solve some puzzles; it’s very Portal 2 in that regard, though others may find more delight in ruining other people’s play experience by smashing all their things when they’re trying to solve a puzzle or simply refusing to co-operate. There aren’t too many people online, but frankly this is the kind of game where you’d want to team up with people you know, so it’s not really that important. The online functions pretty well, in any case.
The main difference between multiplayer and singleplayer, though, is that playing by yourself slows down the experience, simply due to the reduction in available possibilities and actions. In multiplayer, it’s a cinch to levitate an object for another player to ride around on, to pull a lever to open a gate for your friends, or to off yourself to get out of a bad situation and respawn on your buddies – all options that are simply impossible by one’s lonesome. By late-game, it begins to feel as though the levels have been optimised for a multi-player experience, as puzzles that would be a breeze with a friend or two to help become agonisingly slow tower-construction or reflex-based challenges on your own.
If you’ve got a 360 controller and a dongle lying around, give that a whirl and see if it’s your preferred way to play. I found that the mouse gives a certain amount of additional precision to object manipulation and arrow-aiming, but platforming is almost always better on a gamepad than on keyboard and mouse, so find out what’s best for you. That said, Trine 2 is pretty darn good whatever way you choose to play it. It’s not, you know, spectacular (except graphically), and the combat could use some work to become more than simple filler before you get to the puzzles, but with friends or without it’s definitely a worthwhile experience.
Originally published in PCPP#201, March 2012