Just two short years after the launch of the original Trine on the PSN (and PC) back in 2009, Frozenbyte certainly aren’t ready to put the series to bed. In what seems like no time at all, they’ve returned with a sequel which, after consternation from XBLA users who missed out on a release of the first title, means this time they also get a piece of the fantasy-adventure action.
Trine 2 begins with the re-emergence of the titular mystical object, gathering up each of the original trio of heroes. Since the Trine never communicates with them, they are left to unravel the reason for their latest quest as they progress through an unfamiliar land, tackling a myriad of nasty beasts, huge boss monsters and physics based puzzles.
The player once again takes charge of Amadeus the cautious Wizard, Pontius the head strong Knight and Zoya the fleet-footed thief. Each of them has their own unique skills to help tackle the levels and there are always a number of solutions to the environmental puzzles, depending on who you’re playing. For example, whether it’s using Amadeus’ conjuring skills to create and then place blocks to get over an obstacle, using Zoya’s grappling hook to latch on to wooden surfaces and swing past, or making use of Pontius’ hammer to smash through.
When playing alone you can switch between characters at will with a simple button press, but the fact that its possible to complete levels without switching at all perfectly illustrates just how much thought has gone into constructing them. In fact it’s a feat rarely seen in video games these days, so much so that only the most belligerent of players won’t find themselves stopping to appreciate just how much effort must have gone in to finely balancing the game in this way.
The puzzles, the key part of the Trine gameplay experience, are engaging and even if you get stuck there’s the option to turn on audio hints at two or five minute intervals. There’s usually only one cue which fully explains rather than just suggesting how to progress, but thankfully these can also be turned off altogether if you’d rather work things out for yourself. It’s a good indicator of just how accessible Frozenbyte have tried to make their title and, coupled with its gentle pace and lovely visuals, the end result is one that feels satisfying to play.
In terms of actual gameplay mechanics, not a lot has actually changed from the first release. The player is still required to collect blue potion bottles and after gathering 50 of them will be gifted a skill point to spend on extra abilities for the characters. These range from being able to conjure up more objects at once as Amadeus, through to be able to freeze enemies with Zoya’s arrows or by blocking with Pontius’ shield. Cleverly, because of the thought that’s gone into the puzzles, the player is never really penalised for choosing to upgrade one particular character over another. While the extra skills are undeniably useful, the game will never prohibit progress if you don’t have them. Even if you somehow feel like you’ve been locked out, spent points can be reset at any time without penalty, allowing you to bolster the abilities of whatever character you desire.
Because of the similarities to the first release, it’s arguable that the core experience offered by Trine 2 will feel overly familiar to players of the first, since a large portion of the puzzles and skills aren’t that different. However one very welcome change is the removal of the charge bar for the powers, meaning the player is free to use them as often as they like.
The presentation in Trine 2 is top notch and the settings so well crafted that it would take the most cynical of gamers not to enjoy playing through them. Having spent most of the first game perfecting the drab interiors of dungeons and ruins (and even then they certainly couldn’t be described as visually dull) here they’ve really let loose with the outdoor environments.
The bright sunlight filters through the scenery producing impressive God-rays, while the luminous plants sway in the virtual breeze and wildlife scatters in the distance. It’s this fine attention to detail which makes the game an absolute joy to play, a real treat for the eyes. On the times where the setting shifts to an indoor environment, it’s hard not to be overwhelmed by what’s on show. Cobwebs, cupboards and lighting are all lovingly crafted and directed, creating settings that are as enchanting as Trine’s fantasy themes.
Perhaps the ace up sleeve of Trine 2’s wizardly robe for those that played the first and might find this too similar, is the ability to now play online co-op. While the first release allowed up to three players locally, now you can help each other out online. The game isn’t changed, nor does it feature specific co-operative levels. Instead the satisfaction comes from sharing the experience with others meaning that the addition, although welcomed, can feel like a short lived novelty. Especially if you opt for the Unlimited mode which doesn’t restrict each player to a specific characters and meaning you can have three wizards on screen at once, drawing items out of thin air and throwing them around. As chaotic as it might be, and undeniably fun for a while, even then Trine 2 offers very little in the way of content or Achievements / Trophies to bring you back, a criticism that dogged the first and we hoped would have been ironed out here.
Ultimately Trine 2 proves such a lovely and comfortable experience that it’s easy to overlook some of the faults and you’ll still find yourself thoroughly enjoying it. This sequel proves that the lush world and charming characters they’ve created are endearing enough to support more games and hopefully the next will expand a lot more on the presentation and, more importantly the ideas found within, to make a truly exceptional title.