Pros: Visually stunning, first rate puzzles.
Cons: Forgettable story, no multiplayer voice chat.
The puzzle-platforming sidescroller Trine 2: Director’s Cut is like a soap bubble floating through the air; glistening and beautiful, airy and transient. I stopped playing it an hour ago, and yet already I know that in spite of its gorgeous visuals, clever ideas and tough puzzles, I will have no memory of playing this game a year from now.
Developed and published by: Frozenbyte
For ages: 10 and up
Platform: Wii U (eShop only)
Release Date: November 18, 2013
The Basics: A Side-Scrolling Platformer Elegantly Ported to the Wii U
Trine 2 details the adventures of three people – a wizard, a thief, and a knight - who are mystically connected by something called The Trine. The result is that only one of the three can physically manifest at any particular time. In terms of the game, this means the player can control any of the three, switching freely from one to the next.
Each character has skills suitable for different puzzles. The wizard can create boxes and planks out of thin air and can levitate objects, although when attacked by ogres his lack of a weapon is a hindrance. The knight handles attackers relatively easily and can also use a hammer to bash through obstacles. The thief can fire arrows and use a grappling hook.
As you go through the game you can buy additional powers; the thief can shoot fire arrows, the knight can use his shield to slow his descent. The game awards you points throughout that allow you to buy these powers, and if you run out of points you can sell a power back. Constantly swapping powers feels like needless busywork, so I wish the game had found a better way to parcel out abilities.
Trine 2 takes full advantage of the gamepad’s touchscreen. Not only does it make it easy to switch between characters, but often powers are better controlled through the gamepad, particularly in the case of the wizard. At times I would become so focused on the gamepad that I would forget to look at the TV at all, and I had to make a conscious effort to put my eyes on the larger, crisper screen whenever I didn’t need the touchscreen
Gameplay: Fun Puzzles and Pretty Pictures
The two-dimensional world these heroes explore is full of spiked floors, high platforms, strange machinery, lava pits, underwater passages, acid-spitting spiders, treasure chests filled with poetry, and the occasional giant monster. As you travel, you might need to call on the wizard to create a box so he can jump up to a platform from where the thief can shoot her grappling hook into a wooden ceiling so she can swing across lava to an area full of ogres that can be dispatched by the knight before the wizard can levitate pipes to redirect steam which can be used to lift them all to the next area.
Solutions are not always obvious, and some require a mix of ingenuity and eye-hand coordination to solve. Sometimes there can be more than one approach to a puzzle, depending on which character you feel inclined to use.
The world of Trine 2 is not just dangerous, it is also stunningly beautiful. This is one of those games like Muramasa: The Demon Blade or Lost in Shadow in which you spend as much time admiring the scenery as playing the game. Its gorgeous fantasy landscapes are full of radiant light and beautiful, unearthly color.
Death is not uncommon when you encounter a horde of goblins or the occasional boss. Each character has a separate life gauge, so if one dies you can continue fighting or solving puzzles, with another. Glowing orbs placed throughout levels will revive all characters; if you lose the lot of them you are sent back to the most recent checkpoint, which is usually not too far away.
Battles can be somewhat tough, but are pretty manageable until a final boss battle that is incongruously elaborate and tricky and, for me at least, rather tedious. Getting annoyed with that, I decided to check out the game’s multiplayer mode for a while.
The Extras: Entertaining Multiplayer and an Add-On
Going online, the game quickly matched me up with two fellow players, assigning each of us to one of the game’s three characters. Work together is necessary but can be quite tricky, since there is no voice chat, meaning you can understand a puzzle and know what everyone needs to do while you see another player flounder. In that case you can request to switch characters, although it is up to the player currently controlling a character to decide whether to release it. Voice chat would help a lot; as it is you are much better off playing local multiplayer if you have a couple of gamer friends.
Director’s Cut also includes the “Goblin Menace” add-on pack, but when I decided to check it out, I discovered two things. One was that the game had wiped out my save game (I reported this to the developers, who say you can avoid the danger of this by playing multiplayer in a different save slot from single player). The other was that Goblin Menace is not unlocked until you beat the main story, meaning I could not play the add-on unless I wanted to replay the entire game first. So the only level of Goblin Menace I saw was the one I was randomly dropped into when I played in multiplayer. It was good.
The Verdict: Thoroughly Enjoyable
While I’m annoyed that I didn’t get to play Goblin Menace, overall I very much enjoyed Trine 2, which offers a wealth of clever puzzles, pretty pictures, and cute banter between the principles. But I don’t see the game staying with me the way some games do. The story is inconsequential, the characters are superficial, and in spite of the well-designed puzzles, there’s very little I haven’t seen before. And so, before the game fades from my memory, I just want to write a message to my future self, letting me know, for when Trine 3 comes out, that I played Trine 2, and I had a lot of fun doing so.