Platform: PC (reviewed) | PSN & XBLA versions incoming
The original Trine was a revelation in the now prevalent physics-based puzzle/platform hybrid genre, and arguably set a standard by which all subsequent rivals were measured. Frozenbyte have been gradually whetting our appetite with a drip-feed of sumptuous new screenshots and a stellar beta build throughout the last few months, and I'm delighted to report that the finished article lives up to all expectations. Trine 2 builds upon the exceptional physics engine and beautifully-crafted puzzles of its predecessor to deliver one of the very best puzzlers of 2011.
Players assume the role of three heroes throughout the 2D puzzle-strewn campaign, who each boast very different abilities. The Wizard can magically manipulate scenery objects and move them into new positions, or conjure magical crates into existence to act as platforms. The mobile Thief swings around the scenery and uses her magic bow to devastating effect, while the lumbering Knight deploys his raw brute strength and an impenetrable shield to provide a perfect blend of damage output and steadfast defence. This trio can be instantly swapped on-the-fly, resulting in a truly versatile arsenal of skills that can be thrown at the complex levels; creating platforms one minute, moving objects into gravity-defying balanced positions the next and then zipping up to a higher vantage point within scant seconds. Joining forces in co-op, naturally, allows players to combine their abilities to solve puzzles quicker. Note that this can occasionally make things a little too easy, especially if one or more players have already blown through the campaign, but the scope for reckless experimentation provides significant lasting appeal.
Natural elements play a support role alongside the excellent physics engine, and each has a profound effect on the environment. For example, pouring water onto by manipulating leaves or pipes results in the creation of new platforms of grapple points. And fire... well, it's fire. Blast it through a moveable portal and see what burns.
Apart from some surprisingly capable combat and fairly simple platforming (especially if you use the Rogue), the physics-based puzzles are the star of the show... and absolute showstoppers at that. Most of the solutions are intelligent or lateral rather than obscure; challenging you to blend multiple characters' skills and different elements together in surprising new ways. Many puzzles can also be beaten by numerous different approaches, and thinking outside the box can result in some accidental solutions that even the developers might not have considered. A thoughtful learning curve eases you into the proceedings and lets you feel out each character's skills before throwing you in to the deep end. Critically, you'll bask in the glow of incredibly frequent 'Eureka!' moments as your own ingenuity, gravity and a little patience conspire to deliver the perfect solution - you always feel in control rather than being funnelled towards a flagrantly signposted conclusion.
Trine suffered from major issues with class balance, and the sequel does manage to rectify this problem to some extent. The Knight, who was a bit of an underdog last time around, now has many more opportunities to shine thanks to a number of large levers and gouts of flame that only he can circumvent - not to forget his devastating prowess in pitched combat. However, the Wizard is still more useful than both of his compatriots combined due to his levitation and platform conjuring skills being relevant for just about any given situation. This is fine in singleplayer when you're free to save the Knight for his set pieces, but in the cooperative mode, the poor sap stuck with the Knight is probably going to get some serious magic envy from time to time.
Impatient gamers can hustle through the campaign in about six hours all told, but to do so would be missing the point entirely. The levels brim with experience orbs to power up your characters - most of which are plainly visible yet astoundingly hard to reach. You'll need to try every character, poke and prod at each scenery element and wrack your brains to aneurysm in order to net 100% completion, though picking up just a fraction of these orbs will grant your three heroes with a selection of upgraded abilities that, in turn, present you with even more ways to approach the trickier puzzles. The evolving skillsets allow puzzle fans to enjoy many of the levels more than once just to see how they could have handled things differently.
And we've just got to mention those visuals before we wrap up. Trine 2 is a vibrant, dreamlike delight that takes standard fantasy fare and runs with it to its stylish logical conclusion. It's a beautiful place to be, crisp and muted in equal measure, and full of colourful genre caricatures that hover just on the right side of parody. A serviceable (if slightly brief and irrelevant) story and competent voice acting round out the presentation. Its a treat for the eyes as well as the mind.
- Outstanding puzzles
- Varied and exciting character abilities
- Visually delightful
- Still some slight class imbalance
- Story is a little on the perfunctory side (if that bothers you)
- Levitated objects can very occasionally get stuck, forcing restart
The Short Version: Trine 2 is a superior sequel and a superior puzzler. Undoubtedly one of the thinking man's highlights of 2011.