Continuing with the impressive 2011 XBLA and PSN release schedule, the gorgeous and cerebral Trine 2 is now available and certainly does not disappoint those who have been spoiled by the constant flow of excellent downloadable titles. Developed by Frozenbyte and published by Atlus, this side-scrolling puzzle platformer has many outstanding qualities, most notably the absolutely exquisite visuals.
Although this title offers a good deal of action for the hack ‘n slash demographic, this is a traditional puzzle game that requires much more of an intellect-driven game style than traditional button mashing. Considering the visuals are what mainly allow this game to stand out, that is where we will start.
The world of Trine is a vibrant spectacle of bright colors and living environments, with water surface lighting so impressive that I found myself staring at it constantly throughout my time with the game. The color palette is jaw-dropping and the organic feel of the game design truly sets a new bar. I try to refrain from “gushing” about some element of the games I review, but simply put, this games visuals are truly gush-worthy.
I have had the pleasure to review both Bastion and Insanely Twisted Shadow Planet this year, and Trine 2, in my personal opinion, surpasses both on visual appeal. If you have played either, you know how momentous that statement actually is. When you first see a dragon you will be floored by the lighting and scale. Likewise, if you decide to have a little fun by dangling a large piece of fruit in front of an even larger frog that is blocking your way, observing his hilarious and responsive facial expressions as the fruit gets closer, or farther away, will make you smile…a lot.
Although a few of the animations tend to be somewhat stiff at times, the profound beauty of the game overshadows any of these minor issues. On a somewhat less relevant note, for all the thought and hard work that went into making the game beautiful, could the publisher please get some decent cover art? When I downloaded the game I was taken aback by the unoriginal and rather ugly thumbnail art that I was looking at. For those consumers who use first impressions as one of their criteria for choosing a game (some do) Trine 2 put itself at an immediate disadvantage.
Moving on from the visuals, the gameplay itself is both fun and engaging with an interesting set of primary characters. The story immediately takes a classic fantasy narrative in which there are three individuals, Amadeus the Wizard, Pontius the Warrior and Zoya the Thief, who all go on a legendary quest to figure out the mysteries of the Trine itself. Although the atmosphere of the game is excellent, I found myself not really caring about the story. It’s not a huge deal as this is not what many will buy the game for but it is still a little disappointing.
The game does an excellent job introducing you to the basics, swapping between the three characters, spotlighting their major abilities in a productive manner and not just giving us a walkthrough introduction. I am one of those games who like to learn the basics while at the same time feeling like I accomplished something, and Trine 2 does exactly that, slowly introducing the main concepts while the story has already begun.
Each character fills an invaluable niche within the game, requiring the skills of each to get past the progressively more difficult puzzles. Amadeus uses his skills as a wizard to both create cubes and planks and levitate/move objects. Where Amadeus is the problem solver, Zoya is the go-getter of the bunch with her stealthy movements, trusty bow, and a grappling device used to swing from platform to platform to reach new areas or avoid danger.
If you cannot move forward using magic and agility, or are overwhelmed by the aggressive enemies, then you can just break through barriers with Pontius and his destructive sledgehammer, while slicing down waves of Orcs with a classic sword and shield combination. The developers made sure to allow each class to offer a unique and equally enjoyable experience. Using “the force” with the Wizard, swinging around with the thief and blasting through rock walls with warrior are all satisfying gameplay elements.
The puzzles themselves are quite interesting and are not so difficult as to be frustrating. Many are physics-based and usually require the implementation of fire, water, gravity, or magic to solve. The puzzles work well by providing the player with an easily definable challenge (the camera backs away and the screen widens, showing nearly all the space the puzzle encompasses) and ultimately allows for those, what I call, Portal 2 “Aha” moments. where you finally realize not only the solution to the problem, but also how intelligently designed the said puzzle actually was.
Knowing that the puzzles are worth solving, makes this type of game a success. I have a short fuse, so puzzle games and I have never really gotten along, but with smart design and great visual cues to show you your options, this game has made me a believer in the power of the genre
Not only are the concepts of the puzzles fun but the implementation of how you go about solving them is great in itself. As an example, you will find yourself redirecting water to flow towards a bright area on screen, not knowing what will happen next. What did end up happening was a large flower grew from the brand new source of nutrition, allowing me to jump on its petals all the way to my destination. Interaction with the environment is one of the ways this title keeps you engaged all the way till the end.
As for the music, it is exactly what you would expect when looking at the game. I enjoyed the orchestrated and upbeat fantasy soundtrack which included a nice blend of harps, flutes and vocals. Just think of any fantasy game, show, or movie, and you will know exactly what Trine 2 sounds like. Unfortunately, the catchy music does become rather repetitive, with one song looping for each level.
Considering you have to spend time solving puzzles and cannot blast through levels like Sonic, hearing the same music looped over and over again becomes somewhat irritating, adding to the frustration that comes with not being able to figure out a puzzle for a long time. This may be due to the fact that I was not exactly speeding through the puzzles, but either way, a little variety would have gone a long way.
As for the control scheme, I want to preface by saying this was originally made for the PC, with a mouse and keyboard format in mind. That being said, the controls are suspect at best. You will find yourself over-compensating ALL the time with the rather loose control scheme. While using the character’s special abilities, most notably the wizards cube creation, I found myself jealous (for one of the first times ever, mind you) that I was not playing this on a computer.
I know that drawing a square with a mouse is much, much easier than using an analog controller and those times in the game where you have to either be precise or fast, the control scheme falls flat. It is not broken by any means, but if you have a good PC, I would most definitely suggest buying that version opposed to the console one. I do have to give them credit though for making the most out of a difficult transition from mouse to controller.
Aside from the sometimes frustrating controls, repetitive music and the occasional wooden animation, this game has almost everything you should want from a downloadable title. Gorgeous visuals, smart design, fun characters and, most importantly, an ability to keep the player engaged and interested make Trine 2 a great addition to any downloadable game library.
Available now on XboxLive Arcade, Trine 2 has all the elements of a successful puzzle platformer and should not be missed by those looking for a beautiful and challenging title.