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My Trine Has Four Sides

Wizard is overpowered.  Those three words more or less defined my experience with the first Trine.  Recently, I checked to see if that phrase would still ring true for the newer, shinier sequel, Trine 2, and it was with mixed feelings that I discovered… yes, it more or less is.

The Old Days

The first Trine was a 3.5D puzzle gaming experience, built to combine clever platforming with physics-based puzzles.  Set in a fairy tale world that could be straight out of a storybook, the game presented interesting challenges by way of moving levers, floating boxes, and jumping puzzles at every corner.  Combat was treated more like another puzzle than it was a life or death situation, which unfortunately often rendered one of the three protagonists useless.  A fantasy plot like a child’s bedtime story whimsically moved the game along, filling in the gaps between puzzles.  Despite the somewhat limited co-op play, it was still a winning formula, one that served the game well, and made Trine 1 a very pleasing game.

The New Days

Even the main menu is gorgeous.

Luckily, Trine 2 didn’t mess with that formula much at all, and what they did change up worked mostly in their favor.

First very obvious improvement is the graphics.  Now, normally, just improving the graphics of a game isn’t a large concern of mine, but Trine 2 was definitely the exception.  The lighting and texture quality is incredible, portraying the fantasy world of three heroes in exceptional detail and style.  The twinkling lights and glimmering backgrounds help shape the story as much as the narration.  The periodic “boss puzzles” that involved the background as much as they did the foreground were fantastic elements that broke up the doldrums of solving ordinary puzzles.

A big improvement is the upgraded co-operative play.  Trine had enormous potential for co-op play, but barely hit on that nerve at all, only allowing limited, local co-op play.  Trine 2 introduced proper, internet-based multiplayer as we’ve come to expect in today’s gaming age.  However, it comes with a negative; having one additional player made the game improbably easy.  With the wizard’s ability to create and float boxes, very nearly every puzzle could be solved by simply floating someone up to the finish, switching characters, and floating the second person up.  This problem is repressed by having a third player, however, filling up all three characters and making the wizard the difficult one to move onward.  Regardless, the ability to have co-op in a puzzle game like this was fantastic, often reminiscent to the co-op levels in Portal 2.

Of course, also of strong note are the changes to the characters themselves.

The Characters

Slashy, Slashy

Pontius, the Knight, was always a big, blundering sword-swinger with a heavy shield, and he still is.  However, he also now has a secondary weapon, his hammer, which is used for smashing through any number of obstacles.  After a level up, you can purchase the ability to throw the hammer, making smashing up distant rock barriers considerably easier, as well as giving the party a powerful second ranged weapon.  Being almost entirely combat based in a puzzle game, Pontius is about the least useful of the three heroes, with the exceptions being the infrequent scripted battle sequences.

Swinging in a totally-not-all-assassin way.

Zoya, the Thief, has suffered massive nerfs compared to what she was in Trine.  Her grappling hook, which used to stick to very nearly any surface, now can only stick to mostly wooden surfaces, such as the often-conspicuous logs stuck to random walls.  While it does keep her from being able to solve every puzzle just by right-clicking, it can turn the game into a case of spotting the grapple point to reach the goal.  Someone who has found where to attach the grapple still has to contend with the physics based swinging and the various puzzles, however, so it wasn’t nearly the breeze it was in Trine.

Solving Problems 101: The Wizard Method

Amadeus, the Wizard, quickly proved that whatever nerfs that had been applied to him were not nearly enough.  The ability to create interactive pieces of the landscape was overwhelmingly easy to abuse far too often.  There were subtle hints in the gameplay that seemed to indicate the guys at Frozenbyte wanted to keep the game beatable by any one of the three heroes, rarely straying outside scenarios that required the creation of any blocks at all.  On the few occasions where extra boxes were needed, only one box would do the trick.  In an honest effort, I did try to stick to limiting my box usage, but it was difficult.  Very rarely at all did I resort to simply stacking three boxes on top of one another to achieve my goal.  Instead, I tried more unusual approaches, using the planks more often than anything else.

So I turned the evil spiked ball into a bridge. Yep.

Unfortunately, I found them to be very nearly as gamebreaking as the plain boxes.  Combined with the ability to levitate nearly any enemy you might encounter, rendering them helpless and under your power, the game was made hardly a challenge at all.  The puzzle design is fantastic, but more often than not, the wizard just made it all feel too easy.

Conclusions

A wonderful game, really, despite its faults.  The splendid adventure story is somewhat short, but sweet and innocent in a very refreshing way.  The gameplay is very fluid and dynamic, with great control for a platformer, especially for a physics-based puzzle game.  Plus, it’s a fairly cheap indie title, to boot, only running you fifteen bucks on Steam.  Well worth the price, definitely well worth the time.

I give Trine 2 a charming 7.5 out of 10.



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