Trine 2 may appear to be the storybook fantasy world of your dreams. In this stunning landscape, you travel through musty old libraries, encounter moss-covered statues at ancient shrines, and marvel at fog-shrouded hillsides that fill your heart with hopes for grand adventure. Every aspect of the visuals, from the most glorious mountaintop vista to the smallest detail, contributes to the creation of a world that appears to have sprung, fully realized, from someone's vivid imagination. But all is not so wondrous in this breathtaking world. The physics-based puzzles you must frequently fumble with are more like housework than the glorious exploits of wizards and warriors, so while this adventure looks magical, it too often feels mundane.
You play as a trio of characters: the wizard Amadeus, the thief Zoya, and Pontius, the knight whose appetite for adventure is rivaled only by his appetite for food and drink. The characters are established only in broad strokes, and the tale Trine 2 tells is a flimsy one; it's a shame that a world this rich in visual detail doesn't get a story to match.
The three heroes are bound together through the magic of a mysterious artifact called the Trine, the upshot being that you can swap between them instantly. This is essential as you progress through Trine 2's side-scrolling levels, in which you frequently encounter puzzles and obstacles that you can't simply leap over. Amadeus can conjure boxes and planks, and can move and manipulate some objects from a distance, making his skills vital in overcoming most puzzles. Zoya can fire arrows at distant targets and can grapple on to wooden surfaces, letting her swing up and reach areas others can't. Pontius can smash stuff real good with his sword, and that's about it, at least initially. You encounter enough goblins and other nasty creatures that Pontius' skills come in handy, though the combat here is just a shallow and easy diversion that only serves to give your brain a break between puzzles.
Those puzzles are the heart of Trine 2, and though they're dressed up in gorgeous fantasy trappings, trying to devise solutions to them usually feels something like trying to fix a pesky problem around the house with whatever supplies you have laying around. Given the physics-based nature of the puzzles, you can often solve them in a number of ways, which may sound like it opens the door to satisfyingly creative problem-solving. Instead, because solutions don't click satisfyingly into place, you often don't feel like you're really solving anything at all.
Fumbling with conjured boxes and planks, you may eventually jerry-rig something that lets you climb the ledge you need to climb or water the plant you need to water. But it feels like you've stumbled on a makeshift solution that happens to get the job done, rather than cleverly worked out a challenging conundrum. And because you sometimes need to have things positioned perfectly for a particular solution you have in mind to work, it can be difficult to know if the concept you're working with won't work, or if you're just not executing it well enough. As a result, you can waste a lot of time experimenting with bad ideas, or give up on sound ideas that didn't work because you didn't have all the pieces in exactly the right spot.
Further dampening the pleasure of progressing past Trine 2's puzzles is the game's floaty movement. The buoyant jumps make it feel as if your characters aren’t rooted in the world, and those characters have an odd tendency to sometimes scramble up onto ledges or platforms that seem like they shouldn’t be reachable, so you can sometimes bypass puzzles without coming up with anything resembling a proper solution. The first time it happens, you might think you just got lucky. By the fifth time, you realize that the game’s physics are too easily exploited.
There are potions scattered throughout levels and dropped by defeated monsters that serve as experience points; for every 50 you collect, you earn a skill point you can spend to unlock new abilities for your characters. Zoya can earn explosive arrows, for instance, while Amadeus can become capable of having more items conjured simultaneously, among other things. These upgrades are useful and empowering, and heck, after you’ve unlocked a few of Pontius’ abilities, he actually becomes good for more than just hacking goblins to death.
The Wii U version of Trine 2, dubbed Trine 2: Director's Cut, can be played entirely on the GamePad, and you can use the touchscreen to do things like whip up boxes and planks as the wizard or to aim Zoya's bow. This version also includes the Goblin Menace expansion, which takes you to some memorable new locations that break away from the typical fantasy fare of the core game. You traipse across vast deserts, explore booby-trapped tombs, and even find yourself fighting through a massive creature's innards. Additionally, the goblins--who are a forgettable nuisance in Trine 2 proper--have a number of offensive contraptions in Goblin Menace that makes fighting them more interesting, though hardly more difficult. Unfortunately, you can't skip to the expansion, so if you've played Trine 2 on another platform and were hoping to jump right to the new content, you're out of luck.
Trine 2 supports local and online multiplayer for up to three players. Working with others can make overcoming Trine 2’s puzzles much easier. (For instance, there's no need to devise a way to hold open a gate using boxes and planks so that you can switch to the thief and shoot an arrow at a target therein if there's two of you; simply have Amadeus actively hold the gate open and have Zoya simultaneously shoot the target.) However, the online play here doesn’t support voice chat, making it impossible to coordinate with your partners, which in turn makes it very difficult to actually work together to overcome obstacles. If you've got friends in the room with you, though, you can enjoy making short work of puzzles that take a good deal of finagling when you're on your own.
Trine 2 is elevated by its art design, which is second to none. But as enchanting as its visuals are, they aren’t enough to imbue the game’s puzzles with magic. This is still an adventure worth embarking on just to take in all the stunning sights, but it’s unfortunate that its beauty doesn’t run deeper.