The first Trine title was notable for quite a number of things. The first – its great artistic design – is the most obvious, followed by its almost open-ended 2D puzzles and its accessible (if rather floaty) combat mechanisms. Trine 2 continues these design directions, both good and flawed, but with puzzles and hazards which are a bit more sophisticated (though no less clichéd) than those in the first game.
Trine 2 is apparently a continuation of the story in the first Trine. The protagonists had been released by the enigmatic (and autonomous) magical artifact that is the Trine and they have gone on their own lives for quite a number of years. Yet, the Trine still binds them together and would summon them again when the world is in peril. It so happens that yet another great threat has arisen again, and the Trine wastes no time in getting the heroes together once more.
Perhaps one of the most apparent advancement in the story from the first Trine to this sequel is that the protagonists have been given names. The Wizard is now known as Amadeus, the Thief as Zoya and the Knight as Pontius. The reason for this is not clear, but perhaps it was for the better because referring to the characters by their profession would have made their character designs seem a bit too generic.
Anyway, once again, they have to trek through otherwise beautiful places. In Trine 2, these places have been afflicted by a peculiar corruption that turned formerly harmless plants into malicious weeds, among other troubles such as marauding goblins. They will have to work together to investigate these happenings and right things wrong.
THE WIZARD, AMADEUS:
The Wizard remains a lay-about who still has yet to learn the fireball spell. However, he had been working on his levitation and creation magic, such that he now has access to certain abilities which he can purchase.
One of these is the ability to levitate living creatures, right up to the size of giant spiders. Unless there is a mob of enemies which the player has to contend with, this means that individual enemies have no chance at all against the Wizard, who can just move them into contact with hazards.
Like in the previous game, the Wizard is instrumental to the solution of puzzles. He is the one who will be doing most of the puzzling busywork (a fact that he will remark on at certain points in the story). He has almost no offensive capabilities, but his magic can impede the movement of enemies in battle, if the player is clever enough to use his magic in such manners.
THE “ENTREPRENEUR”, ZOYA:
The coy thief from Trine returns with her bow and grapnel, but also with some new tricks. Among these is the ability to stay hidden from enemies by standing still, though the utility of this is rather limited. One of her more interesting abilities is the ability to fire a time-dilating arrow, which can be used in some puzzle solutions, such as delaying the collapse of unstable stacks of objects or slowing a pendulum.
Otherwise, Zoya’s main role remained the same as it was in the previous game: she can get to somewhere far more easily than the other two, and she is the character with reliable ranged attacks. This is particularly important in single-player, since the player can switch her to other characters in mid-jump or mid-swing and use the momentum to get them to where they are needed.
THE KNIGHT, PONTIUS:
Pontius is still the enthusiastic brute with a particular penchant for jumping and running with gusto in full plate armor. This amusing talent of his has been enhanced by the inclusion of a hammer in his set of weapons. There was a similar weapon in the previous game, but the hammer is available by default. Pontius can also learn a few tricks with the hammer, such as tossing it for a powerful ranged attack.
Pontius is mainly there for the player to use to plough through enemies; neither of the other two characters can achieve his damage output. Other than that, his nigh-indestructible shield will be of use when the player has to get through hazards, such as gouts of flame. Pontius also retains his skill at reflecting projectiles, which will be handy in certain puzzles.
Throughout the game, the player will encounter goblins, along with their greenskin cousins. They are numerous and well-armed, but are not incredibly bright.
Firstly, there are the goblin skirmishers, who can opt to throw spears instead of charging at the player character. Next, there are archers, who are quite easy to deal with because they stay in place. Then, there are larger-than-average goblins who can take quite a beating before they go down. These three are by far the most common enemies, and also the most easily dispatched.
It would not take long for a wily player to learn to use specific heroes in specific situations to eliminate them as efficiently as possible. Pontius would be the default choice, but if the goblins are stuck at places where they cannot reach the heroes, Zoya can reliably (if rather slowly) pick them off. If there are hazards nearby, Amadeus’ levitation magic can get rid of them rather quickly (assuming that the player has purchased the pertinent upgrade, of course).
There are more powerful and capable enemies of course. Among these are champions who have mastery over a pair of fiery swords; these were in the previous game. Another example is the troll, who as to be expected, is a large brute with a massive club.
Yet, it would not take long for astute players to discover their embarrassing weaknesses. For example, the aforementioned champion can be difficult to slay if fought head-on. Instead of doing that, the player can neutralize it quite easily if he/she can recall a certain hilarious combat move which was also in the previous game: the heroes can jump onto enemies and pin them down. In the case of the champion, Zoya can jump onto it, pin it down and plink away with arrows with near-impunity.
In fact, experienced players would find that most of the enemies in Trine 2 are rather easy to eliminate, even on harder difficulties. The main reason is that harder difficulties do not make them any smarter or more capable of keeping up with the doughty heroes. The harder difficulties do not appear to compensate for their overt weaknesses either. Granted, the heroes can go down with just a few hits, but that can only happen if the player is not making good use of their incredible dexterity.
PUZZLES & HAZARDS:
By far, the better challenges in Trine 2 are those posed by puzzles and hazards. More often than not, the way to progress is barred by obstacles or laid across with seemingly unsurpassable chasms. The player will need to figure out solutions for these predicaments, and it so happens that there is more than one way to solve each.
Amadeus is generally the go-to for such situations. Like in the previous Trine, the player can have him creating a ramshackle structure of conjured metal contraptions to use as stepping stones, or to have these prop up something. This is typically what the player would do if the “natural” solution for a puzzle seems to be more of a hassle than this cheesy solution.
Fortunately, unlike its predecessor, Trine 2 has more convenient solutions to puzzles. For example, in the previous game, a destructible obstacle often requires the player to get the Knight over to it, or having the Wizard move a heavy object into them. In the sequel, there are often things nearby, either in plain sight or hidden away in places where only curious players would look, which can be used to solve puzzles with.
For example, pits of gases, which can usually be worked around by having Amadeus place planks over them, can be cleared by having a nearby vent directed towards them.
Furthermore, an inquisitive player who experiments with the environments found in Trine 2 may learn a few tricks. For example, bouncing pads (usually depicted as giant mushrooms) not only bounce the heroes, but also enemies and inanimate objects too. This can be used as a solution to reach goodies which are hovering far above the mushrooms.
Ever since Portal demonstrated the reliability of its portal-hopping mechanism, there had been plenty of games which would use it for puzzles. The Trine series may be a bit late to jump on the bandwagon, but its own portals appear to be quite functional (albeit restricted only to two dimensions).
As to be expected of video-game portals post-Portal, anything that enters one portal exits from a linked portal, generally with momentum preserved. In the case of this game, these portals are usually within the same screen, and the physics-coding for the momentum is as unbelievable as those for the player characters’ jumps.
Unfortunately, the portals do not allow just about anything through. In particular, Amadeus’s metal constructs are immediately destroyed when they come into contact with the portals.
Overall, the puzzles involving the portals are very easy; some of them can even be circumvented outright (ironically, usually through careful use of Amadeus’s constructs). The main cause for this is the arrangement of the portals: they are either locked in place, or can only traverse a very limited area.
Like the previous game, Trine 2 has some collectibles for the player to gather. Unfortunately, they seem a lot less interesting.
Where the previous game has baubles with different designs and actual gameplay worth, Trine 2 puts otherwise-useless poems and artwork into treasure chests. The former does have something to do with the overarching plot of Trine 2, but they still seem lackadaisical in terms of gameplay when compared to the artifacts of the previous game.
Fortunately, the gameplay element of experience points has been much improved.
To recap, in the previous game, there were experience potions which were lying about waiting to be picked up, but they were worth only one point each; if there was a reward for exploration which involves a lot of experience points, there would have been plenty of potions which were crammed into a single spot. Problems arise when they scatter all over the place when released.
In Trine 2, there are potions of different sizes, which indicate their worth. There are still small ones which can scatter all over the place and get stuck in unreachable places, but the big valuable ones have a lot of inertia and generally stay in place, which make them a bit more reliable to retrieve than the small ones. Of course, the big ones are often situated out of the way, so there is still some challenge to be had from trying to reach them.
In the previous game, enemies leave behind floating experience orbs after they are slain for the first time in a playthrough. These orbs stay in place, until the player character picks them up – if he/she can reach them at all. In Trine 2, the orbs still appear out of enemies, but they will automatically fly towards the player character, clipping through any and all obstacles. This is convenient, though the experience increment could have been put into effect after slaying an enemy.
In the first Trine, the sources of experience points which are found in the levels are primarily potions. Interestingly, in the sequel, there are also orbs floating around, waiting to be collected; these will not float towards the player character. These orbs are not affected by gravity or inertia too. Consequently, they are a bit easier to collect, though this also means that the player cannot use physical shenanigans (i.e. Amadeus) to get to them.
Most of the non-character objects in the game move in a believable manner, or at least as believable as objects which are constrained to a vertical 2D plane can be. For example, stacks of objects which have been haphazardly formed with Amadeus’s magic will slowly but surely topple when given a nudge. Another example is the pendulum physics of most swing-traps.
Of course, the physics of these objects are very much circumvented when Amadeus’s magic is applied on them; video-game physics have a tendency to make things go terribly wrong and/or silly. For example, the player only needs to have a heavy object touch a fragile wall to have the latter crashing down, even if the heavy object is moving at low speeds.
Another notable oddity about the game’s physics for objects is that objects will not move in a direction which is perpendicular to the screen unless they are scripted to do so, e.g. in cutscenes. This is most noticeable for flows of liquids which are needed to solve puzzles with.
The physics which govern character models are far less believable than those for inanimate objects. The unbelievably high jumps that the player characters can make and that Pontius can swim underwater with full plate armor are examples which have already been mentioned. Other examples include the silly rag-doll corpses which enemies become when they are slain, or the fact that the player characters can just step on most enemies to pin them down.
The physics-scripting for characters are actually intended for combat and in the case of the player characters’ jumps, for platforming. Yet, they are better at effecting humour than either of these two purposes.
The first Trine impressed quite many with its artwork, which was rather beautiful for an indie title. The sequel would go further, as can be seen in some levels where the background is animated. In some levels, the objects in the background even pose as hazards, such as the carnivorous plants which appear in the malice-infused forest.
At times, the game takes on a cutscene-like quality. This can be seen in the introductory levels, where the Trine visits each of the heroes and where the player is shown the brilliant visual effects which have been imparted on the Trine.
Speaking of the heroes, they have received some updates to their designs. Amadeus sports a longer beard now, though he still wears sandals. Zoya has a cloak which billows more often. Pontius has somehow even more plate mail on him than before.
There are also noticeably more particle effects in Trine 2 than in the previous game. In particular (word-play not intended), flames and gases appear a lot more often in this game than the previous one, complete with their attendant (and generally convincing) particle effects. This is just as well, because there are more puzzles and obstacles regarding these.
There are some visual disappointments though. The most jarring of these is how the game animates water which is flowing horizontally. The water is apparently flowing across a tight rectangular grid when it moves across flat ground, and the textures for the water are often muddled when this happens.
Trine 2 appears to have a re-composed version of the main soundtrack of the first Trine; this is the soundtrack that is heard in the main menu and the trailers. This is of course one of the series’ trademarks, but it has to be said here that several of the other soundtracks in Trine 2 also happen to have the same tune. To jaded ears, they can sound a bit lazy from the aspect of creativity.
Nevertheless, the soundtracks have been designed such that their tempo thematically matches the situation which the player is in. For example, the soundtracks for monstrous bosses are suitably rancorous.
People who have played the previous game and remembered the experience might find that most of the sound effects which are in Trine 2 have been recycled from the previous game. To cite some examples, there are the tinkling which accompanies Amadeus’s magic, the whipping of the launch of Zoya’s hook, and the clashing of Pontius’s sword on something. Of course, these sounds serve their functions just as well as they did in the previous game, so this is a very minor complaint about recycling.
CO-OP VS SINGLE-PLAYER:
Interestingly, the playthrough experience in Trine 2 will play out quite differently if the player plays the game alone or plays with other people via the co-op mode.
Speaking of which, co-op mode in Trine 2 can be played locally or online; the game has a built-in tool to find existing sessions, which is very much welcome – especially considering that most indie game-makers would not do more than use third-party services like Valve’s Steam for their multiplayer modes.
Anyway, returning to the matter of gameplay experiences in co-op or single-player, co-op has the player taking on the role of one of the player characters. The movement of the player characters is restricted to the current screen, which will only move when the center of the triangle formed by the three characters move. This means that any one player cannot move ahead or lag behind the others. This is just as well, because obstacles in the game cannot be overcome without at least two of the characters (and this generally includes Amadeus).
Yet, this also means that the co-op experience can become a mess, especially if the player who is controlling Amadeus does not know what to do or is a jerk. The host can attempt to minimize this by locking players to just a single character instead of letting any player switch to any other character (which will also cause another player to have his/her character switched out), but this has the disadvantage of reducing the versatility of the party.
In light of this possibility for a really bad time with other players, relief instead of satisfaction is more likely the player’s reward for having successfully completed a co-op session, even if the party of players is well-coordinated. An astute player might notice that playing alone might result in quicker and more efficient solutions for puzzles, because the single-player mode removes the need for each player to have his/her character rendezvous with the rest.
Of course, there are also meta-game bragging rights like achievements and such, but for players who are looking for more substantial and meaningful rewards from the co-op mode, they might be disappointed.
The main reason to play Trine 2 is the expanded repertoire of challenges which it has over the previous game. The challenges in Trine 2 are also notable for being surprisingly balanced for multiplayer and single-player, mainly because they are subtly designed such that the advantages of either game mode are held back by its own disadvantages/foibles.
Combat in Trine 2 is not particularly exhilarating, mainly because of how clumsy and dim-witted enemies tend to be and how they just cannot match the overwhelmingly quicker and more agile player characters.
The most significant disappointment with Trine 2 is that it does not retain the previous game’s system of actually useful collectibles. This is a step back for the series, and a noticeable oddity given the general improvement of the other gameplay designs.
Overall, Trine 2, like its predecessor, is a flawed gem. Its core competencies – its great visuals and charm – are still strong, but problems with its execution hold it back.