‘Trine 2′ Review – A Stunningly Beautiful Physics Puzzler
Indie games often get a bad rap when it comes to graphics. I’m sure you must have heard at least some of the common arguments: pixel art being too hipster, 3D being better than 2D and all that junk. Well, if you’re ever in need of something to shut those ill-informed naysayers up then pick up a copy of Trine 2.
It would be no overstatement to say that Trine 2 blows just about every one of its colleagues – be they fellow Indies or AAA blockbusters – completely out of the water when it comes to pure, unadulterated eye candy. Words can barely describe the utter beauty in each and every frame of Trine 2’s visuals. And it never lets up, not even for a moment.
Regardless of whether the location is a scene for a boss fight that will last several minutes or just some incidental landmark, expect every facet to envelop you with stunningly crisp lighting and more luscious set dressing than your eyes know what to do with. After a while you may actually start to become desensitised to this onslaught of color, which can lead to a rather unhealthy reality shock the moment you take a glance at another game.
On the gameplay side of things however, Trine 2 is somewhat more grounded in the modern day rather than a vision of the (hopefully) near future. It boils down to the age old axim: your dude is on the left side of a 2D level, but your objective is on the right. Between the two are countless spike pits, lava pools, bladed pendulums and other such cheery environmental hazards waiting to boot your ass all the way to the Game Over screen. Inconvenient, right?
The only way to get your little crusade moving is to utilise the unique abilities of three intrepid heroes: Zoya the Thief, Pontius the Knight and Amadeus the Wizard. You must continually switch between these characters in order to solve a variety of physics-based conundrums, as well as occasionally beat the living daylights out of any fantastical creatures that stand in your way. For the most part, the puzzles are relatively straightforward with multiple solutions for both single and co-operative play. Trine 2 strikes a near perfect balance between being difficult enough to provide some measure of challenge, while still not making you want to curse up a storm out of frustration.
That’s not to say the game holds your hand. All it does is give you the tools to do the job, and it’s up to you to figure out how they actually work. Under normal circumstances the game will never explicitly point out elemental techniques, such as skewering Amadeus’s summonable crates onto spiked walls in order to create platforms, or how to use the momentum from Zoya’s grappling hook to ascend certain structures. You’re expected to figure that stuff out on your own. Whether such a trial-and-error learning curve turns out to be gratifying or not is unfortunately going to vary from person to person, but the game does at least provide a dynamic hint system that kicks in if it notices you’re struggling a little.
Pretty much all of the game’s replay value, and I’d argue much of the actual substance too, comes from hunting down the 1300+ Experience Potions that litter every nook and cranny of each area. Nooks and crannies that often require some pretty creative and/or ludicrous solutions to get within more than a stone’s throw. My playthough took a healthy seven or so hours, two of which where probably spent collecting roughly two thirds of the little blighters. It’s hardly an essential part of the experience, but Lord knows the narrative sure ain’t what’s driving you forward!
If you’re looking for an Indie game to champion as a source of rich storytelling, then Trine 2 is a definite no-no on all accounts. The crux of the game’s heroic tale consists of short bursts of cringe-worthy exposition and the odd instances of amateurish voice acting somewhere in-between. It’s about as harsh a contrast as you could possibly paint when compared to the game’s masterful visuals, and seems like a real wasted opportunity that could have turned this game from something special into something amazing.
If the preceding paragraphs sounded a little familiar, it’s perhaps because it’s almost the exact description one could give of the original Trine. Sans a visual upgrade, almost nothing about the core experience has really changed. They have added a few new puzzle mechanics such as fluid dynamics, pipe rearranging and the now somewhat ubiquitous “portals”, all of which are mealy variations on common puzzle game tropes, and as such will do little to combat the overwhelming sense of déjà vu for returning Trine fans.
But in all, it’s really hard to try and hold Trine 2’s iterative nature against it too much. Its forerunner brought a unique and well received formula to the table, and while Trine 2 doesn’t exactly expand upon that formula, it undoubtedly brings in enough new content to make it more than worth a look – whether you’ve seen it all before or not. At the absolute least, the £12 (USD$14.99) price of entry is more than worth paying just to see one of the most alluring titles of the year, if not the decade.
Review summary Pros:
Incredible graphics, smooth difficulty curve, unique premise
Extremely iterative, near nonexistent narrative