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By Ishaan . December 6, 2011 . 11:30am
In the first twenty or so minutes that you play it, Trine 2 shows you more colourful backdrops than you’ll probably see throughout the entirety of most games. Here are a few screenshots I took from the start of the game:
I had two friends comment to me in the same day that Trine 2 looks like a Vanillaware (Muramasa: The Demon Blade, Grand Knights History, Dragon’s Crown) game developed using 3D art. This happened just a little while after I had that exact same thought myself. While I’m not in the habit of obsessing over graphics in games at all, I feel like it’d be disrespectful not to make mention of them here. There’s literally never a moment that Trine 2 looks bad or even close to unpleasant.
So, just what is Trine 2?
Trine 2 can best be described as a physics-based puzzle-platformer. You have three characters: Zoya (a thief), Pontius (a knight) and Amadeus (a wizard). Each of the three characters has their own set of skills. Zoya is the most agile of the three. She uses a bow and arrow, and can grapple onto wooden surfaces with a rope and swing like Spider-Man. Pontius is the strongest of the bunch. He uses a sword and shield, but also makes use of other weapons like a hammer. If you use the sword and shield, he can use his shield to block enemy attacks (very useful). If you use the hammer, he can either use it to hit things or even throw it at them (again, very useful). Finally, Amadeus has the ability to conjure boxes and planks, and also has the ability to levitate objects and place them wherever you want. While he “technically” has no direct means of attacking enemies, dropping a crate on them can be just as effective.
This is what Trine 2 is about — using all three of these characters and their various abilities in creative ways to solve puzzles, defeat enemies, and make your way through the game. If you play Trine 2 with friends (local or over the Internet), each person will control a separate character and two or all three characters will be present at the same time, depending on the number of players. If you play the game by yourself, you’ll only be able to control one character at a time, but you can switch between all three whenever you want. Getting through the game will require using all three characters in conjunction with each other. While it is possible to get through large portions of the game using only a single character, it’s also very difficult (although there is an achievement for completing a level with only one character).
Here’s an example of a typical puzzle in Trine 2:
That’s Zoya, hanging from her grappling hook. To her upper-left are two items you can collect: a potion on the ledge to the left and a heart container higher above. Unfortunately, none of the three characters can jump high enough to get them. Zoya can’t swing that high up either. Furthermore, if you touch the spikes on either side, you’ll get hurt. Here’s how I solved this particular puzzle:
Step 1: There’s a crate lying around. Have Amadeus levitate it…
…and shove it through the lower set of spikes on the left, creating a new platform to stand on.
Then do the same with a second crate for the second, higher set of spikes on the right. There weren’t any others lying about, so I just conjured a crate myself using Amadeus’ magic.
Step 3: Now that there’s a lower platform created by the crate on the left, Zoya can swing onto it!
Step 5: VICTOLY!
And that’s just one example. Also, don’t let the word “puzzle” fool you. These aren’t special spots in the game where you occasionally have to stop, think, and then figure out how to get by. These are the norm. You’ll encounter situations like the one above every step of the way in Trine 2. The entire game is about using your abilities to get past hazardous obstacles and goblins that want to eat you for lunch. While that might make it sound like the game is slow-paced and requires a lot of heavy-duty thinking, that isn’t the case. A lot of the puzzles are very simple in nature, and you usually get something like a potion (more common) or a heart container (less common) or a chest for taking the trouble to solve them.
Sometimes, you don’t even need to solve these puzzles to move on. You’ll do it anyway, because you’ll see a potion high up on some platform that looks like it’s impossible to reach. Before you know it, you’ll have spent a few minutes trying to figure out how to get up there in order to grab it. And by the time you manage it, chances are you’ll have tried a whole bunch of other solutions that would eventually have worked, had your timing been better, or had you done something slightly differently. Trine 2 is littered with little goodies to collect, and they’re laid out such that there’s a lot of joy in experimenting with the game’s physics to collect as many of them as possible.
The incentive for grabbing potions is that they’re Trine 2’s form of experience points. For every 50 experience points, you get one skill point. More skill points = more skills. All three characters have their own unique skills. For example, one of Zoya’s early skills is a Frost Arrow, which makes her a much more effective solution in combat. Skill #2 allows her to fire Frost Arrows at once. Similarly, in the case of Amadeus, the wizard, you can increase the number of crates he can conjure at once. Another early skill allows him to also conjure planks in addition to crates. In the case of the knight, Pontius, the Hammer Throw is one of his early skills. Frost Shield is another.
If for any reason you ever feel like you messed up your skill allocation, Trine 2 lets you re-assign skill points whenever you want. This is especially useful if you come across a particularly fiendish puzzle and feel that a skill you don’t have would make solving it easier.
It’s features like this that make Trine 2 feel like a very helpful and convenient game. You can save anywhere you like. If all three of your characters die, you’ll just respawn at the last checkpoint. Checkpoints are laid out generously. They’re never too close or too far apart, and they replenish your health if you walk over them. It’s a game that encourages you to experiment and try different things. If you ever get stuck at a puzzle for too long, at times, it offers helpful hints to aid you. This helps to keep it from feeling like a chore and more like you’re in a platforming playground where you can test out different reactions using the game’s physics.
Part of the entertainment also comes from Zoya, Pontius and Amadeus. Trine 2 is well-written, and also rather lighthearted and funny. It looks and feels a little bit like a smartly-penned fairy tale with a fun sense of humour. Listening to the three characters converse with each other is very pleasant, even during the times they only exchange a couple of lines.
I wrote this playtest using the PC version of Trine 2, which is out tomorrow in the U.S. and Europe. Console versions of the game on Xbox Live Arcade and PlayStation Network will follow in two weeks. You can look up their release dates here.
Note: If the screenshots after the initial batch at the start of this post don’t look as good, it’s because I turned some of the visual settings down, so I could have a better framerate while playing on my PC.
Food for thought:
Some of the achievements make Trine 2 fun to play around with, too. We’ve posted this trailer before, but here’s an example of some of the early achievements in the game. They also give you a good example of how the physics work: