Reviews

Trine 2: Complete Story – Review

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Platforms: Xbox 360, PSN and PC
Reviewed On: PC
Developer: Frozenbyte
Singleplayer: Yes
Multiplayer: 2-3 Player Co-Op

Back in 2011 when Trine 2 was released on console I played through the game and offered up my thoughts in a review. Now it’s nearly two years later and the game has finally landed on PC, wrapped up in a lovely package titled the Complete Story which boasts the core game and a chunk of DLC. So when I was offered a code to check out the game again, how could I possibly say no? And much too my surprise, my appreciation of the game has only increased.

As the game begins the mystical, magical and downright strange Trine from the first game arrives once again, gathering up our three heroes: the rogue, Zoya, is always interested in finding some shining treasure to snag; the nervy wizard, Amadeus, whose magical might is less than impressive, and the slightly overweight knight, Pontius, whose sole duty is bashing things in the face and wishing there was more food. The group is a collection of stereotypes in essence, but lovable stereotypes nonetheless thanks to their respective voice actors, who were clearly having some serious fun. With the merry heroes together again the Trine whisks them away on yet another grand adventure.

If you didn't wolf-whistle at this screenshot, you're blind.

If you didn’t wolf-whistle at this screenshot, you’re blind.

Above all else it is  the game’s beautiful graphics which impress the most about Trine 2. Although the game takes place on a 2d plane there’s a stunning sense of depth to the vibrant, packed backgrounds. The art-style is outstanding, creating the type of vivid fantasy realm that is usually only know to children who have not yet had their imaginations shattered by the realities of every day life. It’s full of light, life and color. You’ll venture through lush jungles, frozen castles and sunny beaches, all of which I assure you will make your jaw drop and your breath catch. The game also has the technical capabilities to back up its visual style,  packing in an impressive amount of detail alongside lovely animation work. And that’s not even mentioning the  physics system which not only acts as the core of the game’s many puzzles, but also makes for an even more convincing fantasy world as massive mushrooms and leaves bend under your weight and react to the world around them in believable ways. But the real star of the stage-show is the lighting system which brings to life every single level in the game, carefully caressing leaves and mixing with small amounts of mist to create astonishing displays for you eyeballs to admire and your brain to croon over. If it could be done, I’d marry this games graphics and have little pixel babies that grew up to be as beautiful as their virtual mother.

In its heart of mushy hearts. Trine 2 is a physics-based puzzle game where you have to switch between the three different characters and their respective skills on the fly in order to progress through the levels. The wizard can conjure up boxes to begin with and levitate objects, which I admit are not the most awe-inspiring magical skills, but are still damn handy; The rogue has a bow with a variety of unlockable arrow types and can attach a rope to pieces of scenery so that she can swing through the environment, making her agile and dangerous.  Meanwhile the warrior has a shield and sword for combat, and can smash up certain stuff. He’s the brawn of the outfit, although I’m not entirely sure if there’s a brains of the outfit to go with him. Puzzles are many and quite varied: you might have to redirect fire in order to pass, clamber around the environment, water plans by carefully altering the flow, block contraptions, build towers, time leaps and more. In keeping with the cheerful tones of the graphics and storyline the puzzles aren’t particularly taxing, rarely challenging the mind or forcing you think about a solution for more than a minute,  but they are very enjoyable, and when combined with the music, visuals and lighthearted plot make for a very relaxing game. You can simply fire up Trine 2 and pass away entire hours with ease, merrily navigating the puzzles and admiring the world. A generous checkpoint system is also in place to ensure that you never get too frustrated, especially since dying doesn’t reset the puzzle you were tackling, or the health of any enemies in the area – boss battles can always be beaten by rushing in, getting a couple of hits, dying and repeating the process.

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What differentiates Trine 2’s puzzles from others is how open they are in terms of how to solve them. While the most obvious route tends to suggest itself fairly quickly, with a hint system in place that activates after a few minutes, spend a little longer examining the world and more solutions will begin to present themselves to you. At first it can be almost strange: there were a few moments when I honestly wasn’t sure it I had managed to solve the puzzle in a legitimate way that the developers had envisioned or if I had somehow broken the games design and utterly cheated my way through it in a brilliant but clumsy display of acrobatics. But once you wrap your head around it there’s a lot of fun to be had, and it does lend the game a degree of replayability. Take a very simple section of the game as an example: you’re stuck in a small room and all you must do is make the guard outside think you’ve vanished so that he’ll come running it. If you’ve unlocked it you could use Zoya’s ability to blend in with the environment. Or as Amadeus you could build a tower of boxes and stand on top. Or perhaps you could levitate that wooden box over there and stick it to the spikes in the roof, thereby allowing Zoya to use her grappling hook on the box and hang out of sight.

Even when things go wrong and you seemingly muck something up the physics system is usually so flexible that you’ll be able to bodge together a new way of handling the problem in a jiffy. As a result the solutions that you come up with tend to be far more entertaining than the actual puzzles, and the physics system can also lead to some brilliant moment, like this one time where a large enemy I was facing fell straight into the gears of a large machine and stopped them dead, thereby allowing me to get through far more easily. This wasn’t a scripted event: it just happened because that’s what the systems dictated at that point.

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There are some problems, as you might expect, that stem from this fairly flexible system. The main one is that I found the wizard to be far more useful than either of the other two characters for solving the vast majority of sections. With a few upgrades he can summon multiple items at a time and add a plank to his repertoire, an item which quickly becomes a skeleton key of sorts, allowing you to muddle your way through a lot of problems. With these abilities it’s pretty easy to get through most situations by building precarious bridges and towers, and I actively had to force myself to use the other two characters so that they wouldn’t feel left out. On the one hand this does lend itself nicely to the game’s freeform puzzle system, allowing you to use just one character if you wish, but I found that most puzzles simply were certainly trickier to solve using just either the knight or the rogue. Mind you, as far as I can tell you can complete the entirety of the game using just the knight or the rogue, although I cannot guarantee this as I didn’t have the time to test it out.

You can also play through the entire game in co-op, with each player taking control of one of the three characters. Here the game is at its greatest. It really is a blast to work together to solve the puzzles, and once again it opens up more ways of working your way through a section, and the possibility for even more physic’s based mayhem. It also opens up the simplest way of getting through pretty much everything: stand on a box or plank, and then get the wizard to levitate you, allowing you to pretty much bypass the vast majority of puzzles, assuming that the mate you let control the wizard doesn’t just dump you into a pool of acid or something.

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When you’re not using your noggin to solve puzzles or leaping from platform to platform using the ever so slightly floaty character physics you’ll likely be bashing enemies on the head. Combat is a simple affair, but that doesn’t stop it from being rather enjoyable in a mindless sort of way, though it’s certainly one of weaker aspects of the game. When you’re playing as the knight holding down the right mouse button brings up your shield in the direction of your cursor, while the left mousse button attacks with your sword, or your hammer if you feel like being a bit more brutal. The rogue’s bow is also pretty effective, but the wizard is largely useless unless you upgrade him a little to allow him to trap enemies in cages, at which point you can merrily hurl them off cliffs and such.

Speaking of upgrades there are loads of vials scattered around the levels to be hunted down and claimed. Gathering fifty of them together gives you a single upgrade point to spend on any of three characters. The wizard can be upgraded to summon more objects at any given time and to levitate enemies. The rogue can unlock a variety of arrows types, including ice arrows which allow her to create rafts of ice on the water. Her upgrade tree also includes one of my own favorite abilities within the game which allows her to create pockets of low-gravity – a powerful tool, especially in conjunction with the wizard’s summoning skills as it pretty much lets you create stepping stones in mid-air. Finally the knight can unlock the ability to toss his hammer, charge foes and more. This system brings a solid sense of progression to the game, and hunting down some of the bigger vials which grant you extra experience provides some of the most challenging moments in the entire game, making them more than worth hunting down for anyone feeling that the  is a bit too easy, though even at its most difficult Trine 2 is not a very taxing game on the old brain. With 6 upgrades available per character there’s a limited but decent amount of room to help craft your playstyle, with different upgrades naturally opening up different ways of tackling any given situation.  It’s also possible to play through the entire game without ever purchasing a single upgrade, if you want to make things a little more challenging. The only downfall that I found was that some of the upgrades felt inherently more useful than others. Again, upgrading the wizard’s conjuring skills is the prime example.

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The only place in which Trine 2 drops the ball is in its storytelling. Our three heroes get involved in a tale of two princesses and a kingdom in ruin, but in terms of actual plot it’s pretty light with only the occasional storybook blurb between levels filling you in on what’s going on. It’s clear that the story is supposed to invoke that classic children’s tale style, which certainly fits in with look and feel of the game, but it simply failed to grab me. It’s sweet and earnest,  but there’s nothing to really get you involved and no moral lessons to ponder like the best classic tales have. It’s simply serviceable stuff, and at least provides a solid excuse for getting to go adventuring through all the beautiful locations the game offers.

The main game will likely take you around 6-hours to blast through,  but the Complete Story edition which I’ve got in for reviews also offers up the Goblin Menace DLC, which tells the tale of the heroes return after the events of main storyline. Oddly enough the storyline here, which involves the heroes home town getting attacked by Goblins and Amadeus’ wife getting kidnapped, is far more engaging than the primary storyline, and I actually found myself quite enjoying it. Several cutscenes also help to get you involved far more than the simple storybook blurbs of the core game, and also serve to once again remind you how damn good this game looks, especially for indie title.

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The gameplay on in the add-on doesn’t venture far from what was seen in the core game, choosing to play it relatively safe with some puzzle designs that are familiar with a couple of new ideas tossed in for good measure. It’s more of the same, but considering it adds on several more hours of play time it’s hard to complain. It should also be noted that the Goblin Menace DLC actually added in some of the character abilities I mentioned earlier, such as the rogue’s low gravity area arrows. These abilities are, as noted, available in the core game as well. Arguably the made the core game’s puzzles a bit too easy at times, but levels in the DLC are more clearly designed to handle these new powers and skills. I mention this just in case you read this review and decide to buy the plain version of Trine 2, in which case you’ll find that each character has just 5 upgrades instead of the 6 that I mentioned.

Trine 2 is a stunningly gorgeous game that offers up enjoyable physics based mayhem. The perfect word to describe would be enchanting. It’s relaxing and fun, and even more so in co-op with a few friends and some beers. Sure, it has some flaws. Many would view it as too easy, and yet in some ways that is a strength because again that lends to the sense of relaxation. It doesn’t tax your mind and cause you to break out in a sweat, and therefore moves along at a satisfying pace.

The Good:
+ God damn, it looks amazing!
+ Fun!
+ Incredibly easy to lose hours to it.

The Bad:
– Some may find it too easy.
– Lacking in the story department.

The Verdict: 4/5 – Great
A great puzzler that will make your eyeballs melt and run down your face. Best enjoyed with some friends, but solo players will have plenty of fun as well.

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