Games are inherently expensive the more complex they become. The larger the scope, the more freedoms you give the player, and the level of visual fidelity you aim for all add up to make for a game that is proportionately more expensive based on those very choices. For big companies such as EA or Activision, these are the kinds of titles chosen – based on existing IP, they are very often a safe bet, and can consume hundreds of thousands of dollars without batting an eyelid.
However for concepts that haven’t quite been proven, and for ideas that may be workable with certain restrictions, launching a game can be done by a smaller studio with a smaller budget. Such was the origins of the original Trine; developer Frozenbyte created a world from scratch, and gave it life with whatever resources they had – resulting in a novel and visually splendid side-scrolling game that went on to have reasonable success on the PC via Steam, and eventually other distribution methods. This success is what gave them the funding for the game you’re reading this review about, so let’s start with some backstory.
What is a Trine, anyhow?
Trine, as a definition, means a third, and is generally used in Astrology to describe angles between two bodies in the sky. Trine, in the game, is a somewhat unexplained object that encapsulates the souls of three characters from very different backgrounds, forcibly joining them together in a quest for whatever it decides is important at the time. For the first game this involved a circuitous path to defeating an ancient king; for the second, it is again another long trek, but interspersed with other minor destinations to keep it from feeling like a slog.
The three characters that are abducted by the magical object early in Trine 2 are Amadeus the Wizard, Pontius the Knight, and Zoya the Thief. Each of these three have different abilities, but one common attribute is their cheesy dialogue – Pontius is just as likely to fantasise about gigantic strawberries as he is to bellow war cries in combat. They also share a similar control scheme: WASD for movement, spacebar for jump, left-click for primary and right-click for secondary. Trine 2 slowly introduces each character one at a time as the Trine recruits them, though their abilities are only truly powerful when used in harmony with each other.
Amadeus, being a Wizard and otherwise physically weak spellcaster, spends much of the time complaining about impending danger and worrying about his children at home; more usefully, he is able to conjure up boxes out of thin air to enable easier passage through the obstacles that litter the path, and can also levitate certain inanimate objects. A mechanic that was mentioned during the tutorial section of the game was the ability to destroy spawned boxes by pointing at them and pressing what looked very much like the ‘2’ button – but as buttons 1, 2 and 3 switch between the three characters, it really didn’t help so much. Eventually a check of the control settings let us work out that it was the ‘Q’ button, and a very unhelpful font.
The Wizard is relatively useless on his own against any enemies that rear their ugly heads along the way, which is where the Knight comes in handy. He’s quite literally only useful for attacking enemies with crushy and stabbity things, and his sword and shield are made use of at regular intervals along the path. Fights are never really difficult, as enemies can only surround you on two sides, but provide some break to the repetition of solving puzzles and platforming – most of those problems are the domain of Zoya, who could’ve easily been in an Assassin’s Creed game in another life.
She’s armed with a bow that slowly fires arrows, and is later upgradeable to freeze enemies or set them on fire, but her health is quite miniscule in comparison to Pontius, and her main focus is navigating the world of Trine 2. Her special ability is a piston, which is used in a similar fashion to the rope tool in any Worms game, allowing her to swing around platforms and reach heights the other two characters can’t. She requires very precise fingerbatics to control, and can prove frustrating for those with little patience.
Me, me and me
As mentioned, switching between these characters is quick and simple; they each have individual health meters, and if all three expire, the game restarts from a checkpoint. Health vials litter the levels to replenish health, but the easiest way to heal up is to merely touch a checkpoint – reviving downed characters and restoring to full health. Checkpoints are awfully frequent, so we never felt like we were in too much trouble.
Puzzles present themselves throughout the journey with consistent frequency, and generally are linear in their difficulty as you progress through the game. Most are physics-based, requiring the redirection of water by altering channels mounted to a pivot, or the manipulation of objects to prop up a broken bridge to allow passage over a chasm. The original Trine quickly became frustrating when puzzles were not immediately solvable as characters had Mana and their abilities would not function without it; Trine 2 removes this requirement and all abilities are unrestricted. This makes for a more enjoyable experience, and gives the freedom to create unorthodox solutions to problems – even when the game clearly has a “right” solution, there are ways around that to continue to progress.
Boss fights occur every hour or so, and are usually an exercise in stupidity as we reverted to trial and error to defeat them. We spent ten minutes with a large snake attempting to remove it from the plain of the living, until stumbling upon the unintuitive solution. For the most part, however, they act as a way to bring a level to a close, and are over quick enough. It’s fun to play, and is very rewarding to solve the puzzles as you progress.
Perhaps the most impressive part of the whole game, aside from the fun platforming puzzle aspect, is the perfection that is the graphical quality. Every screenshot you see on this page was captured for this review running at full settings on a PC, and the bright primary colours and strong art design work harmoniously together to create a breathtakingly beautiful game. It’s intentionally cartoony, but there’s a sense of delight in exploring new levels and seeing the next environment.
Trine 2 runs a mere $15 and provides a lot of fun for the small amount of money; it’s an essential purchase for those who enjoyed the original, and is certainly recommended for those who enjoy a good puzzle action game every now and then.