There’s a multitude of platformers out there these days, from those starring mustached plumbers to those set in limbo and they all give players something different. Some offer rewarding experiences through frantic sequences of timed, difficult jumps while others rely on complex and engaging puzzles to keep you interested. Often it’s a choice between one and the other, but Trine 2 proves those two manners of gameplay don’t have to be mutually exclusive.
Add to that the opportunity to magically dangle enemies while a friend pokes holes in them with a well-placed arrow and the game is quite possibly the best cooperative platforming experience you’ll have all year.
The tale behind Trine 2 is as simple as its gameplay: There’s a damsel in distress and you’re the only one who can save her. Well, you being three heroes bound by a magic artifact known as the Trine. The game provides players the classic knight, ninja and mage setup.
Pontius is slow and heavy but packs a mighty wallop with either his broadsword or two-handed hammer. Zoya the thief is nimble and agile, a crack-shot with a bow and wields one of the most addictively fun grapple hooks to ever appear in a video game. Amadeus deviates from your everyday wizard in that he doesn’t really cast offensive spells; his forte is conjuring platforms and boxes and levitating enemies.
Most everything your characters can do is handled by two action buttons. One will swing Pontius’ sword or hammer, nock Zoya’s arrows and create Amadeus’ platforms while the other lifts a shield, deploys the grapple hook and enables remote control for each respective character.
Experience orbs are scattered throughout each stage. They’re also dropped by downed enemies. For every 50 you collect, the game allows you to upgrade one of your characters’ abilities. Pontius and Zoya’s weapons can be imbued with fire and ice in addition to other performance-enhancing perks and Amadeus can level up his ability to conjure boxes and platforms until he can control five items at once.
The biggest feather in Trine 2’s cap is the game’s physics engine. It’s not often you’ll find a platformer where timing jumps becomes second nature before the end of the first stage. It’s even rarer to find a title where it’s true of three different characters. And it’s not just the jumps that feel so good to pull off; creating and moving objects with Amadeus is precise yet simple. The same can be said of the combat and, my personal favorite, the grapple hook.
The game allows up to three players onscreen at once. What’s more is that unlike most other cooperative platformers, every player can assume the role of the same character. So if all three of you want to swing freely from rafters as Zoya, so be it. In the single-player campaign, you have the option of switching between all three characters at any given moment and each adventurer has his and her own health bar, so if you find your mage running low on life you can quickly switch to the knight or thief in order to preserve your platform creator.
Health pickups are scarce in Trine 2, but it’s never really an issue because checkpoint orbs are scattered throughout the game’s 13 levels. When you run past them, each of your characters is returned to full health and revived if dead. These checkpoints usually show up before a tricky puzzle or well-populated enemy outpost, so re-gaining the upper hand is as easy as retreating to the orb and replenishing your life.
To be honest, it’s wholly necessary for the checkpoints to be as frequent as they are but it’s for all the wrong reasons. You’re going to die in Trine 2. A lot. The combat, while beautiful in its simplicity, doesn’t help much when you’re fighting an overwhelming hoarde of enemies. What’s more is that in frantic melees, if Pontius goes down, Amadeus and Zoya’s best bet is to rush back to a checkpoint orb to revive him. Yes, the mage can lift enemies into the air and the thief can stick ‘em with arrows, but when there’s more than one enemy to focus on odds are you’ll end up back at the checkpoint anyway when all your characters die and you respawn.
Although the control is tight for each character, the environments are so laden with hazards, some of which lie just beyond your view, that you’ll often find yourself plummeting into a pit of spikes or plunging headfirst into a stream of fire.
Fortunately you’ll die a beautiful death because the game’s environments are an absolute sight to behold. Unfortunately I had to play with the graphics set to “medium” in order to run the game smoothly on my laptop, but the slowdown I experienced on “very high” to snap my screenshots was more than worth it. If you’ve got the rig to handle Trine 2 on its highest settings, by all means, do yourself a service and indulge — XBLA and PSN players won’t have this problem.
Many of the game’s achievements ask you to perform wacky feats, such as shooting arrows into the air as Zoya and switching to Pontius in order to catch them with his shield or stacking eight items with Amadeus and attempting to balance yourself on them. Frozenbyte has built a two-dimensional playground that’s difficult to pull yourself away from and they know it.
And although Trine 2 features a heap of puzzles, there’s no one way to solve a single one. You can go for the obvious solution or stumble through a sequence in an absurd manner that takes 15 minutes longer but satisfies your creative desires. I once ignored a series of grapple points that led to an experience jar and opted to move objects with Amadeus’ magic to knock the jar to the ground. I got the jar stuck a couple of times and had to create blocks to nudge it back into place, but it was well worth it.
While the stages are the same whether you’re playing alone or with a friend or two, the myriad approaches you can take toward tackling any of them warrants at least a second playthrough of Trine 2. Add to that the fact that there are few things more satisfying than dropping an enemy goblin into a carnivorous plant’s maw and that swinging around with Zoya’s grapple hook was enough fun to keep me entertained for hours on end and you’ve got yourself a winner here. The $14.99 (or 1200 Microsoft Points) asking price is more than fair for what you’ll get out of the game.