Review: Trine 2

When Trine was released roughly two years ago, its mix of physics-based platforming, action and light puzzling felt like a breath of fresh air. Now its sequel, Trine 2, is out and might seem like more of the same. For good or ill, it is far from it. I’ll elaborate.

Trine 2’s story starts out similarly to the first game. You play through three short levels introducing each character’s mechanics and motivations. Here, as the narrator goes on about the various personality flaws of these characters, is where I first start to worry.

The style of writing is very similar to that of Trine 1 – perhaps too similar. While it felt fresh the first time around, the recycled jokes and characters feel stale. We have, literally, seen this one before. To make it worse, the overall plot this time around makes little sense. Every time the titular Trine plays terribly blatant deus ex machine, I let out a sigh. Every time the seemingly clairvoyant characters deliver a plot point they should have no knowledge of, I shake my head. Far from engaging, it just serves to detract from the experience.

The next thing I noticed was a curious change in visual style. Where the first Trine had a unified, kind of dark fantasy style with slight steampunk influences, the sequel seems to have trouble figuring out what it wants to be. In a way reminiscent of Oblivion, it cranks up both the colours and bloom until the personality of the original is replaced by a bland mess. The music is easily the best part of the presentation, and does a good job fitting with the aesthetics, but is really not that special.

But that’s not the important part.

No, the most surprising and important difference between Trine 2 and its predecessor is how it plays. The first game was about basic platforming punctuated by brief combat. There were puzzle elements, but mostly it was about exploring the levels and fighting monsters. Trine 2 throws this on its head.

It retains the formula of switching between the Wizard for summoning and levitating objects, the warrior for smashing things, and the thief for swinging and shooting stuff. That’s where the similarities end, however. Focus is, instead of jumping and swinging, put on bashing goblins and solving puzzles.

Unfortunately, the puzzles aren’t good enough. Most of them felt ridiculously contrived, to the point where I often couldn’t figure out the logic behind a puzzle even after beating it. In many cases I’m convinced I didn’t actually figure out the puzzle, but just stacked enough blocks with the wizard that I could physics my way to the next screen.

Meanwhile, the actual platforming I loved so much in the first is mostly relegated to small sections between the puzzles. At any point where I started to get into it, the game would immediately break it up with another puzzle. This makes the thief in particular feel left behind. Her bow and arrow are useful for picking off the occasional ranged enemy, but her ability to grapple to wooden objects and swing around felt very underused, especially in comparison to the first game where it was constantly useful.

To make it worse, everything but the confusing puzzles feel way too easy. Unlike the first game, the platforming in Trine 2 doesn’t lay a lot of traps for the player. Where in the first game, losing a character to environment hazards was a real possibility, Trine 2 usually doesn’t let this happen. The characters have more health, and checkpoints are all around. Losing a character means going back to the checkpoint, which isn’t a challenge, but a chore. This also leads to the combat feeling meaninglessly easy.

Additionally, the mana resource you had to contend with in Trine is now gone. Where, in the first game, special abilities like levitation had to be used sparingly or you risk running out, Trine 2 lets you stack boxes indefinitely, further undermining the challenge.

In the end, Trine 2 is unable to meet the expectations set by its predecessor. Under the very similar surface, its frustrating puzzling is nothing like the platforming bliss of the first game. I can not recommend it to fans of the first or fans of platforming in general.

Platforms: Windows, Linux, OS X, PS3, Xbox 360
Developer: Frozenbyte
Publisher: Atlus
Genre: Puzzle-platformer
Time: Roughly seven to eight hours
Gripes: Oversaturated, bloom-filled visuals, vague and frustrating puzzling, recycled writing, lack of platforming sections, no challenge.
Get it for the: Decent score.
Full disclosure: PXOD was given a PC review copy of the game from the developer.