Wednesday, 22 February 2012

Trine 2

Post-Launch Review
Trine 2 (and Trine I guess)
Developer: Frozenbyte
Publisher: Atlus
Released: December 7 2011 (PC), December 20 (PSN), December 21 (XBLA)

Note: this review doesn't include co-op, since I don't know anyone else with the game. But I'd be interested to try it if anyone wants to hit me up.

Trine 2 is a 2D fantasy puzzle platformer that manages to look very 3D. Three heroes bound together by an artifact called the Trine — Amadeus, a wizard; Zoya, a thief; and Pontius, a warrior — set out on a new quest to rescue a queen and restore her kingdom. The player can swap at will between the three heroes, using their unique abilities to solve puzzles and fight through the goblin hordes.

At Launch
Trine 2 earned an average review score of 90, with reviewers praising the improvements on an already great formula, citing a sharper art style and stronger gameplay.

Post Launch
There have been many updates to address bugs and tweaks. Nothing really major, just general make-it-work stuff. A bunch of achievements were added post-launch, some tied to the original game, others to the new levels.
Two bonus level packs have also been released: Goblin Menace and Dwarven Caverns. Both are included if you buy Trine 2: Complete Story, or you can get the Complete Story upgrade if you have the basic Trine 2.
The Good
Art Direction
Trine is one of the most colourful games I've ever laid eyes on. Anywhere else I might complain about the very high levels of saturation and bloom, but the world is fantastic enough (in the sense that it's a fantasy world) that it just works. Trine 2 is more 3D than its predecessor: there's a surprising amount of depth in this sidescroller. Just about every location in the game is screenshot-worthy.
The physics-based puzzles are surprisingly complex, and quite challenging toward the end of the game. The acid and lava fluid puzzles are particularly nasty, since you not only have to play with the mechanisms and make sure everything is in place and moves when you want it to, you also have to pay close attention to what you're doing with the lava and acid, and where the flow is going.
There are a few less abilities and upgrades, but the ones that remain are very satisfying. The findable treasure from the first game is gone. I do miss the unique little bonuses and abilities and choosing to which character I should assign them, but it makes gameplay smoother without needing to worry about who has what gear equipped. The characters themselves mention the change — after a long swim underwater, Amadeus asks “Whatever happened to that talisman that let us breathe underwater?” and a suddenly nervous Zoya quickly changes the subject.
Ability Redistribution
You can redistribute your ability points at any time, so once you've levelled up a few times, you essentially have access to all abilities as long as you're willing to open a menu and swap. It means you never have to go “if only I'd invested in more wizard powers!”.
Trine 2 is a fantasy game that doesn't bother with saving the kingdom / world / universe. It's a more personal story that still feels fairly epic. It's a nice change of pace from the usual “chosen hero(es) saves the world from prophesied evil”.

A Bit More Variety
There are a few more monster types in the sequel, which is nice. Combat feels a bit more diverse.
Thief & Warrior
In both games, the thief is my go-to character. Her bow is a great ranged weapon and utility, plus she's got that grappling hook which makes movement quick and fun. I was surprised with a new feature the warrior got as well, which made him way more useful both in and out of combat: he can throw his storm hammer to smash down walls at a distance. I do miss his object-throw ability from the first game a bit, though — if the wizard is dead, now you can't move stuff around.
Final Boss
Final boss is pretty awesome. One of the most dynamic and intense battles I've ever seen in a 2D platformer.
The Neutral
The achievements in Trine 1 were very completion-oriented. There were some achievements for “do this funny thing”, but over half of them were for 100% completion on each stage. Trine 2 has fewer achievements, none of which are for completion (except the “earn all achievements” achievement). It puts less pressure on you to discover every single collectible... but at the same time, I also feel like I have less motivation to go back and replay the levels I didn't fully clear.
EDIT: completion achievements were added post launch, as well as achievements for the new levels. There's my motivation!
Any Problem Can Be Solved with Enough Boxes
This is an issue that was also present in the first game, and it seems as though Frozenbyte either doesn't consider it a problem, or just didn't know what to do about it. Trine is a platforming game where many of the puzzles involve movement and jumping. You can play as a wizard who can make up to four boxes. See the potential problem here? If the challenge is “get to this really high platform”, you don't have to solve the puzzle, you can just stack boxes until you can jump up.
This was addressed somewhat since the first game, where you could move boxes and platforms while you were standing on them. That was a major issue — with deft movement you could just levitate yourself anywhere in the game without even climbing boxes. So it seems as though Frozenbyte recognized that there was an issue here, but it's still present — albeit to a lesser extent — in the sequel.
The Bad
The Wizard
In Trine the wizard was completely useless in combat. You could try to drop boxes on enemies, but that was difficult at best due to the slow manipulation speed. Frozenbyte tried to make him better in Trine 2 by adding a “levitate monster” ability — you can move monsters around in the same way as boxes — but it doesn't deal any damage. Sometimes you can slowly hover one monster at a time into an environmental hazard, but there isn't always a hazard present. If your thief and warrior die in combat and you're left with the wizard, you may as well just give up and load a checkpoint. It's particularly frustrating because the wizard is by far the most useful out of combat, due to the aforementioned box issue.
Maybe this is deliberate. But even if it is, it's still frustrating -- even more so when it seems that Frozenbyte acknowledged this issue from the first game, and tried to fix it, and... didn't really pull it off. It leaves him feeling kind of gimmicky and less versatile. He's just the guy you switch to when you need some boxes.
The Verdict
Recommendation: Play it.
Trine 2 is $15 on Steam. I got about 8 hours out of it in a single, fairly collectible-obsessive playthrough, but didn't quite grab everything. The first game is $10 and probably about the same length, and even has a free demo. So at the very least, try out the demo of the first one. It's a fun platformer with nice visuals and clever puzzles. There's not much to dislike here. Trine 2 is just an overall great game at a cheap price.

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