Wot I Think: Trine 2

By Alec Meer on December 9th, 2011 at 2:35 pm.

Dammit Jim, I'm a magician not a doctor

Frozenbyte’s magicky puzzler Trine 2 materialised on the internet a couple of days ago, having apparently not received the message that the industry isn’t allowed to release any videogames after the last week of November. I for one am glad of this flagrant rule-breaking, and have spent a while in its world of colour and physics. Here’s what I made of it. Also: group hug!

I feel good! I feel great, in fact. Trine 2′s ability to bring about instant tranquility has been oft-documented on this blog, but for once I’m not talking about its pretty colours, dreamy music and general air of goodwill. I’m taking about its puzzles.

They’re inspired, and they do so much with just a few simple concepts: primarily physics, water, air and fire. Almost every screen, I go through the same spiral of emotion, presumption and surprise.

1) Oh, this looks pretty much like the last room, I can breeze through in no time pretty much just by jumping to the right.
2) OK, that didn’t work.
3) Right, time to fiddle with summoning crates and planks to make stairs and platforms, and failing that firing grappling hooks at the ceiling.
4) Nnng.
5) There’s no possible way to get over there, I’m giving up in a huff.
6) Hang on, what if… Oh-ho-ho. Oh, that is clever. That is so astoundingly clever. This game is amazing.

There’s always some extra object you can move, some element that can be fired through a portal to activate an effect on the other end, something else that can be swung from, or smashed, or wedged against a summoned object. It puts me in mind of the first Portal, the better of the two Portals at offering Eureka! moments you felt you’d devised yourself rather than being signposted to. There’s such an elegance in the way a solved puzzle plays out – this is a game that’s rarely in a hurry, so the level’s parts move slowly but surely into place, and a new path gently assembles itself before your eyes. The entire scene transforms from question to answer in a way that always makes perfect sense but seems no less magical for it. That’s where that lovely colour and light really comes into play. Even when smacking goblins with a sword, the game seems cheerful to a fault.

What? No! I’m not going to breakdown any of the puzzles for you. That would entirely defeat the object. What I can do is talk about some of the key concepts. You’re controlling the same trio of characters as in the first Trine, though there is no need whatsoever to have played that to enjoy or understand this. There are three guys, they once did a thing, now they’re doing another thing, got it? One’s a warrior, who can stab monsters and smash certain obstacles. One’s a rogue, who can shoot arrows and use a retractable/extendable grappling hook on wooden surfaces. One’s a wizard, who can levitate certain objects and summon crates and planks. Together, they are… well, moving gradually to the right of the screen, and trying to collect glowy things en route so they can level up and improve their abilities.

If I had a complaint, it would be so gentle as to not really count, and it would be that it’s that these guys don’t get an entirely equal deal – though it’s not far off. The warrior, specifically, mostly comes into play to hit goblins and a couple of bosses in perfunctory sequences that the game doesn’t really need, and feel like a bit of a sap to perceived action-hunger in the game’s audience. His shield is invaluable for creeping past shooty plants and jets of flame unscathed though, so he’s an invaluable part of the team. Similarly, the rogue’s arrows don’t get too much of a look in outside of the infrequent combat, but her rope-swinging is perhaps the game’s most important navigational tool.

The wizard invariably ends up being my most-used character, as his crate summoning can create new routes and potentially even ad-hoc alternative solutions. For instance, trying to create a wobbly bridge by summoning a plank over a gulf then balancing a crate on one end to stop it falling off. It usually doesn’t work, but I enjoy the freedom to experiment and the fact that something always happens when I do.

Then there are the puzzles that are character-independent, like shifting portals around with big levers – sometimes to create a route for yourself, but more cleverly to get something at point A to appear at the otherwise inaccessible point B. Think Portal 2′s paint puzzles, but with the elements and cauldrons and magic plants. The variety it squeezes out of its characters and systems – which gradually mount as the game goes along – is the reason to sing a happy song. This could so easily have become form puzzles for completionists, but like World of Goo it keeps on conjuring up variations on its key themes. Plus, Trine 2 reliably finds the sweetspot between difficult and easy: rarely too obvious, but usually its solutions swim into focus before frustration sets in.

That said, there’s a second layer of game in there, wherein if you want to collect all the glowy upgrade orbs on each level you’ll have to tax your brain and patience an awful lot harder – master the game, not merely revel in it. Being an impatient sort, I tended to make it through each level with about 60 or 70% of orbs in-hand, so my ability upgrades didn’t exactly arrive thick and fast. To the game’s credit, they didn’t need too: these expanded powers, such as being able to summon more crates at once, fire frost arrows or lobbing a ruddy great hammer around, aren’t necessary for solving puzzles, but rather open up more ways to do it. Again, I focused on the wizard, all the better for building custom staircases.

In short: it’s best puzzle game I’ve played this year (edit – er, other than Space Chem, which I mistakenly remembered as coming out last year. Oops!), as well as being one of the prettiest scenes my monitor’s offered me for a while. In contrast to the visual charm the script is throwaway and oddly disassociated, so it doesn’t hold the faintest candle to Portal 2 in that regard, but in its flexibility, variety and its ingenuity it’s got Valve beat.

(Important note: I still haven’t tried the co-op, despite regular pleas to the RPS Hivemind that we join hands and sing kumbaya for an hour or two. I’ll have another go at convincing them next week, and failing that I guess I’ll have to play with some strangers.)

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54 Comments »

  1. Cunzy1 1 says:

    What of the mammoth?

  2. kimadactyl says:

    Did they get rid of the annoying “spawn 10 skeletons from the same spot before you can proceed” thing? The first game was great, but later on just having to wait arbitrary amounts of time before the game had decided it had spawned enough skeletons just got super, super annoying to the extent I never finished it.

    • DrGonzo says:

      never noticed that in the first game. Possibly due to how easy it was in coop. Except the last 10 minutes of the game was a huge difficulty spike. And I mean huge.

    • Prime says:

      I really like Skeletons in games. Now that graphics and sound can render them well I get to live my Ray Harryhausen dreams in glorious specular technocolour. Trine’s spawning therefore didn’t upset me at all.

      I enjoy blowing them up in Skyrim, too. :)

    • Urthman says:

      They’ve nerfed that last level with patches. It’s still challenging, but it’s no longer drastically harder than the rest of the game.

    • bill says:

      I hope they did indeed dial that down a little. It wasn’t crazy excessive, but it did feel like a cheap filler way to drag out the length of the campaign. It also annoying often happened after checkpoints, so you’d end up having to kill the 20 slowly respawning skeletons 3 or 4 times.

      The last level was a pain in the butt… mainly because it was so disassociated from the rest of the game.

    • Davie says:

      @Prime: Welcome to the Skeleton Appreciation Club. Such wonderful, clattery, physics-capable enemies should not go unnoticed.

  3. Vexing Vision says:

    I love and adore the game. The graphics ARE magical, the soundtrack sublime, and the character animations are gorgeous.

    Trine 1 was an “easy” game – both Wizard and Rogue could easily “solo” it, never requiring the switch to any other class. This made some puzzles unnecessarily more interesting than others, but I thoroughly enjoyed my Wizard Only (including the final boss fight) run,.

    Trine 2 requires you to switch classes by having much more rigid puzzles. And the Knight is no longer able to pick up crates, which is probably the biggest disappointment. This is not necessarily a bad thing, it’s just unexpected.

    The co-op mode is probably the biggest difference. It’s too easy – in Trine 1, players were stuck on a single screen and had to get each other across obstacles in remotely the same amount of time. This forced a lot of extremely creative solutions, as everyone is required to pass the same obstacle roughly at the same time.

    Trine 2 allows pretty much free-ranging. This lets each character cross any obstacle at his leisure. While there are some complications (as several puzzles now require different characters), it’s still very doable. Especially the Wizard’s levitation of other characters makes the collection of potions extremely easy.

    Preferably, the Knight’s throwing of objects would take over the Wizard’s levitate ability, which would make co-op even more fun. And fun it is!

    • Juan Carlo says:

      Yeah. You could very easily solo Trine 1 as the Rogue (especially once you powered up her arrows a couple times). In fact, I don’t think I ever used the knight at all when I played through. I’d use the Rogue for basically everything except those puzzles where it was easier to use the Wizard to build stuff (and even then, if you are patient, I’m pretty sure you could get through the whole game as just the Rogue if you wanted to).

      So anyhow, given how useless the Knight was already, it’s a bit strange that they removed his box throwing ability, given that that was his only use in Trine 1.

      Does the Knight have any actual use in Trine 2? Or is he once again just a third character for the sake of having a third character?

    • Vexing Vision says:

      The knight can break walls with his hammer the other characters cannot. Also, combat is much more interesting and prevalent – the Knight is certainly not useless.

      I just wish he still could manipulate the environment as well in non-destructive ways.

    • DrGonzo says:

      I completely disagree about the coop. It was incredibly easy in coop. It felt like we broke every puzzle in the game. Solving everything by piling up boxes. Still loved it though.

    • bleeters says:

      Thing is, with the energy bars removed you don’t ever really need to have the Knight throw objects. I only ever did that in Trine to save my Wizard the need to levitate it and thus burn through his precious energy bar. Since he can now levitate everything forever, it’s a bit redundant.

      I use the Knight a fair amount in Trine 2 for his directional shield. But then, I’d have said the same about Trine as well. Can’t grapple hook your way through flame vents, and all.

  4. Lambchops says:

    Had a great time with the first game so when I’ve cleared some of my backlog i’ll no doubt pick this one up as it sounds like it has improved in pretty much every department.

    I do however feel obligated to say that even without playing it I’m 99.9% certain that Alec is wrong and it isn’t the best puzzle game of the year.

    • Lambchops says:

      But rereading I’m 100% convinced that it could well be the best puzzle game he has played this year – and that he should definitely pplay Spacechem!

  5. 4026 says:

    “In short: it’s best puzzle game I’ve played this year”

    Nah. Objectively wrong, I’m afraid.

  6. Gnoupi says:

    Great to read that the single player game is really satisfying, through all the game!

    Now RPS hivemind, get to it. It’s a game which becomes even more mind-bending when you play in coop. Playing single player, you have to find the way to cross the way, using the adapted character. Playing coop, it’s a completely different experience, you can’t really switch (if you play 3 players), you actually have to find the way for every character to go further!

  7. JackDandy says:

    Oh boy! This sounds like everything I wanted from the sequel.
    Can’t wait to try it out! Damned backlog!

    • Ridnarhtim says:

      I know right? Nearly done with Zelda, then I have Arkham City (though, if I’m patient, I may as well wait for a properly functioning DX11 version), I’m about 1/3 of the way through Serious Sam 3, and I only have about half a weekend a week to play :(

  8. loGi says:

    In co-op the game really shines because you have to figure how to get EVERY character past the obstacles. In Trine 1 atleast the rogue could grapple past half the levels.

  9. Fierce says:

    Bastion vs. Trine 2 for Indie Game of the Year!

    Whichever wins, we win.

    • DrGonzo says:

      It has wonderful visuals and story. Fantastic music too I love almost everything about Bastion. Apart from the actual game itself, which I can’t stand. Which is really rather annoying as I want to see it all through but can’t.

    • Fierce says:

      Unfortunately like all too many games lately, I’ve found it easier to enjoy with a 360 pad.

      I curse the industry lethargy regarding quality porting to PC that requires my purchase of it, but I would loathe even more if without it I couldn’t fully enjoy games like Alice Madness Returns, Bastion, Darksiders, Limbo, Shank and others.

    • Gnoupi says:

      Now Trine 2 with Bastion’s narration.

      “They piled up boxes. And failed again.”
      “The goblins came. The knight sliced them right up.”

    • Kdansky says:

      Bastion, Trine 2, SpaceChem, Terraria, The Bindings of Isaac, Dungeons of Dredmor, Jamestown, and technically Minecraft.

      I don’t see why there should be a “best Indie game” category for awards. The AAA titles that I played this year which are about as good are Skyrim and Portal 2.

      David is totally beating up Goliath right now.

    • AndrewC says:

      You have to look at why you think a PC game is defined by its control scheme.

    • Fierce says:

      No definition intended – simply that the isometric action RPG nature of Bastion lends itself to the dual-stick smoothness of the gamepad (once you get the shield, the right thumbstick is an instant omni-directional use of it, allowing one to almost parry attacks Street Fighter 3 Third Strike style).

      I also had several friends who I feverishly hounded to get Limbo come back to me and say that sometimes the slight impreciseness of jumping using the spacebar caused them to die more often than they would’ve otherwise, a problem I didn’t experience with the more precise pressure sensitive A button of a pad.

      It’s more like the industry has to look at why they think unalterable MouseSmoothing=1, ignoring of scroll wheels and non-detection of Mouse 3, 4, 5 and upwards are such inconsequential trivialities of PC porting.

    • Urthman says:

      I had no problems at all playing Bastion and Limbo with mouse and keyboard (or just keyboard with Limbo). Limbo’s lack of configuration was annoying, but AutoHotKey is so easy to use I hardly care about that anymore.

    • slabgar says:

      It’s worth noting a difficulty with keyboard jumps: both ‘w’ and the spacebar jump. If you are holding ‘w’ when you jump with space, your next jump with the spacebar won’t come off properly. Especially frustrating with collapsing platforms if you haven’t realized what is going on.

      EDIT: Oh, I suppose I should mention that the multiplayer is fabulous.

  10. airtekh says:

    Well hurrah for that. I’m glad to see my pre-order wasn’t in vain!

    Can’t wait to get stuck into the game properly.

    • Kdansky says:

      Or you could, you know, wait until release until you throw money at it, instead of gambling?

    • airtekh says:

      Actually I don’t normally pre-order games, that’s why I made reference to it.

      I happened to really enjoy the first game, and because I only paid a sale price for it, I felt I should give the devs a bit of support.

      ‘gambling’ is a bit harsh. The game was hardly going to be rubbish.

  11. The_B says:

    If you can’t get enough of the Hivemind in Alec, I’d be happy to come and co-op some.

  12. The Sombrero Kid says:

    Good job Alec on conveying an enthusiasm for the game & games in general that’s often missing from games journalism these days.

  13. outoffeelinsobad says:

    *ahem*

    I believe he is called The Motherfucking Wizard.

    Or, The Wizaaaaaaaaaaard.

  14. bleeters says:

    I do thoroughly enjoy being presented with puzzles which can, generally speaking, be solved in several ways ways via a couple of viable routes. It’s certainly more interesting for me than a typical Portal 2 puzzle.

    I’ll also add: the carnivorous plants give me the willies. Seriously. I think it’s the breathing sounds they make.

    • bill says:

      Heh. I loved Portal 2, and it was incredibly well made, but that comic is so true.
      It was still great to figure out the solutions, but it never felt as good as working out one of the many solutions in Portal 1.

      One of the best bits in Portal 1 was going back and doing the time trials for the early levels and realising that the puzzle I spent 30 minutes complicatedly bodging a solution together for could be solved in 3 seconds with a clever portal placement.

  15. Hatsworth says:

    I’m about two thirds through it, so far it’s a massive improvement on the first game in nearly every single way. I’m still sad they’re using the same checkpoint system though. It makes enemy encounters a foregone conclusion every single time.

  16. RichRuzz says:

    If anyone is interested in doing co-op add me on Steam http://steamcommunity.com/id/richruzz

    I haven’t started playing it yet was waiting to run through on co-op.

  17. mbp says:

    Trine 1 was good but I felt that they didn’t make enough out of the character’s special abilities and too often fell back on standard platforming stuff: quick reactions and precision jumps. The final level in particular was a travesty.

    I am guessing from your review that Trine 2 is lessa standard platform game and more clever puzzle game. Sounds good to me.

  18. John P says:

    I didn’t like Trine 2 quite as much as the first. Some of the removed functionality is a disappointment, like no items to pick up and wear for extra abilities. Maybe they removed that because it was a bit UI-centric and removed you from the game itself, but I liked finding those items in secret chests.

    I was also disappointed in the lack of fun and crazy grappling hook gameplay. It’s still there but there’s less emphasis on it. Trine 2 focuses more on puzzles, which is nice too, but I miss swinging across huge parts of a level with a grappling hook.

    The pacing of this one also seemed a little off. It was hard to know when I was getting close to the end, and then it ended pretty quickly. I don’t know why they didn’t put a map on the loading screens like in Trine 1 so you could see the progress you were making. The levels in Trine 2 don’t tie in as closely with the storyline because of that lack of continuity and signposting.

    But otherwise I liked it. There’s some good variety in levels and enemies, the puzzles are clever but no obscure, and it’s as charming as the first.

    • Blame says:

      Huge Trine 1 fan reporting in who just completed Trine 2 (singleplayer).

      I understand what you mean, but contrary to you I still feel like Trine 2 is the superior game. While the fun of evading all obstacles with the grapling hook is lessened, it’s a direct consequences of the puzzles being a lot more interesting and varied. Actually, whereas Trine 1 was an awesome obstacle avoiding parcour game, Trine 2 is more of a sidescrolling varied puzzle game.
      Personally, I’d love to see Frozenbyte make a parcour game similar to the thief gameplay of Trine 1. However, such a obstacle climbing and graple hook swinging game wouldn’t require the Trine setting to be interesting, on the contrary.

      Disagree with the item thing, because collectible poems and paintings are just far more interesting than silly stat boosts. In Trine 1, the items are just superfluous and have the only effect of making combat even easier. On the other hand, the reward for finding those secret areas in Trine 2, while not influencing the game beyond extra exp, is still very rewarding because it adds to the background story.

      On rereading your post, I realise you may have meant the “you now have a hammer” and “you can now make planks” item pickup. Which were indeed fun, as getting new tricks is always a fun thing. If that was your intent, please ignore the above pharagraph and enjoy the knowledge that I agree with you!

      Either way, I really enjoyed Trine 2 and my major gripe with it is that it’s so short. In addition, just like in Trine 1 they forgot to make the ending climatic in any way. Still, the story was better, the puzzles improved, the enemy variety exploded through the roof and made combat – while still the weak point – much more interesting, the enemy spawning problem was solved and last but not least the art was absolutely fantastic.

  19. Tusque D'Ivoire says:

    I loved Trine so much, (and adored the whole Indie Bundle attached to Frozenbyte’s name) that i bought the second one, too. My main criticism, though, is the extremely annoying doodly medieval soundtrack. I’m sorry, but that is just too loopy and high ptched for a very quickly recurring video game soundtrack!!!

  20. bill says:

    Trine was surprisingly good, but it was also very flawed. (unbalanced/un-needed characters, too much combat, weird end level) – am i to take it from this review that Trine 2 has fixed all those flaws?

    Because that would be super! I miss the “portal feeling”.

  21. m3ch says:

    Okay… so I’m pretty lucky to have a powerful gaming PC with a triple monitor setup using Nvidia’s 3D Surround…but wait… I’m not here to brag. To be honest, the 3D bit has been redundant for the main part of my PC gaming with it being not much more than a gimmick that is generally switched off after an hour or so because it makes shooters harder. Up steps Trine 2. I thought it might look a bit prettier or more interesting with the 3D switched on. So I dig out the glasses, enable 3D. I fire it up the config screen for the first time and I’m impressed that it immediately supports my 5040 x 1050 resolution with not a single hiccup. I crank up the detail levels and start the game.

    WOW.

    I mean.. really…. W O W.

    I am never really THAT impressed with….well anything really!

    The graphics, the lighting, the details are amazing. But, my God, the feeling of depth is utterly spectacular. My 3 flat monitors have now become (approximately) a 3-Dimensional 5′x2′x1′ space within which this game is being played. It really, REALLY looks like I could put my hand in and pick out one of those mushrooms. It is not a gimmick, this really does look utterly convincing in 3D. So I play it slowly, one step at a time, my jaw slack as I attempt to take in all the detail of the scenes in front of me…wondering if I might get wet if I put my hand out to where that river is gushing out toward me. I find myself grinning inanely and quietly whispering to myself, “Oh my God…”.

    So what kind of nut am I? A trine fanatic? Nah, I only played the demo of the first one. A 3D fanatic? Clearly not as I said earlier, shooters are harder to play in 3D and it’s not that convincing anyway. A review freak? Nope, I never really give feedback for anything as my time could be much better spent shooting noobs in Battlefield!

    So I write this in the hope that one day….one day…you will be lucky enough to experience what I have just experienced. Trust me, you will be amazed.

  22. johnson-COD says:

    I would say this is the best 3d side-scrolling fantasy game I ever played. the graphic , concepts, puzzle,presentation is fantastic in its own way..

    liked it very much … keep making the games like this:)

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