Trine 2 Review (XBLA / PSN)

When Trine released for PC and PlayStation Network, it introduced an interesting new take on the old Lost Vikings concept that worked back on the SNES.  You’ve got three different characters, each with their own specific abilities and talents, who need to work together to solve puzzles and venture onward to the next waiting level.  However, the major difference between these games lie in the presentation.  Trine presented an elegant design, both in its backdrops and character animations, which would set the standard for downloadable games at the time.  Could Atlus and Frozenbyte strike again with Trine 2?  You bet your sweet character switch it can.

The set-up hasn’t changed that much from the first.  The Trine has returned, and the three playable heroes – a thief, a wizard and a knight – team up once again to work their way through trickily invented levels, using their skills to overcome situations.  Like before, the thief can shoot objects from afar with a bow and grapple to wood platforms; the wizard can manipulate objects using a Force-like power and draw up boxes to stand on and push; and the knight can strike enemies with his sword and war hammer or deflect attacks with his shield.  Each of these are vital to figuring your way through the game, so you’ll want to make sure you learn them well.

Now, some abilities have been limited since the last time around, as if Frozenbyte really wants to challenge you to figure out levels rather than taking “the easy way out”.  This is both a gift and a curse, as you don’t have as many abilities to call upon to move further ahead.  Likewise, this adds to the game’s difficulty, though hints are on hand if you get a little too stressed out trying to figure out what to do next.

Trine 2 is one of those rare games that’s as much fun to play on your own as it is with friends.  Going at it solo, for instance, will teach you the value of each character, providing you with a sense of satisfaction when you finally solve a certain puzzle or overcome a situation that you thought was impossible.  Likewise, playing with friends is a treat, as you adapt to working together in a nearly completely different way, relying on a strong amount of teamwork.  Better still, multiplayer works both with local players and online.

The lack of new wrinkles in the gameplay may bum out those who were expecting as much, but honestly, Trine 2 holds up just as significantly as it did with the original.  In fact, it feels just a little bit more concentrated this time around, giving you less room for error.  And if you do screw up and accidentally kill a character, it’s easy to work your way around the puzzle and revive them for the next one.  It never really gets to the point that you want to give up.

Frozenbyte has really pulled out all the stops when it comes to Trine 2’s presentation.  The stellar visuals will have you checking your system just to make sure there’s not a disc in the drive.  No, really.  This is the sort of quality you’d expect from a retail release, let alone a downloadable one that barely clocks in over 1 GB.  Between the imaginative backdrops, the smooth animation, the dynamic lighting effects (particularly in the beginning, when the Trine shines through your bedroom window), and the diversity of each stage as the game goes along, it’s a stunning sight.  What’s more, Atlus has thoughtfully backed up these astonishing settings with quality audio, including voicework that doesn’t take itself too seriously, yet doesn’t dip into cheesy territory either.  The music is equally moving, keeping you involved in your quest without reaching the point of exasperation.

Though you might be discouraged by the fact that Trine 2’s gameplay hasn’t really pushed forward much, it worked so well the first time around, why change it?  The sequel benefits in many ways, including a superior presentation, a single player campaign loaded with daunting trials and hidden goodies, and co-op that really clicks, both online and off.  This is one journey you shouldn’t even bother Trine to resist.  (OK, enough corny jokes.  Sorry.)

[Reviewed on PlayStation 3]