Egg Freckles
Notes from my Newton

February 2012 | Trine 2

Trine 2

Trine 2 takes place in the same fantasy world as the original, and once again our three heroes, Zoya the thief, Pontius the knight, and Amadeus the wizard are bound together by the Trine and forced into saving the kingdom from darkness.

Trine 2 shares the same game mechanics as the original. Only one hero can be on the screen at a time, and the player must decide which hero's unique set of abilities is up to the current task. Obstacles include the same spikes, pits of lava, fireballs, swinging pendulums, and booby traps as the original, but this time our heroes are forced to solve more difficult puzzles involving steam, pipes, and running water.

The hordes of skeletons from the first game have been replaced with roaming bands of goblins that attack our heroes with sword, spear, and arrow at designated times. I can't say the variety or difficulty of the enemies has improved, but the adversary in Trine has always been the environments and never the combatants.

The characters are controlled using customized directional keys on the keyboard. Aiming is accomplished with the mouse. The left and right mouse buttons perform different attacks, spells, and actions depending on the character in play. The scroll wheel is used for switching between weapons. Sometimes it is important to perform a spell or attack with one character, and then quickly switch to another hero to use a different capability. This can more easily be accomplished by reprogramming the buttons surrounding the movement keys to switch in different characters.

Trine 2 shares the same emphasis for collecting experience points as the original. The bad news is that the ability enhancing treasure from the first game has been replaced with useless collectable artifacts in Trine 2. The good news is that casting spells or special attacks no longer has an energy requirement, and skill points can be reassigned among characters during the game.

Zoya retains all of her skills from the original game. She can shoot flaming arrows, and use her grappling hook to climb and swing from nearby wooden platforms. In Trine 2 she gains the ability to shoot frozen and explosive arrows, and creep past enemies with unnatural stealth. Zoya is still the most versatile character. Her distance attacks prove remarkably effective at close range after she gains the explosive arrow skill, and her grappling hook to can get her to many place other characters cannot. I wouldn't waste experience on her stealth skill. The object of the game is to kill opponents for their experience, not avoid them.

Pontius the knight gains some explosive capabilities of his own in Trine 2. He still boasts the same sword, shield, and hammer combo that made him a powerful warrior in the original, but this time his abilities have been strengthened with fire, frost, and throwing attacks. Pontius' frost shield temporally slows down enemies after he blocks their attacks. His fire sword makes short work of goblins that get in his way. With the proper experience he now has the ability to throw his mighty hammer, or charge its attack for even more damage. Pontius' hammer throw is indispensable for boss battles later in the game, but I have never found a need for his charged hammer attack. Enemies just seem to die so quickly from the flames of his sword. Pontius also has a running charge attack, but the experience to unlock it could be better served on the wizard's puzzle solving capabilities.

Amadeus the wizard is the groups problem solver. He has no offensive capabilities of his own, but his ability to conjure multiple objects and move things with his mind make him invaluable at solving the puzzles in Trine 2. I strongly advise that you place a lot of experience on Amadeus' ability to conjure multiple objects, and unlock his plank ability as soon as possible. The game is made easier by acquiring skills, and nothing helps reaching out of the way vials of experience like a stack of boxes conjured in the right place. Amadeus loses the power to conjure the floating pyramid from the original game, but his ability to pick up enemies with his mind and place them in harms way makes up for the difference.

Just like its predecessor Trine 2 benefits from the Nvidia PhysX engine. That means all of the boxes Amadeus generates, or all the goblins Pontius kills fall and interact with the world in a realistic way. You will start to count on this behavior when you swing Zoya from her grappling hook, or change the direction of deadly acid flowing overhead. The weight of objects Amadeus picks up with his mind can be used to activate pressure switches, spring levers, or crush enemies. Half of the joy of playing Trine is seeing what Rube Goldberg inspired contractions you can manipulate, exploit, or create in this realistic world. By using the realistic physics there is more than one way to solve an puzzle, making Trine 2 never the same game twice.

One way Frozenbyte, the developer of Trine, has tried to improve its replay value is with a series of achievements and a online cooperative multiplayer mode. The achievements challenge the player to discover all of the collectable artifacts in the game, or perform stunts like surf on a platform floating on steam for four seconds. Challenges like completing an entire level with one character become difficult when you only have a constrained set of capabilities to rely on.

Due to a lack of available online players I never got to fully test Trine 2's cooperative multiplayer capabilities. I suspect this feature is best served for local network play, or multiple controllers attached to the same computer. In cooperative play up to three players share the roles of the three available heroes. Puzzles must be solved with all players working together, no hero can be left behind. I fear cooperative multiplayer mode might have made the single player game too easy. No one likes sitting around dead while their friends complete the game, and have all the fun without them. To combat this lack of participation Trine 2 offers a healthy amount checkpoints to revive fallen players. If you want a challenge in Trine 2 you will have to pick the hard difficulty where checkpoints don't revive your health.

The world of Trine 2 is a beautiful one. Graphical detail and realistic lighting have been improved to the point I can no longer max out the video settings on my 2011 MacBook Air like I could with the original. It is difficult to find a 2D side-scrolling platform adventure, let alone a 3D shooter, with this amount of detail. It is a hard benchmark to beat, but I think Trine 2's animated background paintings are even more beautiful than its predecessor. You can witness this beauty straight from the playable title screen where an enchanted castle vista is depicted in the same hour of daylight as your computer's clock.

Trine took the standard side-scrolling platform adventure and turned it on its head with a choice of three heroes, upgradable abilities, and a realistic world where everything falls into place. Trine 2 follows on the same path as the first storybook adventure with gradual improvements that streamline gameplay and open the Trine world to players of all capabilities. If you liked the original, Trine 2 is a sure buy for $14.99 from the Mac App Store.