Two years ago, Trine surprised PC and PS3 users with a fresh spin on platforming and puzzle solving. The unique mechanic of swapping between characters gave the title a Lost Vikings feel, but with fun physics-based brain-teasers. If switching between three complementary protagonists by yourself didn’t suit your fancy, the sequel allows you and two friends to simultaneously don the wizard’s robes, thief’s cowl, and knight’s armor. Better yet, the enchanting tale’s next chapter is also coming to XBLA.
Trine 2 can still be played like the first game, with a single player controlling the characters one at a time. Players familiarize themselves with some of the characters’ subtle changes during a brief introductory tutorial. For instance, the spellcaster Amadeus is no longer shackled by limited mana, allowing him to draw unlimited boxes and ladders into life. Sir Pontius can block enemy attacks with his shield to deliver a swift counterattack, and has his massive battle hammer available from the start. Zoya, the arrow-wielding, high-flying thief remains mostly unchanged, but we still love her.
Most of our time with the game was spent with the new three-player co-op. Having all three characters on screen at once doesn’t change the structure of the campaign’s levels or puzzles, but it does allow for dynamic teamwork. Many puzzles have multiple solutions, and having three minds at work leads to the most creative “eureka” moments. For example, the wizard can create boxes and levitate allies to unreachable ledges, or the thief can use her grappling hook to gain higher ground, then knock down an object the others can use to climb up. The wizard’s power to manipulate certain objects is far and away the most useful ability. In one situation he sloshes water down a log with ladle-shaped fauna to water a cabbage sprout, which then lures a gigantic, hungry snail out of our heroes’ path.
Atlus emphasized the importance of water as a new puzzle mechanic in Trine 2. The new physics behind the beautifully rendered fluid will force players to think about gravity and their environments in different ways. Water puzzles will be used to open up new pathways to discover and explore, as evidenced by the roughage-loving snail.
Having three players sharing screen time also comes in handy when ambushed by a pack of goblins. The knight is still the primary combatant, but the wizard and thief now have interesting support roles. The wizard can run interference from afar by drawing boxes to keep enemies at bay, helping with crowd control and keeping his fragile frame out of harm’s way. The thief can also whittle away foes’ HP with a few well-placed arrows. Players also gain experience and unique gear throughout their journey, but Atlus isn’t saying anything about progression yet.
The original Trine was a beautiful, atmospheric downloadable game, and the visual fidelity is carrying over to the sequel. Plants overrun the world of Trine, and the wild, vibrant foliage is everywhere. Vines coil and invade almost every piece of scenery, with bright greens, oranges, and other exotic colors spicing up the game’s palette. The thriving, immersive atmosphere of Trine 2 will suck in any fan of fantasy with its living environments.
Our time with this early build of the game left us with a slew of information, but also some new questions. We now know that three-player co-op works perfectly in combat and puzzle-solving scenarios, and that the overgrown world is a visual treat. What we don’t know yet is how the leveling and equipment system works, what the large-scale boss encounters entail, or when exactly the game hits this year. We’re intrigued enough by this 360/PS3/PC downloadable that when the answers do bloom, we won’t miss them.