Review | 12/19/2011 at 12:00 PM

Trine 2 Co-Op Review

Amadeus, Pontius, and Zoya Return for a Beautiful Co-Op Adventure

In the original Trine, three unlikely heroes – a wizard that’s unable to even cast a fire spell, a heavyset knight, and a cunning thief – are forced to team up and take on a host of undead that are assailing their kingdom. This team up is a result of the eponymous artifact that fuses the souls of the protagonists and sets them off on an adventure to put the dead to rest and restore the kingdom to its glory. Through dark forests, mythical caverns, and an eerie castle, the reluctant heroes fight their way past the hordes of skeletons and use their unique abilities to overcome more than a few puzzles before finally righting wrongs.

After being restored to their old selves, the trio goes their separate ways. Trine 2, then, picks up with the three some time later after the once ruined kingdom is restored to its glory and each has been occupied with their own lives. The wizard, Amadeus, has a family now, though he’s still attempting to get that fireball spell down. The knight, Pontius, helps defend the kingdom and its citizens. The thief, Zoya, continues to search for treasure in less than fully legitimate ways. As opposed to the first game, where each of the heroes stumble upon the Trine by accident, the mysterious artifact seeks them out as an odd mix of goblins and giant plants seem to be threatening the kingdom. So our heroes set off once again.

As with the first, the real focus of Trine 2’s gameplay is about using each of the heroes’ different abilities to tackle foes and maneuver through a variety of physics-based puzzles. Since the first game, each hero has seen a few improvements to his or her skill set. Amadeus, in addition to creating boxes and planks, can now pick enemies up using his levitation magic and place them into any sort of nearby peril that may be available. Voya has both fire (and eventually, explosive) arrows and ice arrows to wield, as well as the ability to make herself invisible for a brief period of time, while Pontius now carries a big hammer that’s perfect for smashing walls (and enemies) and can even be flung to hit those out-of-reach places. Perhaps the greatest enhancement all three characters have seen, though, is the elimination of the mana/energy bar from the first game, so you are free to use their abilities to your heart’s content.

That's pretty much the first level right there... Yeah, the game starts off strong in the graphics department

Aside from these gameplay improvements, Trine 2 has also tweaked the graphics and this, more than anything else, is what will undoubtedly stick out. The levels in the first game, while pretty, also tended to be rather dark, and lacked, at times, a very diverse color palette. Not so in the sequel. There were times as I was playing when I had to simply stop whatever I was doing and just stare at the background. From lush, green forests, to beaches with deep, blue lagoons, to frigid ice castles, Trine 2’s scenery could be framed and hung in a modern art museum. Combine those beautiful vistas with an enchanting and playful score, and the game has quite a leg up on many of the full AAA releases we’ve seen this year. Yet with all of these enhancements and additions, how does the game itself hold up?

In brief: extremely well in co-op. From a solo play perspective, Trine 2 is fun and offers some rather interesting mind teasers to overcome, but it also feels lacking. Specifically, it feels like it’s lacking another person with whom to play. It is a problem, though, that is easily remedied as one of the biggest improvements to the game is that online co-op is now fully supported from the get go. What’s more, it supports a combination of local and online so you can play with a mixture of friends, both near and far. It also now offers two co-op modes: campaign and Unlimited. Both take you through the game’s 13 levels, but both do it in a slightly different way.

Not quite a double rainbow, but no less impressive

The campaign mode allows each player to play as one of the three heroes, swapping out who plays the third in the case of just two players, as they venture across the lands. Teamwork is, of course, the key as the puzzles that seemingly had only one possible solution when playing single player now have a variety of approaches. I initially played through several of the game’s levels solo and then with a friend and was struck by how different the solutions were to the same conundrum. Playing alone, I might have to impale a box on a swinging spiked pendulum with the wizard and then grapple across using the thief. In co-op, though, I simply create a plank and levitate it across a gap with my partner riding it surfer style, and he then flicked a switch to raise a platform for me to use. In addition to puzzle solving, there are a good number of collectibles to gather, both in the form of experience orbs and game artwork or poems that reveal some of the back-story, and many of these are much easier to get when playing with a friend or two.

For the game’s Unlimited mode, restrictions are removed and each player is free to use any of the three characters, meaning you could be running around with three wizards conjuring up all manner of boxes and planks to overcome obstacles. While the campaign mode feels more like an adventure platformer, Unlimited has more of an arcade feel to it. Should a player succumb to one of the game’s many traps, or be slain by a terrible foe, the remaining player(s) has but to get to the next checkpoint (or backtrack to the previous one) in order to revive him or her. The same rule applies in the campaign co-op, but whereas the campaign’s revival of a player means the return of a, sometimes, necessary third character, the revival of a player in Unlimited means he or she just joins the fray once more. It becomes less focused on how to work as a team to ensure no man (or woman) gets left behind, and more about ensuring at least one person survives to the next checkpoint. It’s a great addition and definitely allows for more replayability.

You may catch yourself wondering from time to time, "who would put a device like that in a place like this?"

The game has two noticeable flaws: one that pertains to the game as a whole, and one that is co-op specific. Taking a page from Batman: Arkham Asylum, Trine 2’s boss fights are notably less than inspired, as the same formula and strategy, with only a few small adjustments, are applied to almost all of the major enemies you encounter with the exception of the final one. All of that achievement you and your friends felt for overcoming a particularly devious puzzle turns a bit sour when you’re faced with the same dumb boss (slightly reskinned) doing the same dumb thing and dying the same dumb way. From a co-op perspective, the inclusion of online co-op was a feature the first game sorely needed, but it does present a situation when it comes to level progression and player location. Local players are semi-screen bound in the sense that if one player gets too far ahead/offscreen, they are immediately teleported back to the lagging player. For online co-op, should a player fall or get left behind, they are teleported to the leading player once that player reaches certain preset locations, typically an enemy encounter. This means that players could miss out on entire portions of the level, or that players have to backtrack (if they can) to get the player that fell behind. While we may not always like those “everybody stand on this switch to open the door” type of mechanics, they do help to alleviate this particular issue.

The original Trine provided a very solid co-op experience that had a few problems, e.g., lack of online co-op, which kept it from being truly great. The sequel has fixed those problems and provided even more ways to get the most out of the experience as a whole. Trine 2, then, is a perfect example of what so many sequels should be – an improvement on a good formula, not a retooling of the entire system.

Note: This review is based on the PC version of the game.