It’s a bit ironic that one of the best games to arrive on the Wii U since its launch is a port of a PC/360/PS3 game that is only available in the eShop. Trine 2 has already dazzled me twice on the two aforementioned systems and again on the PC with the Goblin Menace DLC last September, so I was eager to once again dive into this charming storybook world with soothing narration, stunning, rich, vibrant, gorgeous, amazing, (excuse me while I consult my thesaurus…) , dazzling, astounding, elegant graphics. And it probably didn’t hurt that Trine 2 also offers some of the most satisfying platform-puzzle gameplay that mixes the best parts of Lost Vikings (look it up) and Portal 2.
All hyperbole aside (if that is even possible), Trine 2: Director’s Cut is quite simply the must-own game for the Wii U and at only $20 there is no reason for you not to be playing, especially since this version packs in all the bonus adventures of the Goblin Menace along with a few other exclusive features.
Obviously, Trine 2 is a sequel, although, it doesn’t require any knowledge of the first as we meet up with Amadeus the Wizard, comfortably napping after long hours researching the elusive Fireball spell. A rush of wind forces the door of his cottage open extinguishing the lights, then a bright light shines through the window waking him up. Amadeus staggers outside into a lush storybook wonderland that serves as your first of three tutorials.
Once Amadeus meets up with the Trine (a magical beacon of light), you will link up with the other two members of your team, Pontius the Knight, and Zoya the Thief, who each have their own introductory tutorial levels that showcase their unique skills and abilities. Pontius is your fighter armed with sword, shield and hammer while Zoya uses her bow and grapple for ranged combat and platform navigation. Together, these three are an unstoppable force once you learn to master their unique talents.
There is also a nice leveling-up process that requires you to collect these glass jars scattered about the levels. Some are quite obvious while others require special feats of navigation and acrobatics, or perhaps magical intervention or even the forceful smash of Pontius’ blade or hammer. For every 50 you collect you will obtain one skill point that can be spent to upgrade any of the three characters in various ways.
Amadeus skill tree allows him to levitate a monster or increase his initial conjuring ability to include multiple objects or even a plank; a nice alternative to the normal boxes he can summon. Zoya can upgrade to fire and ice arrows or even unlock a stealth ability while Pontius can upgrade his shield so it freezes his enemies or give his hammer a Thor-like throwing ability. The various upgrades get progressively more expensive, so you often have to bank your skill points and save up for the more powerful enhancements.
Gameplay, or at least the concept, is eloquently simple by design but the actual game provides some of the most fiendish puzzles of any game to date. And thanks to a wonderful physics system, there is an unparalleled ability to experiment and solve these navigation, combat, and item collection puzzles in a multitude of ways. I came away from 90% of the puzzles in this game thinking I had “tricked the designers” and had done something “nobody else would ever think of”.
Controls are a bit hit and miss on the Wii U. The tablet-like control is a bit awkward and not nearly as intuitive as waving a Wii-mote around like Amadeus would a wand. Things can get slightly confusing since the character switch controls are assigned to triggers that are adjacent to the primary action controls for each character leading to some undesired character cycling. Thankfully, many of these action controls can also be triggered using the touchscreen. Speaking of which, Trine 2: Director’s Cut can also be played entirely on the smaller portable screen.
If you are playing Trine 2 solo then you can only have one character active at any time, but you are free to switch them out on the fly, even in mid-jump. This presents some creative opportunities for solving a great many of the game’s puzzles. But when you play the game with one or two others all new possibilities present themselves because now you can have two or three active characters working in concert to solve these puzzles. Secondary characters will be relegated to using Wii-motes and Nunchuks, which have their own minor control issues to overcome. Couch co-op is preferred since it’s easier to coordinate in a local group, and thankfully a recent patch has added voice chat support so online co-op is actually a feasible alternative now.
Balancing issues still exist. The wizard and his ability to create a box or plank negates nearly every puzzle in the game when played cooperatively. Instead of playing the game as intended it is much easier to summon an object then have another player ride it to the exit then have that player swap to the wizard and return the favor. It also makes collecting any items scattered high up in the level or reaching impossible ledges a breeze. The camera also needs to pull out a bit more in co-op play. Way too often you are fighting the edge of the screen (and the other players) to grab an object just out of reach.
While worthless in combat, Amadeus is still my preferred character or at least the one I actively play when not required to switch to the other two. His ability to conjure boxes and planks is critical in just getting through the levels, and the more boxes and planks he can summon, the easier it is to get through the game and get a 100% collection. He can also levitate the environment like rocks, logs, leaves, and even these deadly spore-shooting plants that can be aimed at the enemy. You can also affect the environment like jamming a summoned box into the gears of some machine, moving pieces of pipe to create new air streams, or tug on a curled leaf to redirect water flow to irrigate a seed into a climbable plant.
Pontius comes into play whenever the game throws a batch of enemies at you. He can slash his way through most with ease; others require being stunned first, and others require a pounding with his hammer. Zoya is great for targeting enemies perched on ledges or shooting fire arrows into exploding barrels. Her grapple is perfect for zipping up to the top of the screen or swinging across bottomless chasms. And when it comes time to go swimming, you can enjoy three individual air meters, effectively tripling the time you can spend exploring underwater as long as you switch characters.
There is a steady progression in difficulty in both the gameplay and the puzzles yet Trine 2 never gets frustrating thanks to its wonderful healing and checkpoint system. About every two screens scrolled there is a glowing orb that will heal your party and resurrect any dead characters. There were even a few combat encounters that take place on the same screen as one of these orbs, effectively making you indestructible. You’ll never have to repeat a combat or solve a difficult puzzle twice in this game.
As “hinted” at above, Trine 2 is simply gorgeous and makes great use of the powerful graphics on the Wii U. The colors, and the multi-scrolling backgrounds and the sheer level of detail will have you studying the artwork as much as the puzzle designs. The sound design is right up there with the visuals thanks to quality voice acting, mostly by the narrator, but also the three individual characters who will often chime in with their own quips and remarks showcasing their unique personalities and their group dynamic. Ambient environmental sound effects like wind, rain, flowing water, fire, explosions, crumbling rocks, the splash of acid, the roar of a dragon or the bellow of an Ogre king all mix in to create a living fantasy world; one that is uniquely complemented by the magical score composed by Ari Pulkkinen.
The Director’s Cut includes a Wii U exclusive level, the Dwarven Caverns, as well as the previously released Goblin Menace DLC , a standout adventure in its own right where we hook up with Amadeus the Wizard, Pontius the Knight, and Zoya the Thief kicking back in the local pub looking rather bored, but not for long as Goblins invade the bar and our heroes must spring into action once again to save the land and rescue the fair maiden from the invading green menace. Gameplay is pretty much the same as the core game, only now you find yourself in new locations like a burning desert, an oriental city floating on flying mountains, or even worse, the belly of a giant sandworm so visually repulsive you can almost smell it. Each new location is more impressive than the last. While your worst enemy is always the environment and your ability to solve the puzzles, there are more than a few enemy encounters and challenging boss fights, and as before, there are numerous secrets and areas that will require the assistance of a co-op partner.
Trine 2 is a solid 10-12 hour game and you can add in another 3-5 hours for the built-in Goblin Menace DLC. Your mileage may vary based entirely on how easily you can figure out the puzzles it presents and whether or not you are playing alone or co-op. There is a built-in hint system that you can tweak to provide hints after a certain amount of time. Completionists will want to go for the perfect kills and collectibles, both XP jars and hidden treasures, plus many fun and challenging Achievements, and there are interesting Game+ modes to experiment with after your initial trip through the game.
Despite a few control issues, Trine 2 is simply one of the best Wii U games you can play this year. You can check out the demo now available in the eShop if you need further convincing. Just make sure you experience the magic of Trine 2. It is an unforgettable adventure that will keep you glued to your TV for days and weeks to come.