Hands On: Trine 2By Tom Yeates | August 20, 2011 | Previews | No comments | Share
When Frozenbyte Studio’s Trine debuted in July 2009, I cheered. Internally of course, I’m not in the habit of cheering out loud when alone (or at least I’m not in the habit of openly admitting it). It felt to me as a marker, a symbol of indie development’s emerging power in the industry. No longer would the old indie stereotypes of low production values be permitted to persist, here we had a game that felt and looked like a bigger budget title but with the heart and soul of an independent studio locked within it.
Trine was a triumph, a story in the tradition of Terry Pratchett with a smattering of Monty Python’s Flying Circus, a unique and picturesque art design and most importantly, compelling physics based gameplay revolving around three well crafted characters, each with their advantages and disadvantages. It’s one of my favourite puzzle games and is one of those games that just makes you feel all warm inside. In short – Trine was good.
Fast forward to 2011. It is a period of civil war, Rebel spaceships, striking from a hidden base…wait…sorry…I got carried away there because my mind started playing the Star Wars theme music inexplicably… Yes, 2011…gamescom 2011 to be precise and following a chance encounter on the escalators, we were cordially invited to check out Frozenbyte’s upcoming sequel: Trine 2. Naturally I accepted the invitation, because otherwise this would be a rather short and frankly, confusing article and I found myself sitting on a couch, a 360 controller in my hand (Yes, the game is coming to the 360 this time!) sat next to Mikael Haveri and Ari Pulkinnen from Frozenbyte.
I spent half of the demo gushing about how good it all looked, to the point where it must have become annoying - like a fly on the mantlepiece that simply refuses to shut up and die.
Immediately after loading in, I was hooked again. Frozenbyte have developed a completely new engine for the game and it’s a breathtaking piece of design. The lighting effects have to come in for special praise here as they really stood out, and its so refreshing to see such an excellent and diverse colour palette being used in an industry so often dominated by greys and browns. The backgrounds have also been given a lot more attention than in the first Trine and it elevates what was already a brilliant art style into something so much more. I spent half of the demo gushing about how good it all looked, to the point where it must have become annoying – like a fly on the mantlepiece that simply refuses to shut up and die. The visuals are intoxicating and Ari Pulkinnen has once again pulled out the proverbial big guns with the soundtrack which compliment the visuals perfectly (he also did the music in Angry Birds by the way). I agree with him when he stresses about the importance of music in games and this mantra is showcased excellently in Trine 2. I had to bite down on the urge to hum along throughout the demo…
Story-wise, as you might have guessed, the Trine makes its return and unites the three protagonists from the first game together once more on a quest to save the kingdom. This time around Frozenbyte have enlisted the help of a writer for their story, after claiming the plot for the original grew out of a hefty drinking session and moved on from there. There is a brief tutorial for each character to refresh your memory or introduce newer players to their abilities before you are thrown together into the first level which I played co-operatively in tandem with Mikael Haveri who kindly guided me through. Let it be known that, skills on the PC version of Trine with mouse and keyboard do not transfer over very well to a 360 controller – I was terrible, though by the end of the demo I had risen to a level approaching “pretty bad”.
The game features drop in/drop out co-op, which is a really fun way to experience the puzzles, and requires no real effort other than pressing the guide button/PS button in the middle of your controller (and on PC presumably you will be able to just click “Join Game” via Steam). We bounded forward through a series of Trine’s physics based puzzles which are excellently done. It’s one of those puzzle games that gives you a real sense of wisdom and power when you finish a particularly challenging one and there are a lot of different ways to solve them too, providing a welcome level of variety. I felt like the game was constantly engaging my brain, like a man with a long stick, constantly prodding but prodding in the nicest way he can.
There are water puzzles, requiring you to manipulate the environment to spill water in strategic locations. There are wind puzzles, where you manipulate pipes to help blow you in the direction you need to move. There was a particularly delightful puzzle involving a giant snail blocking our path which needed us to redirect water onto its shell to move it on its way. Which, of course, looked incredible. There was also a giant snake boss which required a puzzle solve to defeat rather than a straight up standard hack and slash battle.
That’s another area where Trine 2 is improving and iterating on the original, the enemies. The first Trine was all skeletons. Skeletons everywhere, all of the time. Now, there are different enemy types – Goblins were the ones we experienced in the opening two levels and they now emerge from the foreground and background, rather than being limited to the sides of the screen which not only looks great visually but also makes the combat a little more diverse.
It's an eagerness to get the game out there without compromising the integrity of the experience and what true gamer could argue with that sentiment?
Eventually, despite my constant ineptitude, we came to the end of the demonstration and the emergence of a permanent, wistful look I have adopted which speaks of the love I had won and lost in one short afternoon demo session. Trine 2 is looking to do what all good sequels should do, improve the mechanics where possible but without compromising or drastically altering what made the first game so enjoyable and endearing. With best-in-class physics puzzles, a stunning visual design and a fantastic soundtrack and voiceover the game feels so polished that it could release tomorrow to much acclaim but Frozenbyte work on a strict “It’s finished when it’s done” policy, something which I consider the hallmark of a quality developer. It’s an eagerness to get the game out there without compromising the integrity of the experience and what true gamer could argue with that sentiment?
Walking away from the booth I knew two things: firstly, I am really awful with a 360 controller, secondly…I want to play Trine 2. I’ll just go and hum the music now, purely because I can.