From the outset, Trine 2 is a familiar entity to veterans of the prequel. The Trine, a magical MacGuffin that bound your three characters together in the first game, has returned for reasons unknown to usher Zoya the Thief, Pontius the Knight, and Amadeus the Wizard towards nondescript adventure. If the adjectives in that last sentence didn’t make it abundantly clear, the game doesn’t spend much time digging in story hooks during the opening levels. These characters have been through an adventure before, and the very appearance of the Trine (now behaving as a somewhat sentient being) is meant to be reason enough to set off anew.
As blatant as the similarities may be, there are some equally evident modifications to the Trine formula that promise to transform the experience in profound ways. The most widely announced and most visible change is the addition of online co-op multiplayer. Though our time with the game was brief as the beta only contains the first handful of levels, it was blatantly obvious that Trine 2 will shine brightest in multiplayer. Working with friends within the luminescent playground Frozenbyte has built is a thrill; after playing co-op I can’t imagine going back to single player. Though “Unlimited” mode provides the opportunity for each player to use any character at any time, the more sensible “Classic” mode gives each character – and player – a defined purpose.
For those who share a love of the color orgy that was Trine’s art style, you’re in for a treat. Trine 2 surpasses its predecessor by providing some of the most intensely vibrant visuals I’ve ever seen. Character design has likewise seen a significant bump up in quality. The wicked goblins that replace Trine’s skeleton horde are a great improvement, and the early dragon boss looks properly magnificent.
Puzzles have become more complex this time around as well. Trine’s puzzles were largely a matter of reaching areas, not necessarily of using environmental objects to change the state of the world. One early puzzle in Trine 2 has your characters diverting a waterfall away from a large snail that’s blocking your path while enjoying a cool shower. Frozenbyte promises more elemental themed puzzles like this in the full game, and it’s an ideal match for the world’s visual style as well as tone.
Though all three of the playable characters vary greatly in initial ability set and eventual upgrade potential, Frozenbyte have evidently made it a point to balance the characters’ usefulness across the board. In the levels we played, most puzzles had a few possible solutions. There’s a lot of moving pieces for the developers to keep track of here; they need to develop levels that every individual character can make it through with some help. What’s on display so far indicates they’ve managed this superbly.
Though the game is still set for a December release, it’s up for pre-order on Steam for PC which grants access to the multiplayer-enabled beta. In talking with Joel Kinnunen, VP at Frozenbyte, we were able to learn that Mac support for the beta should be coming within the next couple of weeks. In short, when played alone the first few levels of Trine 2 on display are every bit as impressive as the original. When played with friends, however, it’s a profoundly superior experience.