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Trine 2 review: Trine to fit the pieces together


The key to any puzzle is the "aha" moment, that moment when everything clicks into place, your brain gets a little jolt of pleasure and you feel just a tiny bit smarter. The final few numbers in sudoku, grasping the bizarre logic of Sam & Max, figuring out exactly where to put the next portal -- it's these moments that make puzzles worthwhile.

A puzzle with no "aha" is like a nut with no meat. You go to all the effort to crack open the shell, only to discover there's nothing inside. In nine hours of Trine 2, I've piled up a lot of shells, but not enough meat.

Gallery: Trine 2 (10/27/11) | 28 Photos

Let's get the obvious out of the way: Trine 2 is gorgeous. The team at Frozenbyte has done a tremendous job creating a beautiful and whimsical world. Every locale is dripping with detail, from the vibrant forests to underground labyrinths with more than a passing resemblance to R'lyeh (Cthulhu statue included).

As in the original Trine, three characters have come together for a whirlwind adventure across these places, a knight, a wizard and a thief. Each brings different talents to the table. The knight is the melee expert, also able to reflect projectiles with his shield or smash through walls with his hammer. The wizard can conjure objects out of thin air, creating boxes or platforms to serve as platforms and bridges. Finally, the thief has a grappling hook to reach distant areas and a bow to shoot foes, trigger switches or sever ropes.

Playing alone, players can swap between characters at will, or up to three players can join forces online or locally. Together, the group is equipped to overcome any obstacle, solve any puzzle or slay any goblin the world throws its way.

On paper, each character's specific skills should work in specific situations. The knight, for example, will be your go-to guy for killing enemies. Is that platform too high to reach? Have the wizard summon a few boxes as a stepladder. Out of reach button? Launch an arrow at it with the thief. The trinity of skills never really seems to gel, however, mostly because many of Trine 2's puzzles fall flat.

For example, I solved at least one puzzle – crossing a seemingly impassable gap – through sheer force of will. After my initial solution, using the knight's charge ability to give my jump extra distance, I fell down and was forced to cross again. After failing repeatedly to duplicate my solution, Trine 2's hint system offered me the official solution, which was radically different.

Solving many of Trine 2's conundrums can be an unintuitive process. Its puzzles tend to be based on physics, so any solutions will naturally be flexible, but I often found them to be too flexible, that I was exploiting the system rather than working with it. It's like shoving a square peg into a round hole. Sure, it's a solution, but without the invigorating spark of cleverness.

The issue subsides somewhat toward the end of the adventure – when you have more upgrades and a more expansive tool set – but there are still some unintuitive brain teasers throughout.

Beyond the puzzles, combat isn't terribly inspiring, usually boiling down to killing everything with the knight. As players acquire upgrades, it can be fun to freeze baddies with ice arrows as the thief, or levitate them into a lava pit as the wizard, but it's never as effective as simply mashing the attack button with the knight. Most bosses are simply re-skinned versions of the same club-swinging ogre, though there are a few puzzle-centric encounters with larger creatures.

Multiplayer goes a long way to making the experience more enjoyable. Having multiple players affords lots of different options that aren't possible alone. Perhaps the best of these is the ability to simply levitate friends to hard-to-reach areas with the wizard.

Trine 2's shortcomings really are unfortunate, because the foundation is truly solid. The characters complement one another very well; their puzzle-solving arsenal is well-designed, offering infinite possibilities – indeed allowing puzzles to be solved in unique, perhaps unintended ways. Even the fairy tale story has its charms, as does the constant search for experience orbs and upgrades.

If you can look past some of the more awkward elements – especially if you can do so with a couple of friends – there is definitely some meat to be found in Trine 2. You'll just have to crack a lot of shells to find it.

This review is based on final PC code of Trine 2 provided by Atlus.

Joystiq's review scores are based on a scale of whether the game in question is worth your time -- a five-star being a definitive "yes," and a one-star being a definitive "no." Read here for more information on our ratings guidelines.

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