Trine 2 may have been out for the best part of a year now, but for those who haven’t picked up this beautiful platformer yet, you’re in for a real treat. It’s easily one of the smartest platformers you’ll ever play (and certainly one of the prettiest!), and the exclusive Director’s Cut for Wii U will not only feature this year’s “Goblin Menace” expansion pack, improved vocals, revamped levels and a brand-new multiplayer mode called “Magic Mayhem”, but it’s also been tailor-made to take full advantage of the Wii U GamePad. The entire game can be played on the touchscreen, but when you’ve got magnificent vistas full of towering, luminous mushrooms and rippling waterfalls to goggle at, this is one game where you’ll need to book in some quality TV time.
We began our demo in a blistering desert where sand piles high against gnarled and withered tree trunks and crisp, flinted stones litter the path in front of us. It’s stunning to look at, but it’s the controls that really pique our interest. You see, our three main characters– a knight, thief and wizard– have all been bound together by the mystical Trine in the single-player mode (although co-op will let players control them individually), but a quick press of the shoulder button is all you need to switch freely between them.
This presents us with a rather handy three-in-one Swiss Army knife of abilities, as each character has their own strengths and weaknesses. Our portly knight, for instance, can wield a mighty hammer, a sword and protect himself with a huge, reflective shield, but it’s our thief who sports the grapple hook and nifty bow to take out enemies from afar. Our magician, on the other hand, isn’t so good in a fight, but can conjure boxes and platforms by drawing a square or straight line on the touchscreen to assist in puzzle-solving instead– although raining down boxes on a goblin’s head never gets old either– and it’s how you’ll come to use these three different characters that really makes Trine 2 stand head and shoulders above the rest.
Rather outshines Link’s trusty shield, doesn’t it?
One of our first puzzles, for instance, involved shining a deadly fire beam onto a light-activated switch. There’s a tantalising glass lantern just waiting to be levitated by our magician with a quick tap and drag on the touchscreen, but our knight’s very own Mirror Shield can do the job just as well. For the more eagle-eyed players, however, there’s also a grapple point in the top left of the screen leading to more collectable orbs and gems as well– you can’t actually solve the puzzle with the thief, but it keeps you on your toes nonetheless. Just watch out you don’t accidentally fry your magician’s backside on the way out if you do choose to levitate the lantern, though, as Trine 2‘s exquisite physics engine means everything will swing and fall back into place with a weighty sense of realism.
Combat becomes its own puzzle as well, as enemies will also flit back and forth between the the safe recesses of the background and the bustling foreground, although the combat itself does tend to boil down to simple button-mashing more often than not. Your knight is obviously your main destructive force as he can both attack and defend, but depending on your environment, you might find your thief’s bow to be a more suitable weapon– especially since you can also aim your arrows with the touchscreen for added accuracy.
But even if the combat commands themselves are fairly uninspiring, the various dragon and goblin hordes you’ll be facing certainly aren’t, and rather than appear sporadically through each level, they often have their own dedicated battle rooms to really test your skills. One such room we played involved beating a whole catacomb of mummies into submission, but with few places to hide we were quite thankful that there was a life-restoring checkpoint in the corner of the room– and with foes continually dropping in from the sarcophagi in the wall, we definitely needed it!
Of course, these checkpoints do mean Trine 2 leans toward the easy side of platforming, particularly since they revive your fallen characters too, but it’s surprisingly how keenly you feel their absence when one of your all-important abilities is no longer available when you come to certain puzzles. For instance, we came to a rather large pit at one point that, on the face of it, could only be crossed using our thief’s grapple hook. Unfortunately, we’d just lost our thief in the heat of battle and the checkpoint was on the other side of the gaping hole. We thought we were done for, but in the end it forced us to be a little more creative with our problem-solving, and in a stroke of genius we suddenly realised we could use our magician to magic up a few make-shift platforms for us instead. We had to balance two on either side of the pit, mind you, as we couldn’t make one long enough to act as a single bridge, but it’s moments like these that make you truly appreciate Trine 2‘s imaginative approach to level design. There’s never simply one way of doing things in this game, and there’s definitely a certain joy to be found in discovering its myriad of different solutions.
Not sure that tiny bow will make a dent in that scaly hide, but it’s worth a shot!
Likewise, the sense of scale Trine 2 manages to achieve by having such small character models in relation to the rest of the screen really drives home its aspiration to be a pure high-fantasy epic. Armoured dragons will tower over you, misty caves will completely engulf you, and creaking water-wheels will fill the entire screen as you chuck your knight’s hammer against crumbling rocks to open up the next pathway. It may not sound very important, but it all helps to make this rather linear platformer feel and stand much taller than the rest of its kind. With so much to draw the eye, it also encourages you to explore everything its varied landscapes have to offer, especially when you can guarantee there’ll be some valuable gems secreted away in its treasure-trove of hidden nooks and crannies, too.
In short, Trine 2: Director’s Cut looks like it’s shaping up to the jewel in Wii U’s eShop crown. The touch controls are responsive and incredibly intuitive, and the superb physics give the game a palpable authenticity as well. We haven’t seen the co-op mode in action yet, but we can safely say the single-player adventure is very impressive indeed, so make sure you stock up on those Wii U eShop points when the time comes. If eShop can continue to attract games of this caliber, then Wii U’s online future could be very bright indeed.