It seems that the only Wii U titles I’ve played so far are ports of games that have appeared on other platforms. Some of them fare quite well, while others are missing some of the magic that makes them shine elsewhere. Trine 2 from Frozenbyte is largely in the former camp, offering up gorgeous visuals, a fantastic soundtrack and voice acting and clever puzzles. Physics are a key component of the affair, and while they make for largely interesting play, they also cause some of the most significant issues in the experience.

Trine 2 picks up some time after the events of the original game. The charming characters all return with the same tricks up their sleeves.

Amadeus the Wizard can levitate objects and create boxes out of thin air. Zoya the Thief can use her bow, enchanted arrows and grappling hook to reach out of the way places and take on foes from a distance. Pontius the Knight is the heavy hitter and best suited to take on the beasts and baddies in the trio’s path.

The Director’s Cut of Trine 2 released on the Wii U’s eShop alongside the console’s launch includes the Goblin Menace DLC, which adds abilities and six levels to the game’s original 13 stages. A Wii U exclusive level makes it an even 20, but gaining access to the Dwarven Caverns is tricky. You’ll need to find 10 map pieces in hidden treasure chests in order to gain entry. This makes for quite the lengthy adventure (10+ hours), and well worth the $20 price of admission. The entire experience is charming, with just the right amount of humor via the narration and character dialog.

The cooperative options have made the jump from the other platforms, and should you grow tired of adventuring alone, you can pull in a friend or two via local or online play. This is extremely helpful, given some of the finicky physics involved. My greatest frustrations with the game came from puzzles requiring me to prop things up or jam gears. These never seemed to work correctly, and I spent far too long trying to make these work within the confines of the game’s rules.

There are ways to cheat the game and save yourself a great deal of frustration, but it just feels wrong to have to resort to these tricks. There are ways to overcome the prohibition on self-levitation, and using local co-op to bypass puzzles is certainly an option. Many of the game’s challenges can be solved with smart placement of Amadeus’ blocks, making a focus on upgrading those skills a priority.

Experience is handled through collection of flasks and orbs. Some are dropped by enemies, but many are littered throughout the environment.

Every 50 acquired yield a skill point that can be used to purchase a new ability. It’s one of the many smart systems in place.

Another of the game’s brilliant inclusions are the checkpoints. While the concept isn’t new, the way Trine 2 approaches it saves a great deal of frustration. Each time you reach one, all three of the characters are brought back to full health, even if they were knocked out. You can revisit checkpoints as many times as you need to. This keeps the action moving forward. Frozenbyte placed a great deal of emphasis on trial and error, and this simple decision prevents injury from enemies or hazards from becoming too much of a hindrance.

You’ll need to rotate through the trio regularly, which makes it frustrating that they can only be cycled in one direction. On the PC, they are assigned to buttons 1, 2 and 3. On the Gamepad, the R button switches the active character. The console controller has its pros and cons. For maneuvering through the environment, the thumbsticks are a boon. For Amadeus’s skills and Zoya’s grappling hook though, I found moving the cursor to be cumbersome. I greatly disliked using the added touchscreen gimmicks for firing the hook or pulling switches. They are unnecessary and didn’t add anything to my enjoyment. Thankfully, they can also be ignored.

I also had some issues with the way Zoya’s grappling hook is handled. Climbing up and down weren’t a problem, but swinging was a bit challenging, and I never felt like I had the depth of control I was looking for. I also wish that there were a way to get her to climb onto the platform from which she was swinging. Instead, I needed to jump and try to land on it or grab on and pull myself up. It was far more difficult than it needed to be.

Control problems and touchy physics aside, I couldn’t help but keep coming back to Trine 2. The game feels like a moving story book with backdrops that appear hand painted. I was reminded of the smart 2D foreground and background layering found in Super Nintendo titles, which gave me a sense of nostalgia. We don’t see that much anymore, and the effect is always one I have adored. The variety of environments is fantastic, with mystical forests filled with oversized creatures looking just as good as the swamps, caverns and deserts.

The music reminded me greatly of the Fable soundtrack. Despite my waning enjoyment of Lionhead’s series, the music has always been one of its strongest features. Ari Pulkkinen might not be a household name like Martin O’Donnell, Jack Wall or Jesper Kyd, but you have no doubt heard his work. He’s the artist responsible for the Angry Birds theme. If you’re surprised, head on over to his website and listen to them side-by-side. It will become obvious very quickly.

Trine 2 is an absolutely gorgeous and enchanting adventure that is spotted only by overly aggressive physics and occasionally obtuse controls. There aren’t many titles like it, especially since the term “physics puzzler” immediately calls to mind gems like Portal and Quantum Conundrum. There are lessons that Frozenbyte can learn and steps they can take to improve the flow should they decide to make this a trilogy. With a name like Trine, how could they not? Still, this is a title absolutely worth playing, shining brighter than some of the boxed retail titles available for the Wii U launch.

 

Here’s the Rundown:

+ Enchanting visuals and soundtrack
+ Puzzles are largely well-crafted
+ Good sense of progression, with each investment of skill points making a difference
- The physics can sometimes get in the way of enjoyment
- Controls aren’t always entirely cooperative
- Why can’t I climb to the top of Zoya’s grappling hook? 

7 and 7.5 represent a game that overall manages to be worth a playthrough, just not worth the full price at launch. These scores are for games that are relatively good or even really good, but generally worth waiting for a sale or picking up as a rental when possible.

Trine 2 was developed and published by Frozenbyte. It was released on the Wii U on November 18, 2012, at the MSRP of $20. A copy was provided by the publisher to RipTen for the purposes of review.