It’s always a strange occurrence when the sequel to a hit game becomes available to a new community of gamers, especially when those gamers might have no prior knowledge of the series. Trine 2: Director’s Cut is not only one of the first games available on the Wii U eShop, but it's also the first iteration of the Trine universe available on a Nintendo console. Fortunately for Nintendo fans everywhere, this game does harken back to the original, but it also provides enough information to welcome newcomers to the series as well.
Trine 2 tells the tale of three unlikely heroes — Amadeus, a wizard who can conjure and move objects, Pontius, a strong armed knight, and Zoya, a nimble thief — who must team up to save the kingdom in which they live by ridding it of evil. It may not be the strongest or most original plot, but it provides the necessary framework to establish the fantasy realm in which the characters live. As you venture further into their world, new elements of the plot are gradually revealed through objects such as poems and paintings that can be found in game.
In essence, Trine 2 is a physics-based puzzle platformer with some hack and slash action sprinkled in-between. The game calls for you to find an equal balance between your characters’ skills and abilities, many of which can be upgraded and expanded as you venture forth, but this isn't always as necessary as it might seem. Because the puzzles mostly revolve around physics, a lot of them simply come down to getting to the other side of a high wall, or finding a way to keep a gate open long enough to pass through. While there may be a “proper” way to solve most of the puzzles that get thrown at you, a lot of them can simply be completed through sheer force of will or continuous trial and error, completely removing any thought process that might otherwise be necessary to finish a particular challenge. Simply put, rather than working with the environment to reach a high spot, sometimes it’s much easier to just create some boxes and climb up yourself.
Though the campaign can be completed in under 15 hours, there are plenty of pieces of hidden art and other collectables to find along your way, ensuring replayability for the treasure hunters and completionists among us. Also, due to the nature of the game, replayability can be found in the simple fact that most of the puzzles can be cracked in a number of different ways. Consecutive plays through could result in completely different techniques and solutions.
From its immersive and hyper-detailed environments to the sweeping emotional soundtrack, Trine 2 is a thing of beauty. It’s rare to find a game in which every single setting that you encounter will give you pause because of how stunningly gorgeous it is, but that’s exactly the case here. It’s clear that art direction was important to the team behind this, and they've absolutely outdone themselves by creating a captivating world that perfectly fits the tone of their game. Even when playing entirely on the GamePad screen everything still looks crisp, albeit scaled down.
The unfortunate reality of it all is that not all diamonds are without their blemishes, and if as much care was put into the controls as was put into the aesthetics, this game would be a masterpiece. Trine 2’s biggest shortcoming is that the control scheme native to the Wii U GamePad takes quite a bit of getting used to, and it really hinders the entire experience. Rather than utilizing the GamePad's face buttons, most of the primary controls are linked to the L and R triggers. This wouldn't be too much of an encumbrance except that your character selection button is very easily confused with your primary action button, often resulting in unwanted and frustrating effects. Because much of the game is based around puzzles rather than fast-paced conflict, usually this is more of an annoyance than a game-breaking flaw, but when you’re in the middle of a tight scuffle with a horde of goblins, pressing the wrong button could be a matter of life or death. It should also be noted that there isn't an option to customize your controls, so you have to work with what you’re given. The good news is that many of your actions, such as shooting Zoya's arrows or moving objects as Amadeus, can alternatively be performed on the GamePad's touchscreen, making these much easier to control.
The issue of controls is also a problem for anyone hoping for some local co-op play. The thought of you and two of your friends controlling the entire team at once may be enticing, but the button mapping for the Wii Remote and Nunchuk combination is just as confusing as it is on the GamePad, without the saving-grace of the touchscreen. There’s also the option to play cooperatively with other Wii U gamers online, allowing you to drop in on another player’s game or host one of your own. The lack of voice chat during online play is a sad exclusion, especially because of how pivotal teamwork is to the experience, but the service works very well nonetheless.
Aesthetically speaking, Trine 2: Director’s Cut borders on perfection and deserves nothing less than to be framed and mounted, but the unfortunate news is that this quality does not permeate the game as a whole. Uncomfortable controls and puzzles that don’t actually adhere to sensible solutions, but instead allow you to force your own answer on them, mar the experience and slow the game down in a significant way. It’s not likely that this release will win new fans to the genre, but anyone who already enjoys physics-based puzzle platformers will definitely want to check this one out. Or maybe everyone should just buy this game simply to look at the environments. Have we mentioned how good it all looks?