How would you sum up a typical children’s fantasy story? Perhaps words like whimsical, imaginative, and magical come to mind. For some reason, fairy tales have this strange ability to captivate the minds of not just children, but adults as well, because they bring out feelings of wonder and longing for adventure. Trine 2: Complete Story attempts to invoke these feelings with its colourful, detailed graphics, platforming and puzzle-solving gameplay, and a simple story based on classic fantasy lore. However, does the game fall victim to a lack of inspiration, or is it a fun journey with sublime qualities?
Our story begins with a cheerful narrator describing a group of three heroes bound together by a mysterious artifact called the Trine. The trio consists of Amadeus the wizard, Pontius the knight, and Zoya the thief. These characters, with their varying skills and personalities, must answer any call to action that the Trine gives them, and one night they’re summoned out of the blue once more to investigate a nearby forest, rampant with goblins and mysterious water with magical properties. But where did these things come from and why? That is up to the heroes to solve, and it will take them on an expedition of epic proportions.
You will easily realize that the game does not have a complex or original story. It draws themes from classic fantasy tales, but this doesn’t devalue the plot. In fact, it’s quite refreshing amid a slew of dark, serious, and convoluted releases. The story plays out like a fantasy book that you would read to children; it’s innocent, enchanting, well-paced, and actually contains a couple of decent plot twists. The omnipresent narrator, Terry Wilton, also adds a lot to this by summarizing the story and alluding to what’s to come at the end of each chapter as if he were reading a book. He does so with a light-hearted tone and makes humorous comments on the characters’ actions during gameplay, which results in a few smiles, as is the case with the fanciful story in general.
The graphics are surprising as well. For a 2011 game, you may expect this version on the PlayStation 4 to be a minor upgrade compared to its past iterations, but this assumption is erroneous. Running at a smooth 60 frames-per-second in 1080p resolution, the game is incredibly breathtaking to behold with its excellent lighting, rich colours, and sharp textures. This is further bolstered by its immaculate, varied environmental design and scope, which exceeds that of your average puzzle platforming game. Each area looks interesting, and this is especially true with the backdrops and implementation of the 3D graphics. Most platformer games focus on remaining fairly 2D in perspective and ignore reality in terms of how bizarre their levels would look if they were presented from a different view. Trine 2 addresses this problem with backgrounds that showcase mountainous ranges, cascading waterfalls, and dark hallways that look as if you could run towards them. In other words, despite the fact that you can only go left and right, there is a sense of depth, openness, and dimension to the levels and environments that brings them to life. All in all, these things make it a visually striking and awe-inspiring title that few other competitors in its category achieve.
To an extent, the same can be said for the sound effects and music, which also exhibit high quality and creativity. Environments have believable ambience with insects chirping and water flowing in the forest, and wind howling and thunder echoing through the craggy reefs of a stormy beach. Weapons make appropriate clashes, clangs, and pings in battle, and objects react to each other with realistic sounds. There’s nothing to complain about here, and the soundtrack has no downside either. It matches the tone of the game with a full orchestra playing lively, upbeat, fun songs to accompany the gameplay, whether you're solving a puzzle or fighting a group of goblins.
Speaking of the gameplay, it’s enjoyable in various ways, but isn’t necessarily the highlight of the package. Playing as three heroes – which you can switch between in an instant in single player – provides interesting scenarios for puzzle solving, platforming, and combat. The wizard can levitate and create objects; the knight sports a sword, hammer, and shield; and the thief uses a grappling hook in addition to her bow and arrows. You can also use a skill tree to upgrade them with new powers and improved abilities via the acquisition of skill points. Indeed, the characters serve different purposes, and figuring out how to use their unique talents to approach the cleverly designed platforming and puzzle sections results in a challenging, rewarding experience. While the combat itself is solid, though, it’s the weakest part of the gameplay, which – after learning the ropes – becomes simplistic and a little repetitive over time. However, it does attempt to fend off this feeling with smart implementation of the DualShock 4’s touchpad. For example, instead of using the right analog stick to move an object in the air as the wizard, you can instead do this by moving a finger across the touchpad to place the block in its desired location.
Another frustrating aspect is how fiddly the game can be at times. We figured out a few puzzles in an instant, but spent several minutes actually executing them to the title's exacting standards. Jumping can be difficult as well, sometimes requiring the utmost accuracy and precision. Despite this and the middling combat, however, the clever design and well-balanced difficulty of the puzzles and platforming outweigh these minor gripes.
Lastly, while the main story has a substantial length of seven to ten hours, there is good reason to return to the game for more. The DLC 'Goblin Menace' adds another three to four hours of gameplay and is definitely worth your time. It boasts the same high quality as the main campaign in every respect, even exceeding it in terms of more beautiful environments and slightly advanced gameplay. It doesn’t feel like an add-on, but a natural extension of the game. There is a secret level as well called 'The Dwarven Caverns' that’s unlocked once you obtain all of the golden treasure chests. Furthermore, there is also the option to play multiplayer with up to three players online or on the same screen, opening up the opportunity to approach the game in an excitingly different way.
Trine 2: Complete Story is an impressive realisation of a magical and whimsical tale that you can see and play. The plot is innocent fun; the graphics, colourful environments, and audio are unbelievably captivating; and the gameplay, while falling short in minor areas, shines with excellent puzzles and platforming. Simply put, it's an exemplary indie game that has the makings of a blockbuster title – and that is no fairy tale.