“Something mysterious and magical was taking place in the forest,” the narrator mutters at the start of Trine 2. That’s a vague observation, but an apt one. Something magical is happening, though Trine 2’s pliable physics-based challenges and enchantments owe more to Sir Isaac Newton than to Albus Dumbledore.
As with the first Trine, players switch off between three characters to solve a series of environmental puzzles. The robust knight specializes in mêlée combat and has a shield for protection, the nimble rogue can sling arrows and grapple across great distances, while the wizard is capable of conjuring boxes and planks, and telekinetically manipulating certain objects, Jedi-fashion.
Clever level design ensures that you have to take full advantage of each of the three’s abilities to the fullest. Solutions are malleable enough that there are multiple ways to complete most objectives. Can’t reach those vials of experience points? Levitate some boxes and knock them toward you. Need to reach a high ledge? Have the wizard stick a wooden crate onto spikes, then use it as a grapple point for the rogue. Certain secrets require you to purchase specific skills, but these can be reassigned at any time, ensuring nothing is off-limits.
The possibilities grow exponentially in co-op, where players divvy up their abilities between the three roles. In some ways, this makes the puzzles easier, since the wizard can often create makeshift platforms to chauffeur the other two players across chasms, but that leaves the wizard stranded, so all players must work together to craft a new solution. Less-patient gamers will appreciate the optional “unlimited mode,” where multiple players can occupy duplicates of the same character, and online multiplayer means you’re no longer tethered to the same screen, so one player can run ahead and hit the next checkpoint for the group. This makes brain-teasers easy to bypass, but those looking for challenges can insist on finding more elegant solutions.
Though Trine 2’s groundwork is primarily cerebral, it’s certainly no slouch artistically. Less sobering than the recent fantasy fare of Skyrim or Dark Souls, Trine 2 features extraordinarily lush, whimsical settings. Far more varied than its predecessor, the game winds through murky swamps, misty forests, moonlit castles, an eerie treehouse, and more. Though it relies on a typical fantasy framework, the environments are so detailed and beautiful that it’s a reminder why such locales became clichés in the first place.
The only bum note is that occasionally the controls can feel floaty and imprecise. It can be frustrating to correctly solve a puzzle, then find that janky physics makes it difficult to pull off. Thankfully, such occasions are rare, and just a wrinkle in an otherwise-majestic excursion. Like magic, Trine 2 bends to players’ will, accommodating solo adventurers and groups alike, with a multitude of solutions for both. Rarely have the cold laws of physics been so bewitching.