Below is an excerpt from a review of Trine 2 I recently wrote. The full review (along with screenshots and many more words) can be viewed at Cheesetalks.twolofbees.com
If somebody told me six months ago that I'd ever play a game as beautiful as Trine, I would have scoffed, and yet here I am, playing its sequel - a game that takes its astoundingly high production values and raises the bar to unimaginable new heights.
So, for anybody who is unaware, Trine 2 is the sequel to Finnish developer Frozenbyte's 2009 side-scrolling fantasy puzzle platformer, which refines and continues to build what I suppose I should be calling the "Trine franchise". All the majesty of Trine is present, though there are a few changes that are definitely worth giving attention to.
Visually, Trine 2 is a huge step beyond Trine's already stunning environments, with a big emphasis on further meshing foregrounds and backgrounds with the play area (something that, though nicely executed in Trine, has been dramatically improved), with streams and ponds that organically stretch off into the unused axis, fantastic lighting that de-emphasises the two dimensional play area, and enemies that clamber across the foreground foliage to reach you or jump out from behind rubble in the background. The game's 3D models are gorgeous, and the new enemies and giant creatures have let Frozenbyte's animation talent shine.
There are a number of new puzzle elements that help give flavour to specific areas and provide new combinations throughout the game's increased length. The most dynamic of these are pipes, which can carry air (that can be used to float players and boxes, as well as create bubbles), fire (that can be used to damage things and boil water), or lava (which is generally liquid death, but can also melt ice). The introduction of bi-directional portals dramatically increases the versatility of other puzzle elements, and there's also an interesting mechanic which requires players to direct or carry water.
Combat has a very different feel as well. The first thing noticeable is that there are no skeletons (much to Mim's dismay). There are also a broader range of enemy types with different behaviours, leading to more varied and dynamic combat. This combined with the tendency for enemies to jump out from behind things tends to make encounters a lot less predictable than they were in Trine, where skeletons would either be placed in visible locations on the level, or spawn from very obvious glowing circles on the ground. The lack of predictability leads combat to be more reactionary and less tactical, making enemies feel less like puzzle elements than they did in the first game (this is not a big loss though, as Trine 2's cast of giant creatures are used to fill the role of dynamic puzzle elements to great effect).
Moving onto multiplayer gameplay, network support opens up co-operative play to a much broader range of people, allowing me to play a few levels with friends on the opposite side of the globe. In addition to the "classic" multiplayer mode, where only one of each character can be used by any player at any time, Trine 2 has an "unlimited" mode, which allows players to become any of the characters independently of other players (as one would in a single player game).
All in all, Trine 2 is a fantastic game. It not only raises the bar well above Trine's originally high standard of presentation and charm, which alone is a massive feat, but also manages to do it for the duration of a much longer game. There are aspects of improved flow that seem to have lessened the impact and reward of individual puzzles, but the game as a whole is still fulfilling and ultimately, more seamless for it.
Don't forget, you can read the full review (and my review of Trine 1) at Cheesetalks.twolofbees.com