Twee platformers have been a thing for years and years now. Trine in particular takes after the twee-est thing to ever exist: LittleBigPlanet or The Next Big Thing, as it’s development codename confidently stated.
Now clearly, a game about little sack people jumping around a cardboard cutout boss and kid friendly almost to a fault could not be murderous, right? Right. Unless you intended to get the Play trophy, which required you to no damage run every last level. And keep in mind, the physics and general buggyness of Little Big Planet worked against it. Frequently.
As a game, Trine 2 follows many of the same guidelines. Beautiful environments the developers must be really proud of, and because the camera’s pulled all the way back, you can constantly rub your eyes against the beauty of it, a floaty jump, mostly platforming gameplay and the odd puzzle here and there. Trine 2 implements more gameplay variety, with three playable characters with their own style, and actual combat in it.
All in all, Trine 2 is Little Big Planet, but more of it. It’s a weird case of a spiritual successor with no developer overlap. Regardless, it has enjoyed quite a successful run on Steam and Humble Bundle.
You see, the devil’s in the details, and Trine 2 can be quite a relaxing experience. A perfect game “To play with your kids or girlfriend”, almost to a fault, where dying is almost impossible so long as there’s a checkpoint nearby, and characters can take hits like a loaf of twelve day old bread.
Hard mode kills you in two hits. Fair enough, as long as there’s a checkpoint. However…
Hardcore removes the ability to infinitely respawn from one checkpoint. And this is where things get messy. The game’s pretty much not designed to handle the difficulty, with the way too far away camera screwing things up frequently, and goblins being fast and sturdy, on top of everyone dying in two shots.
… And that’s what makes it a rush.
Good use of abilities becomes necessary, and even seasoned veterans will find themselves dying to stuff occasionally. Carefully inching forward with a raised shield becomes the norm, and the game is tenser than Dark Souls on cycle 7 by then. Enemies sometimes can even combo projectiles, and they’re just normal spears with no shine or tell to them. So you’re playing spot the not particularly obvious object in a huge background a lot of the time.
While all characters can jump very high, it’s not a great defensive manoeuvre when there are multiple projectiles in the air. Gone is the valiantly charging into the thick of things with the knight from Normal difficulty.
Oh no, that will get you pancaked faster than a road roller would. Hard and Hardcore runs are all about defense or slipping past enemies, using an ability to slow down everything in a bubble, stealth, and quickly drawing boxes around enemies with your mouse so they’re caged.
Pontius, the knight, is actually forced to melee with no usable projectiles. So from being the best character in the game, he quickly becomes simply that button you press to block. Trine 2 on Normal and Trine 2 on Hard+Hardcore are basically two completely different games.
One about having fun and exploring the environment with mildly threatening enemies. And the other about scraping to survive against completely overwhelming odds.
But combat’s not all! Trine 2 also has the classic pits of instant death, although not seen as often as other platformers. While jumping is the least challenging part of the game, some cheeky spikes, lava pits and/or explosive barrels can end your hardcore run early quite often.
Spotting spikes can be as hard as spotting a flying spear in the middle of a crowded fight, again not in small part due to the permanent scenic wide lens shot the game religiously sticks to.
Trine does a lot of gameplay and story integration, and the main trio is certainly stronger while they’re all together. Lose even one, and you’ll feel it in the depths of your soul. Nothing really says high stakes like trying to sneak past a group of pissed off goblins with the thief on your last hitpoint when you’re close to beating that god damn Searock Castle level.
If you want bosses, Trine 2 certainly has those. It’s mostly the same boss, a big Goblin with a big stick. Not intimidating enough, maybe, but it can kill you in one shot. One of them can even throw fireballs by smashing the ground. These points in the game are some of the most tense experiences you can get in any video game anywhere. The unstoppable Goblin army in Trine 2’s Hard+Hardcore mode might be one of the most threatening enemy forces in any video game.
Even if Trine 2 is not a recent game, it’s one I find myself going back to at times. Mostly to play it with new friends, but sometimes just for myself. This is just a reminder that if you’ve bought Humble Bundles at any point in the last 4 or so years, you probably have it. Whether Hard+Hardcore are for you or not, I can definitely recommend you to check it out.