- The Washington Times - Saturday, January 7, 2012

A sequel to a popular 2009 side-scrolling adventure arrives for download in Trine 2 (Atlus and Frozenbyte, reviewed for Xbox 360, rated E10+, 1,200 Microsoft points or $14.99) and takes players bound by an ancient relic back on a fantastical quest within three-dimensional realms.

Imagine a fairytale painting come to life resembling the work of artisans such as the Hildebrandt Brothers or Charles Vess. A rich world awaits thrill seekers controlling a hero’s 2D movements amidst some deep and colorful locations.

The three primary characters are back — Amadeus the Wizard, Pontius the Knight and Zoya the Thief — each bringing a particular strength to the fellowship.

First, the wizard can conjure up large, intricately designed boxes (brass with moving gears no less) and planks to stand on or use as weights and levitate objects and creatures.

Next, the warrior wields an easily controllable shield to protect as well as swings a sword and hammer to attack.

Finally, a bow-wielding female rogue uses her grappling hook to swing to hard-to-reach places and shoots arrows to stop enemies and knock down objects.

The story finds this power trio teleported to a new land wrought with dangers as they work together to save a kingdom.

Each locale visited comes loaded with environmental, platforming and physics-based puzzles to either escape or collect rewards (skill points and glowing orbs) and occasionally includes attacks from enemies.

The beauty of Trine 2 not only lies in the visuals, but the brain power exercised to solve the conundrums often by manipulating such elements as air, water and fire in tandem with available objects to reach a result.

For example, early on, I was tasked with climbing spiked walls to grab some goodies and a treasure chest. I had Amadeus position a crate in the region to stand on, conjured a wooden box to lay on the crate to stand on and another to levitate and stick to one of the spiked walls. I switched to the more acrobatic thief (during solo play, one character is on screen at a time) and had her jump to the top of the box and on to the shorter cliff. Then the box had to be stuck against the other spiked wall with another jump to finally reach the top of the area.

Or, I needed to accelerate the growth of a large plant to use its leaves to climb up. I had Amadeus conjure and move two crates into position near a flowing water source. I then moved a part of an irrigation trough on the crates to direct the flow and feed the plant.

Success in missions leads to upgrading a character’s powers through a point system that ranges from allowing Pontius to throw his hammer to Amadeus conjuring three crates or Zoya using explosive arrows.

Amidst the workload, beautiful design is commonplace. Shafts of light glisten on waterways. A rush of liquid will bounce off of a shield or giant plants. Swamp gas bubbles rise for use as transportation or giant mushrooms act as trampolines, and a myriad of greens and creeping vines move through forests while shades of red and pinks of castles offset the scenery in the distance.

Of course, the action is just not cerebral in Trine 2. Within this fantasyland, evil lurks in the form of aggressive goblins, ugly trolls, fire-spitting plants, poisonous serpents and large spiders, to name a few foes.

Although a solo player will control a single hero on the screen and easily swap them at will depending on the problem, one of the series staples also returns with local and online, three-person cooperative game play.

Each player takes a character and finds a completely fresh perspective to solve the environmental puzzles via a team, or a new Unlimited Mode allows three of the same characters on the screen to conquer the world (imagine three wizards levitating boxes each stands upon).

Trine 2 offers some exceptional game play situated in visual splendor. It’s one of the prettiest games I have seen on Xbox Live and should be savored like a visit to an art museum rather than simply a slick side-scrolling platformer.

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