Friday, March 25, 2016

Trine 2

Oh, what's this crap, the heroes have names now? They didn't need names, they're universal RPG archetypes. To think I offered the original Trine as the positive counterpoint to Defense Grid 2's stupidly overwrought backstory. Worse, every fan and review site seems to be going along with the retconning, but if any of the three heroes were named in the first Trine, I sure as hell don't remember it being mentioned.

Anyway, the original Trine won some well-deserved fame for revitalizing one of the oldest video game genres since games acquired video. Trine 3 on the other hand I've heard described as a flop, with players complaining of its sort length, suggesting developer effort sank into something other than gameplay. Perhaps they forgot that video games are not just videos? Certainly while playing Trine 2 one can spot the creeping Hollywood envy worming its way into the series' basic concept.

Aesthetically, Trine 2 comes across as more of a kids' game than the original. Instead of a nostalgic throwback to games' fantasy basics of decades past (the archetypal fighter / thief / mage and undead as all-purpose boogeymen) it tries to address an audience too young to realize how tired such tropes have become, and in losing that sardonic ribbing manages to lose almost all the charm of the original's dialogue. Luckily the expanded array of visuals manage to make you forget the insulting expectation that you'll be surprised at the shocking plot twist that the witch wearing black is the wicked one.
Now that is freakin' lush. And, as should happen, much of the eye-candy in Trine 2 proves edible to boot. Watering plants and riding air-blowers, among other new interactable elements, add some good variety to the puzzles. Unfortunately, here I must protest that the puzzles feel a bit too much like puzzles. By removing a great deal of the player-controlled environment interaction (like the wizard's pyramid, plus much fewer wooden boards to grapple for the thief) Trine 2 lost much of its flow. Instead of a more or less continuous adventure it got bogged down in sequential puzzles in which you're obviously being pushed toward executing the one right sequence of jumps. Not only that but some abilities like the knight's hammer throw end up being simple gimmies. You invest in hammer throw to break open experience boxes which simply cannot be opened otherwise. No synergy. No variation.

As always, simplification and hand-outs go hand in hand with the removal of resource management, so it's little surprise that mana pools also disappeared.

The two boss fights (especially that utterly retarded dragon fight) resolved to very disappointing clickfests in which the carefully timed acrobatics and environment interaction on which the entire game is based were almost completely removed in favor of brainless twitchy pew-pew. Don't ask me where game designers got this idiotic notion that an ending, instead of being a culmination of their product's features, should be some pared-down, bare-bones caricature of only one gameplay gimmick.

Though still fun overall, Trine 2 was obviously already heading down the mass-market sinkhole. Collectible paintings I would assume were outright dictated by Valve and not Frozenbyte, since they had nothing whatsoever to do with the game and everything with achievement unlocks. More funding was poured into cutscenes and cinematics which add nothing to the game experience as a whole, trying to glitz in the nine-year-olds. As always the degradation of ideas also brought along some predictable pandering to political correctness, especially feminist propaganda.

The knight is no longer a dumb jock because we're not supposed to acknowledge that blatant association of dumbness with jockness (though amusingly, he is dumber than ever in the sense of having almost no lines) and the wizard has become such a sniveling, spineless little twerp that he could be pulled out of any anti-intellectual sitcom trope. Someone felt the need to punish him for his womanizing, so now he's a family man who, when in danger of getting torn apart by goblins, is only worried about worrying his wife. The thief, who already got the only non-satirical ending in the original Trine, has now somehow morphed into the ultimate moral authority, talking back at the narrator, popping up as the default character on the opening screen, rolling her eyes at the dumb males' dumb gullibility 'cuz boys are dumb, wagging her finger at the wizard's thought crime for noticing a woman other than his domineering wife and just generally having no flaws whatsoever, because we all know that sugar and spice and everything bullshit.

Look, I get you spineless pixel-jockeys didn't want to become victims of the latest feminist lynch-mob but for the love of frontal lobes, how much politically correct pandering did you need to cram into a damn sidescroller?

P.S.: When riding the air-blowers, the wizard should totally have done the Seven Year Itch thing with his robe.

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