Has-Been Heroes Review (Switch/PS4/X1/PC): “Still-Are Heroes”

Has-Been Heroes is the latest title from developer Frozenbyte, known for their Trine series. This new title is a unique strategy RPG in the market with rogue-like elements. Are these heroes worth joining?

Gameplay: 3/5

Has-Been Heroes is unlike any other game in the genre. You start off the game with a bit of exposition, laying out the ground work of who these heroes are, and what has become of them. These old, tired heroes are tasked with one last quest: to escort the king’s daughters to school…and man, what a treacherous path it is to this school! That’s as much exposition as you’ll get, and that’s honestly fine since it’s enough to get the game going.

Has-Been Heroes is not your typical RPG, and thankfully provides you with a proper tutorial to have you understand the intricate mechanics. When starting an area, you will use the right analog stick to choose a location to go to from the map. Highlighting the area next to you will show if it contains a battle, has a merchant to buy things from, has treasure chests, or may be empty so you can just safely pass by.

Battle mechanics are very engaging. When in battle, your characters are always moving, as are the enemies. You will have to press the button that corresponds with the character you’d like to attack with (X, Y, or B), and once chosen, you will attack with the A button. Each character will have to wait before attacking again, and they each vary with cooldown timers. More integral to survival is understanding the stamina mechanics. Enemies not only have health (indicated by the red bar next to them), but stamina boxes as well (indicated as green boxes next to their health). Stamina basically works as a shield before you can chip away at their health bar. If you chip away their stamina enough to stun them, and then give them a quick attack afterwards, you will knock down their stamina capacity, making it easier to stun them the next time you attack them. Stamina does build back for enemies after attacking them, so knocking down their stamina gauge is absolutely pivotal to victory.

The same applies for your characters as well. They each have a specific amount of stamina and health that you’ll need to keep an eye on. Naturally, the knight is like a tank and can withstand the most damage. The elder monk is fairly weak, but is utilized more as a knockback character. The young rogue character has speed in her attacks and can dish out more hits in a combo. On top of this, each character has a spell that can be summoned. Spells all vary on whether they’re elemental or not, passive or aggressive, and ultimately can change the course of battle if utilized right. Combat can (and will) get very overwhelming and thankfully you can pause the time so you can carefully plot your attacks across the three lanes of battle.

So here is the thing about Has-Been Heroes: It’s difficult…insanely difficult actually. Demon’s Souls, Dark Souls, Bloodborne, Nioh…you’ve heard of those games by now for their high difficulty (all of which I’ve beaten for the record). Has-Been Heroes’ difficulty is a whole new breed though. This is where gameplay experiences will vary among players. If you like your games to be easy and a walk-in-the-park, well this may not be your cup of tea. If you welcome a challenge, then Has-Been Heroes will certainly do so. All it takes is for you to get frazzled and overwhelmed in combat to quickly fall to your demise. If a single hero dies, it’s game over. No continues, no checkpoints. After all, this is a rogue-like game.

Now, Has-Been Heroes has some issues that hurt the gameplay a bit. First off, the game has a feature where the camera zooms in with certain attacks. This is nice and all, but the problem I had was that the game would glitch and the zoomed-in camera would be stuck, leaving me with no view of the battle. This happened twice during boss battles and resorted to my characters dying. Thankfully, this camera feature can be shut off in the options menu, but it’s still something that needs to be addressed. Secondly, the game’s difficulty, while more than welcome for this reviewer, feels unbalanced at times. There were times where I was able to blast through both regular battles and boss battles, and there were other times where I would falter at the first regular battle due to an absurd amount of enemies randomly generated. Boss battles are also an exercise in frustration, as some of them throw far too many enemies into the mix, making it inevitable for your characters to meet their doom. Also, it would’ve been a great feature to be able to choose a spell loadout based on the spells acquired in each playthrough. Instead, you will have to randomly come across spells at each merchant and hope for the best. Ultimately, it just feels like there are numerous times where the game relies on luck, regardless of how skilled you are at it.

Issues aside though, there’s no denying the amount of enjoyment I had playing this game. The gameplay was addictive, and no matter how many times I died, I always found myself coming back for more.

Graphics: 4/5

Visually, Has-Been Heroes is a more simplistic approach from the developer’s previous Trine series. At first glance it may appear like a mobile title, but don’t let that dismiss you. What we are treated with here are nicely drawn environments and characters, each with their own unique animations. The game does run at a solid 60 fps and the overall aesthetic is very crisp. The main gripe is the text font when playing on the TV. While on the Switch screen it’s easy to read, it’s pretty tiny on the TV. Despite that though, the overall game is easy on the eyes and quite vibrant (which is expected from the team that made the visually stunning Trine games).

Sound: 4/5

The audio design is incredibly well done in Has-Been Heroes. Outside of the narrator, characters have minimal voice acting, but what is here is completely fine. Sound effects are strong and capture the intensity of battles. When entering a level, the narrator actually sounds almost reminiscent of that from the Gauntlet games. The majestic score is great here as well. Whether advancing through the land, in combat, at merchants, or the spell gambler, the tunes all fit the setting superbly. I found myself really getting into the soundtrack and humming it outside of playing the game.

Replay Value: 5/5

For the $20 price tag, there is an insane amount of content and unlockables to be found here. Has-Been Heroes contains 10 different endings, a ton of additional characters to unlock and play as, and countless spells and enemies to discover. As mentioned in the gameplay segment, this is a game that was very addictive no matter how difficult it was. The Switch version in particular really shines in this department, as it is a perfectly suited game to have on-the-go. There’s a lot of bang for your buck here and it will keep you coming back for a long time.

Overall Score: 16/20 = 8.0 out of 10

Has-Been Heroes may seem like a simple, mobile style game from first glance, but what’s here is an incredibly difficult, yet very rewarding game. The engaging combat system, crisp visual art style, strong audio and plethora of content makes Has-Been Heroes a great package for the asking price. Again, this game may not be for everyone. Even with its unbalanced difficulty curves, it never discouraged me from trying again repeatedly. For those who do appreciate the challenge and invest the time into it, there’s a very deep game overall that will have you coming back for quite some time.

Second Opinion
Written By Karl Upman

From the developers of the Trine series comes a very different, very new experience. Has-Been Heroes tells the tale of old, retired heroes who really shouldn’t be put in charge of guarding anything but their own front lawns. But nonetheless here we are, guiding our time-worn travelers through treacherous terrains. Accompanied by a third member of the group, an aspiring heroine, the unlikely lot set out to deliver the king’s two daughters to…school. If that doesn’t set the precedent for the game, I don’t know what will. Has-Been Heroes is set up to be funny, and in many cases it succeeds! However, the amount of laughter quickly died out for me because I kept…well…dying.

Has-Been Heroes is a rouge-like, strategy, dark souls-esque game where you have a starting and end point, and in between are procedurally generated pathways and “rooms”. I tend to like this set up; give me a dungeon with areas to explore and I’ll be content for hours. But this is a different formula and the key to enjoying it comes down to one thing – luck. In my first two hours of the game, I couldn’t beat a single enemy encounter. It was only after playing for a bit longer and really understanding the mechanics that I realized I had been totally getting screwed over! I was getting loads of enemies thrown at me when I had no clue what was going on and I was expected to just learn. After a few frustrating attempts at making progress, I finally faced a relatively easy mob, only two handfuls of enemies compared to the waves upon waves I had faced before. This allowed me to finally learn the mechanics and progress… until of course I was overwhelmed time-after-time again.

I don’t mind the mechanics of battling in Has-Been Heroes, it’s unique, clever and requires a lot of planning – which the developers clearly recognized since you can pause the game to think of your next move at almost any time. What it comes down to is the consistent “enjoy-ability” of it. From the start, you’re incredibly overwhelmed with just the system alone, but you’re treated as though you’ve been playing it for weeks right when you jump in! It also would have been nice to get some recognition for making any progress at all, but the unlocks you get are seemingly useless other than to learn what you may or may not pick up in a future adventure. This was partially beneficial however, because the text is incredibly small and smooshed together, I could barely read anything during a playthrough. I did manage to defeat the first world boss once, and naturally was thrown into an impossibly difficult first battle in the next playthrough – so back to square one! Personally, I don’t get much out of games where your only goal is to see how well you can make it through an ever-changing labyrinth of suffering and frustration, only to walk it out with some new text to read.

That being said, I did take a few things away from Has-Been Heroes. The art style was playful and stimulating, and the music was a great balance of intense and out-of-the-way, allowing you to really focus on what was going on. When I could read the dialogue (playing in handheld mode on the Switch), I found the humor quite enjoyable. Although after dying so many times, it did tend to get repetitive.

I think some people will find satisfaction in Has-Been Heroes, but it’s definitely not just a game you can jump into and expect to enjoy – you’ll need to work at it and appreciate it for what it is: a rouge-like dungeon crawler that hands out dull consolation prizes and wants you to die…a lot.

Second Opinion Final Score: 6.5/10

 

 

A special thank you to the publisher for providing us a review copy for Has-Been Heroes! Copy reviewed on Nintendo Switch.

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Has-Been Heroes Interview: Switch Development “a lot smoother” than Wii U

We had the opportunity to interview Kai over at Frozenbyte about their upcoming release, Has-Been Heroes. In this interview, Kai was able to share their experiences developing for the Switch, what kind of game Has-Been Heroes is, some tips about the game, if the Trine characters would appear, and much more.

Marcello: First off, thank you for taking the time to answer some questions about Has-Been Heroes! Let’s begin with the game’s origins. How did you guys first think of the idea for this game?

Kai: We went with a team-based approach for this, so we initially had a small group that we put together who just wanted to make something totally different from our other games. They had a challenging game in mind, and the roguelike elements started fitting into place very early on. At one point after a few prototypes we really had something click and the gameplay started feeling really addictive.

The story and characters were pretty similar throughout the development, but naturally evolved a bit to the current humoristic setting as we refined the concept. So now we have the old, retired Has-Been Heroes that are sent to take the king’s daughters to school!

Marcello: How long has the game been in development for?

Kai: We started development around 2.5 years ago.

Marcello: Now this game is releasing on multiple platforms, but clearly the Switch version is the one most are intrigued about seeing since it’s in the console’s launch window. What has it been like developing for the Nintendo Switch? Any comparisons to the Wii U when you guys brought Trine to that platform?

Kai: Switch has been a real pleasure to work with, no complaints at all. Nintendo has really learned a lot from the Wii U times and developing for the Switch has been a lot smoother. They’ve changed around a lot of things, and really thought of the whole process from a developer standpoint. Our programmers have loved it.

Marcello: Does this game have any form of co-op multiplayer? It seems like it can get really intense!

Kai: No multiplayer, Has-Been Heroes is single-player only. But with a game like this where every move and decision with items/spells matters, there’s a lot of room for people to shout instructions from the back 🙂

Marcello: The game’s art-style is certainly a departure from that of the Trine series, but it certainly has a clean, smooth art-style nonetheless. How did you guys decide on the game’s art direction?

Kai: The drawn 2D style was something we had in mind from the beginning for Has-Been Heroes. It’s there to give you some comical relief to soften the blow from dying a lot in the game 😉

Marcello: Does the game run at 60 frames-per-second?

Kai: Yep!

Marcello: Can you use the Switch’s touch-screen for any gameplay when playing off-the-dock?

Kai: No, just for the menus.

Marcello: Will the Trine characters make a surprise cameo appearance in the game? Maybe we’ll be able to play as that team in-game?

Kai: No, they are busy fighting evil in another dimension!

Marcello: The Trine games had a very serine soundtrack from composer Ari Pulkkinen. Did he return to compose the soundtrack to Has-Been Heroes?

Kai: Ari will make some tracks for our other game Nine Parchments (which is set in the Trine universe by the way!), but the soundtrack for Has-Been Heroes was composed by our in-house audio team consisting of Sauli Lehtinen and Jori Kemppi.

Marcello: Any tips players should be aware of when starting this game?

Kai: You can pause the game (and you should) at any time with the left bumper on your controller. Use it to your advantage to plan your moves and cast spells when they’re off cooldown. Also try to match your heroes’ melee attacks with enemy stamina counts in order to stun them.

Marcello: Anything you would like to add to the readers of this interview?

Kai: We’re just a couple of weeks away from the launch of Has-Been Heroes, so if you’re into roguelikes and enjoy a challenge, look out for it!  It’s a rare game for Frozenbyte since it becomes so challenging that only a handful of people here have actually beaten the game, but that’s really what makes it so addictive and fresh for a long time 🙂

Marcello: Thank you so much again for your time! We’re excited to get our hands on Has-Been Heroes!

Kai: Thanks!

Has-Been Heroes releases on Nintendo Switch, PS4, Xbox One, and Steam on March 28th for $19.99. It will release both physically and digitally, with the physical copy being available exclusively at Gamestop for $19.99.

Are you looking forward to this title? Sound off in the comments below!

Trine 2: Complete Story Review (PS4): “An Adventure Worth Revisiting”

Trine2CompleteStory_logo_1080p_night

Throughout this generation of consoles, we’ve seen numerous indie developers create games that offer unique experiences from those that are already on the market. In 2009, indie developer Frozenbyte released a side-scrolling puzzle-platformer that incorporated in-depth physics called Trine. The game received a solid amount of positive feedback, with the exception that it lacked an online co-op mode and forced those wanting to play together local only. In December of 2011, Frozenbyte released the sequel to their puzzle-platformer, Trine 2. Taking the elements of the first game, while expanding upon them in practically every department, Trine 2 was the improvement many fans of the first game appreciated. Now, with any new hardware comes the opportunity for developers to provide enhanced versions of their previously released games. Last year, we saw Trine 2: Director’s Cut hit the Wii U. This year, Frozenbyte decided to bring the Wii U’s edition to the PS4, with all the bonus content they added there. However, did Trine 2: Complete Story translate as well to the PS4 as it did the Wii U with Director’s Cut?

Trine 2 follows the events of the first game, in which we find the wizard Amadeus waking up in his home to see a glowing light piercing through his room. After going after the light, Amadeus then realizes that it is the Trine, which reunites him with Pontius (the Knight) and Zoya (the Thief). The Trine brings the heroes together once again as they’re help is needed to restore the kingdom. Along the way, the heroes will run into Rosabel, the Princess of the kingdom, and aid her with vanquishing all the evil in the land. The story is told as if someone were narrating a fairy tale, while there is some banter amongst the characters and some storybook sequences to watch. Additionally, there are poems and letters that can be found in levels that provide a bit more background to the story being told. It’s a charming story and one that evolves as you progress deeper into the game.

Trine2CompleteStory_Mountains_Screenshot_02

There are a number of elements that Trine 2: Complete Story truly achieves. Let’s start with the gameplay. As mentioned earlier, Trine 2 is a side-scrolling, puzzle-platformer that relies heavily on physics. You’ll take control of Amadeus, Pontius and Zoya, as each one of them will excel in a variety of situations. Amadeus can conjure up mechanical blocks and planks to help the heroes traverse through the environment. He can also interact with the objects within the environment to help solve certain puzzles or further help the heroes navigate ahead. However, when it comes to battling goblins or other creatures, the wizard doesn’t quite excel here. Pontius is a all-out offense character. When it comes to combat, Pontius can clear out waves of creatures standing in the heroes’ way, whether with his trusty sword and shield or with his hammer. He can also utilize his shield to press forward through areas that have projectiles blocking your path. Zoya is more the all-range character. Her combat is more long-distance, resorting to her utilizing the bow and arrow. One of her neatest qualities is traversing with the grappling hook. You’ll be able to attach the grappling hook to any wooden object or ceiling and either climb, descend or swing your way across. As a puzzle-platformer, Trine 2 doesn’t offer a strict design in terms of solutions. There’s always a solution to an environmental puzzle, whether it’s the way the developers intended or more creative methods by the player. It’s an interesting execution, as it doesn’t restrict players from thinking a bit “outside the box” and being creative on how to advance through the levels.

Progressing through the environments, you’ll find blue experience jars that can be collected, some more difficult to nab than others. Every 50 experience points you get will grant you a Skill Point. Pressing the Minus Button, you’ll open up the Skill Tree, in which you’ll be able to distribute points amongst the three heroes. Amadeus can upgrade his conjuring ability to create up to four blocks at once, or even imprison goblins in battle. Pontius can upgrade his sword to have fire surround it for more damage, make his shield magnetic and also throw his hammer across the screen. Zoya will be able to upgrade her arrow types such as ice and explosion, while also getting a stealth ability. If, for any reason, you’re not crazy about the way you upgraded the heroes, you can reset the skill points and respec your characters. In Complete Story, each of the heroes have received an extra exclusive ability to upgrade them to. Amadeus can conjure magnetic objects to stick to each other, Pontius can use his shield to glide across chasms, and Zoya can shoot low-gravity arrows that create a field that slows everything down. Each of the heroes’ new abilities are certainly welcome additions and actually add a new element of play to the game.

Trine2CompleteStory_Scorpion_Screenshot

On the Wii U, Frozenbyte took advantage of utilizing the system’s GamePad functionality. With the PS4, they transferred a part of the experience by using the DualShock 4‘s touch-pad. Drawing your finger on the touch-pad, you will be able to aim projectiles and create objects with ease. While it may not feel as natural as the Wii U’s GamePad since you could actually touch where on the actual screen to make actions happen, the touch-pad works really well also.

Trine 2: Complete Story contains not only the 13 levels from the original campaign, but all the content from the Wii U’s “Director’s Cut”. This includes the six levels from the PC-exclusive “Goblin Menace” DLC, as well as the exclusive level that was only available on the Wii U. Once you complete the main campaign, you’ll go right into the Goblin Menace stages. The story continues with Amadeus’s wife being kidnapped from goblins and the heroes are under attack in the kingdom. From here, our heroes continue their quest, but to much more extravagant locales. They’ll venture through the scorching desert, floating islands, and even the insides of a beast. Personally, the stages incorporated here actually seemed to stand out a bit more than the original campaign’s. That’s not to say the original 13 levels were of lesser quality by any means, but the Goblin Menace stages were slightly more memorable. Additionally, you’ll have to find map pieces hidden in each of the Goblin Menace levels to unlock the 20th and final new level, the Dwarven Caverns. This stage serves as more of an epilogue to the two campaigns included and is a nice addition.

Throughout the game, you’ll encounter a few boss battles, which tend to get a bit intense. The bosses in this game will kill you…instantly, if you’re not quick on your feet. You normally can’t approach a boss head-on, swinging your sword like crazy and hope to win. This is a good thing, as a boss should always entail a challenge. While Trine 2’s boss aren’t “insanely” difficult, they maintain a solid challenge that will test your skills. The final boss battles in both the main campaign and Goblin Menace aren’t as difficult as the main bosses due to not being able to die instantly from them, but they’re still challenging battles that feel climatic.

Trine2CompleteStory_DwarvenCaverns_Screenshot

Upon beating the game, you’ll unlock a few extra features to tinker around with. For starters, you’ll unlock “Hardcore Mode”, which only allows your characters to respawn when you reach a checkpoint once. Also, it removes any mid-level saving. If all your heroes fall, it’s back to the very beginning of the level. This is more for the old-school gaming fan and those really looking to test your skills. You can also now make the Player Selection “Unlimited” so that when you play online with other people, you’re not restricted to a character that’s not in play. Speaking of the online, I’m pleased to state that the game ran smooth as butter, with not an ounce of lag. Playing the game online with a friend or two is definitely the way to go, as chances are you’ll get even more enjoyment out of the game helping each other…or laughing at each other’s mistakes. The trophy set is also much more extensive than the original’s release on PS3, offering 51 trophies now (Platinum is still included).

When it comes to the visual and audio presentation of Trine 2: Complete Story, it’s simply a spectacle. Visually, Trine 2 is absolutely beautiful, full of color, lush detail and incredibly rich texture work. This is one of those games where your jaw will hit the ground when you see how stunning the environments look. It did so when we saw the original release, it furthered that on the Wii U, and I can happily state that it continues to do so on the PS4. The visuals are in full 1080p like the Wii U edition but the enhancement here is that it runs at a smooth 60 fps. The incredibly silky smooth framerate was what really stood out the most for my experience in Trine 2: Complete Story. Ari Pulkkinen (whom is known for his exceptional soundtracks for “OutLand” and “Dead Nation”, as well as the original “Trine”) is brought on board once again to provide another great soundtrack. Whether you’re exploring the lush jungles, scorching desert, or combating enemies, each track fits perfectly in the game. Some tracks are heroic, some charming, some more engaging, and they all blend to provide a soundtrack that nails the game’s atmosphere. The voice acting is decent as well, with the game having that fairy tale feel to it. None of the characters sound “too” serious, but they don’t sound mundane either. It’s that fine line of solid voice acting for the game it’s intended to be. Sound effects are also very effective. Whether you’re hearing the environmental ambiance, the exploding arrows hitting against an enemy, the fire sword swinging away, or even the audio muffling a bit when going underwater, the attention to detail is here.

Trine2CompleteStory_Desert_Screenshot

Frozenbyte really won me over with Trine 2: Director’s Cut last year and the same remains with Complete Story. Players whom only played the original PS3 release would do very well to double-dip into Complete Story, as the Goblin Menace DLC actually surpasses the core campaign. With it’s charming story, jaw-dropping visuals, great audio, impressive physics and unique gameplay, Trine 2: Complete Story is a game that any PS4 owner can really dig into. It may be one of the pricier indie-based games available on the PSN at the moment ($19.99), but it’s well worth every penny and highly recommend it for platforming fans.

Overall Score: 8.5 out of 10 = BUY IT!

A special thank you to Frozenbyte for providing us the review copies for “Trine 2: Complete Story”! Copy tested on the PS4.

Enjoy our review? Be sure to follow us on Facebook and Twitter: @GamersXTREME for the latest in gaming news and reviews.

Curious to how our review system works? Check out the About section.

Trine 2: Director’s Cut Review (Wii U eShop): “An Adventure Worth Embarking On”

Throughout this generation of consoles, we’ve seen numerous indie developers create games that offer unique experiences from those that are already on the market. In 2009, indie developer Frozenbyte released a side-scrolling puzzle-platformer that incorporated in-depth physics called Trine. The game received a solid amount of positive feedback, with the exception that it lacked an online co-op mode and forced those wanting to play together local only. In December of 2011, Frozenbyte released the sequel to their puzzle-platformer, Trine 2. Taking the elements of the first game, while expanding upon them in practically every department, Trine 2 was the improvement many fans of the first game appreciated. Now, with any new hardware comes the opportunity for developers to provide enhanced versions of their previously released games. In this regard, Frozenbyte saw the Wii U as a very suitable platform to bring Trine 2 to Nintendo fans who never got to experience this game, along with quite a few additions and exclusive features. However, did Trine 2: Director’s Cut translate over well to the Wii U and is it worth double-dipping for those who already experienced it on the PS3, 360, PC and/or Mac?

Trine 2 follows the events of the first game, in which we find the wizard Amadeus waking up in his home to see a glowing light piercing through his room. After going after the light, Amadeus then realizes that it is the Trine, which reunites him with Pontius (the Knight) and Zoya (the Thief). The Trine brings the heroes together once again as they’re help is needed to restore the kingdom. Along the way, the heroes will run into Rosabel, the Princess of the kingdom, and aid her with vanquishing all the evil in the land. The story is told as if someone were narrating a fairy tale, while there is some banter amongst the characters and some storybook sequences to watch. Additionally, there are poems and letters that can be found in levels that provide a bit more background to the story being told. It’s a charming story and one that evolves as you progress deeper into the game.

Yes, the game looks that amazing!

There are a number of elements that Trine 2: Director’s Cut truly achieves. Let’s start with the gameplay. As mentioned earlier, Trine 2 is a side-scrolling, puzzle-platformer that relies heavily on physics. You’ll take control of Amadeus, Pontius and Zoya, as each one of them will excel in a variety of situations. Amadeus can conjure up mechanical blocks and planks to help the heroes traverse through the environment. He can also interact with the objects within the environment to help solve certain puzzles or further help the heroes navigate ahead. However, when it comes to battling goblins or other creatures, the wizard doesn’t quite excel here. Pontius is a all-out offense character. When it comes to combat, Pontius can clear out waves of creatures standing in the heroes’ way, whether with his trusty sword and shield or with his hammer. He can also utilize his shield to press forward through areas that have projectiles blocking your path. Zoya is more the all-range character. Her combat is more long-distance, resorting to her utilizing the bow and arrow. One of her neatest qualities is traversing with the grappling hook. You’ll be able to attach the grappling hook to any wooden object or ceiling and either climb, descend or swing your way across. As a puzzle-platformer, Trine 2 doesn’t offer a strict design in terms of solutions. There’s always a solution to an environmental puzzle, whether it’s the way the developers intended or more creative methods by the player. It’s an interesting execution, as it doesn’t restrict players from thinking a bit “outside the box” and being creative on how to advance through the levels.

Progressing through the environments, you’ll find blue experience jars that can be collected, some more difficult to nab than others. Every 50 experience points you get will grant you a Skill Point. Pressing the Minus Button, you’ll open up the Skill Tree, in which you’ll be able to distribute points amongst the three heroes. Amadeus can upgrade his conjuring ability to create up to four blocks at once, or even imprison goblins in battle. Pontius can upgrade his sword to have fire surround it for more damage, make his shield magnetic and also throw his hammer across the screen. Zoya will be able to upgrade her arrow types such as ice and explosion, while also getting a stealth ability. If, for any reason, you’re not crazy about the way you upgraded the heroes, you can reset the skill points and respec your characters. In Director’s Cut, each of the heroes have received an extra exclusive ability to upgrade them to. Amadeus can conjure magnetic objects to stick to each other, Pontius can use his shield to glide across chasms, and Zoya can shoot low-gravity arrows that create a field that slows everything down. Each of the heroes’ new abilities are certainly welcome additions and actually add a new element of play to the game.

Naturally, with the Wii U GamePad, one would wonder how the developer took advantage of the screen incorporated on there. Well, Frozenbyte has provided a few implementations. First off, the whole game is displayed on both the TV and GamePad at all times. However, aside from playing the game with your standard buttons, you can also play it taking advantage of the stylus and touch screen. When playing with the stylus, you’ll use your left hand to control your character with the control stick, while using the ZL Button to jump. Meanwhile, you’ll use the stylus to control the rest of your actions. For example, when playing as Amadeus, you’ll be able to quickly draw out blocks and planks, and move them with ease. As Pontius, you’ll be able to attack enemies while tapping the screen, as well as switch weapons and aim/throw his hammer. As Zoya, you’ll be able to aim and shoot your bow, and also choose your arrow type. You can also switch between the characters by simply tapping their portrait on the top-left of the screen. One thing I always preferred doing with the GamePad screen was accessing my Skill Tree. For some reason, the brightness and contrast of the wording seemed a bit blown-out on the TV, where as the GamePad’s screen was less obtrusive.

Trine 2: Director’s Cut contains not only the 13 levels from the original campaign, but also the six levels from the PC-exclusive “Goblin Menace” DLC, as well as an exclusive level only available on the Wii U. Once you complete the main campaign, you’ll go right into the Goblin Menace stages. The story continues with Amadeus’s wife being kidnapped from goblins and the heroes are under attack in the kingdom. From here, our heroes continue their quest, but to much more extravagant locales. They’ll venture through the scorching desert, floating islands, and even the insides of a beast. Personally, the stages incorporated here actually seemed to stand out a bit more than the original campaign’s. That’s not to say the original 13 levels were of lesser quality by any means, but the Goblin Menace stages were slightly more memorable. Additionally, you’ll have to find map pieces hidden in each of the Goblin Menace levels to unlock the 20th and final level that’s exclusive to the Wii U, the Dwarven Caverns. This stage serves as more of an epilogue to the two campaigns included and is a nice addition. The overall game is pretty lengthy, taking roughly 10+ hours to complete. While there is some replay value (such as finding every experience jar, all the hidden chests, and multiple difficulties and settings), there’s not much incentive to go back and replay the game. However, going back to play with other people online (and there’s a solid online community for the game) can certainly increase your mileage.

Throughout the game, you’ll encounter a few boss battles, which tend to get a bit intense. The bosses in this game will kill you…instantly, if you’re not quick on your feet. You normally can’t approach a boss head-on, swinging your sword like crazy and hope to win. This is a good thing, as a boss should always entail a challenge. While Trine 2’s boss aren’t “insanely” difficult, they maintain a solid challenge that will test your skills. The final boss battles in both the main campaign and Goblin Menace aren’t as difficult as the main bosses due to not being able to die instantly from them, but they’re still challenging battles that feel climatic.

Upon beating the game, you’ll unlock a few extra features to tinker around with. For starters, you’ll unlock “Hardcore Mode”, which only allows your characters to respawn when you reach a checkpoint once. Also, it removes any mid-level saving. If all your heroes fall, it’s back to the very beginning of the level. This is more for the old-school gaming fan and those really looking to test your skills. You can also now make the Player Selection “Unlimited” so that when you play online with other people, you’re not restricted to a character that’s not in play. Speaking of the online, I’m pleased to state that the game ran smooth as butter, with not an ounce of lag. While I played through the first three levels solo, I went back and played through the entire game with an online partner. Playing the game online with a friend is definitely the way to go, as chances are you’ll get even more enjoyment out of the game helping each other…or laughing at each other’s mistakes. While there’s no “invite” system per se, you can set your online game to have a “Friends Only” parameter so that you’re friends can see your lobby and join. My online partner never had a single issue joining into the lobby and really provided for a seamless experience. At the moment, there’s no voice chat support. However, Frozenbyte has stated they are rolling out an update this month (should be any day now) that will have the feature ready to go.

When it comes to the visual and audio presentation of Trine 2: Director’s Cut, it’s simply a spectacle. Visually, Trine 2 is absolutely beautiful. It’s full of color, lush detail and incredibly rich texture work. This is one of those games where your jaw will hit the ground when you see how stunning the environments look. The game does actually appear to look slightly sharper than the PS3 version that released a year ago. Interestingly enough, Frozenbyte will be further enhancing the visuals with the same update that’s including voice chat support. I’m curious to see how much better they can actually make the visuals, as they already are stunning. Ari Pulkkinen (whom is known for his exceptional soundtracks for “OutLand” and “Dead Nation”, as well as the original “Trine”) is brought on board once again to provide another great soundtrack. Whether you’re exploring the lush jungles, scorching desert, or combating enemies, each track fits the game quite well. Some tracks are heroic, some charming, some more engaging, and they all blend to provide a soundtrack that nails the game’s atmosphere. The voice acting is decent as well, with the game having that fairy tale feel to it. None of the characters sound “too” serious, but they don’t sound mundane either. It’s that fine line of solid voice acting for the game it’s intended to be. Sound effects are also very effective. Whether you’re hearing the environmental ambiance, the exploding arrows hitting against an enemy, the fire sword swinging away, or even the audio muffling a bit when going underwater, the attention to detail is here.

A secret lingers in the Dwarven Caverns for our heroes…

Trine 2: Director’s Cut struck me by surprise to be completely honest. The game always seemed interesting but wasn’t sure how into it I would get. Frozenbyte has won me over with a title that really stood out. With it’s charming story, jaw-dropping visuals, great audio, impressive physics and unique gameplay, Trine 2: Director’s Cut is a great game that any Wii U owner can really dig into. It may be the priciest indie-based game available on the Wii U eShop at the moment ($19.99), but it’s well worth every penny and I highly recommend it for any platforming fans.

Overall Score: 8.5 out of 10 = BUY IT!

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A special thank you to Frozenbyte for providing us review copies of Trine 2: Director’s Cut!