Oh, glorious GamePad
When Trine 2 was initially released, I was excited to check it out on Xbox Live Arcade as I had heard many good things about the first one and its open-ended, puzzle-platformer gameplay. Unfortunately, as much I was entranced by the beautiful graphics and character-swapping mechanic, I quickly learned that the console versions were really not the way to go -- the floaty physics and the need to manipulate objects in the environment made for a very frustrating time.
I can't speak for the PC or Mac versions of Trine 2, since I never had a chance to actually see how improved the controls might be with a mouse and keyboard, but I can certainly tell you that the recently released Wii U version is an absolute joy to play on the hybridized Wii U GamePad, floaty physics be damned.
Trine 2: Director's Cut
If you're planning to pick up Trine 2 on the Wii U in the near future, know that you'll probably find it a much more enjoyable experience if you simply ignore playing it on your HDTV. The graphics are still as beautiful as ever, but the gameplay itself really affords itself to the GamePad's touchscreen controller.
To begin with, the game plays like an interactive storybook, with each chapter starting with a delightful narration of the three characters you're tasked to play as. It's easy to find a spot to curl up with your GamePad as though it's your favorite book and continue playing through the game, while also alternatively posting to the Miiverse on your progress. Personally, I enjoy simultaneously solving the Trine 2's various puzzles while either trolling the Cabela's Dangerous Hunts community or checking in on the Dafoeniverse (i.e. Rabbids Land).
The graphics on the GamePad still retain their beauty, and I would even argue that they look better than on my television since having less screen space makes the intricate background details really stand out. In a way, the smaller screen space also helps to hide any rough spots that may appear on a much larger screen. Of course, your own results may vary depending on how your TV is configured.
The real shining piece of this new edition of Trine 2 comes in the touchscreen integrated gameplay. Playing as the wizard is no longer a frustrating and boring attempt to move conjured boxes from one point to another -- instead, you draw the laziest crude square possible to conjure a box, and then simply move it around the screen with your finger.
As you upgrade the wizard's capabilities, it becomes readily apparent that this is a great boon to puzzle solving, as stacking multiple boxes or conjuring and placing planks is no longer a hassle. Need to position the box better? Simply use the digital pad to rotate the box while moving it to your preferred spot with your finger.
Similarly, the female thief character shoots her bow with touchscreen controls while her grappling hook can be controlled by the right shoulder button. This makes getting around the environment to take out goblins and other enemies much easier, as you swing to a safe spot while aiming with a finger at your enemy and letting arrows fly. While the knight can fight with touchscreen controls, I found it easier to rely on the shoulder buttons as well for melee attacks and later used the touchscreen for hammer throws and longer-range attacks.
Of course, if you absolutely hate any sort of touchscreen control, the option to rely completely on the old-fashioned controller setup is still present. However, most of the time, you may rely on a hybridized version of these two choices. Just know that if you plan to play while watching the action take place on your television, you'll probably need to rely on using the standard controller -- you might get neck strain after looking from the touchscreen to the TV screen multiple times.
The important takeaway about Trine 2: The Director's Cut is that this game seems almost like it was made for the Wii U. While the physics still either help or hinder you depending on the puzzle you're trying to solve, so much of the frustrations regarding the gameplay mechanics are allayed by touchscreen controls, and furthermore actually make the game a real joy to play.
On the Xbox version of the Trine 2, I hated the wizard because it seemed like so many puzzles relied on his conjuration skills and clunky box manipulation. Here, he's my absolute favorite character to play as because -- this may be surprising -- his powers actually make you feel like a wizard, conjuring boxes and planks with movements of your finger and then moving them around the environment through touch control.
Trine 2: The Director's Cut is a definite must-buy for new Wii U owners, even if you've bought and played through the game before. It's a great addition to your digital library that is instantly accessible and great for playing either in long sessions or short bursts, as you use your three characters to solve puzzles across beautifully detailed landscapes filled with frightening and wondrous creatures. It doesn't hurt that besides the massively improved gamepad control, this "Director's Cut" version also features the Goblin Menace expansion pack with six new levels as well as an exclusive Wii U level and the excellent online multiplayer that allows you to play through the story cooperatively with the touchpad controls.