Many of you might still think of download-only titles as cheap and cheerful little diversions, lacking the visuals and depth of games that come on slates of spinning plastic and cost £50. Look at these screenshots: Trine 2 is no cheap bedroom project. It's £10.99 (until mid-January) and only available via the Wii U eShop, but it looks and plays like a game you'd expect to find in a traditional bricks and mortar establishment and shows off some of the snazzy stuff you can do with the GamePad. It's big, too, requiring almost 2GB of storage, nearly as much as New Super Mario Bros U.
Trine 2 is a clever platform action/puzzle game packed with cunning physics-based mechanics, all set in gorgeous, colourful fantasy vistas. You play as three main protagonists; a knight, a thief and a wizard. The knight is your typical bruiser. Armed with a sword, shield and big hammer, he's the guy to call in fights against the game's goblins and dragons, and can smash through walls and other blockades with ease.
The thief is the complete opposite: light and agile, she uses a grappling hook to swing stealthily through environments and a bow and arrow to attack from afar when things get messy. The wizard is the most interesting of all, with the ability to conjure up blocks and platforms and move objects with Jedi-like powers.
Trine Heads Better Than One
These three characters - selectable at any time simply by tapping the R button - and their unique powers form the building blocks for the game's intricate puzzles and challenges.
From the very first level, puzzles force you to think about how the three separate characters' abilities need to be used in combination. Faced with a gaping chasm, for example, you might use the knight's hammer to smash a wall, in turn displacing a log attached to a vine. Then you deploy the wizard's magic to swing the log, before hitching a ride with the thief's grappling hook. If you can imagine a solution, there's a good chance it'll actually work.
In single-player, puzzles like this are tricky, as you'll need quick fingers to swap between characters on the fly. But the co-op multiplayer option - playable offline or online with friends - enables three players each to take control of a character, with all three appearing on screen together, making things much more convenient without ruining the challenge.
Crucially, Trine 2 doesn't patronise you: it leaves you to your own devices to figure out how these powers tie together and form solutions to clever physics-based problems. You unlock the intricacies of its physics systems for yourself, which is immensely gratifying. Admittedly, this can sometimes leave you stumped in a room, frustrated for minutes at a time while you try to overcome an obstacle that requires a mechanic you didn't even realise existed.
It gets around the issue, though, with a neat hint system. Instead of taking over to complete challenges for you (as with Mario's Super Guide), when Trine 2 sees that you're stuck, a narrator chimes in (without treating you like an idiot) to offer a hint in the form of a quick story.
The Magic Touch
All gameplay unfolds on both your TV and GamePad screen simultaneously. You can play Trine 2 entirely with buttons, but touch-screen controls are seamlessly woven in, too. The wizard's object-shifting powers, for example, can be handled simply by moving the object with your finger on the screen. Platforms and blocks can be conjured by swiping straight lines or drawing squares.