Reviews are out of four stars.
Trine 2: Director's Cut
This may be the first time I've ever seen "Director's Cut" (Wii U; E, for Everyone) in a game title, as this reference usually applies to extended Blu-ray movie releases where you get bonus footage and are allowed to experience a show as the director originally intended. "Trine 2: Director's Cut" has the bonus footage, but it fails to make the game any better than the original.
The name of the game is platforming a puzzle-solving. Three characters are playable (knight, wizard and thief), and you can alternate among them with a quick button press on the fly. Each has unique abilities that come into play constantly, from bashing up creatures with the knight to conjuring up crates and other items to solve puzzles via the wizard.
The characters don't ruin the gameplay; instead, the game drowns in a lack of cohesion with its puzzles. Too many times I played levels trying to figure out the solution, only to either solve it by sheer luck or accidentally circumvent the puzzle altogether.
Trial and error only sometimes works, and the feeling that skill or logic is unwelcome here only drags the game down further into the muck.
The outstanding art direction provides the game's saving grace. Like in other platforming games, the level design is varied, from jungles to deserts and caverns. But in "Trine 2," you are often compelled to stop and ignore the task at hand to soak in the breathtaking view. Deep textures and light and particle effects give the game a dreamlike feel, and it never gets tiring to marvel at this.
If you are to be trapped in a cave filled with booby traps, I think we can all agree that it would be nice if it had a sense of humor about itself.
"The Cave" (PS3, Xbox 360; Sega; T, for Teen) won't challenge your brain to the point of exhaustion. Rather, it makes good use of your noggin while allowing you to take in the interesting visuals and offbeat narration. The challenge lies in its gameplay. There are seven characters, and you must play with all of them in order to eventually succeed -- but you only control three at a time.
The game plays out the same each time: Start with three characters and guide them through the cave's expanse.
But "The Cave" runs into trouble because of this three-person control system, however. In order to solve all the puzzles to advance, your team must almost always be divided up, which means the camera spends a great deal of time shifting among the members. It gets nauseating watching this pan and focus nonstop, but there's no way around it. There are times when you must reunite your characters for group-based puzzle-solving, but the tedium of getting them all together slows the momentum considerably.
While the gameplay has its hiccups, the story and the narration (voiced by the cave itself) are fantastic. This cave has a wickedly fun sense of humor, and it both helps guide you and mock you through your adventures.
The devil is in the details that trip this game up occasionally, but gamers should still take an enjoyable journey into "The Cave."
Black Knight Sword
At times I thought "Black Knight Sword" (PlayStation 3; M, for Mature) could have been an operatic love child of Andrew Lloyd Webber and Sam Raimi. This strange platforming game has a setting that appears based in musical theater but brims with elements of the macabre. And like stepping into an opera in a foreign language, you sometimes find yourself staring at the screen wondering what it all means.
Of course, I still enjoyed the game.
Strangely, had I not stepped away from the TV while it idled at the main menu during a later play-through, I'd have missed the prologue introducing the main characters. I honestly feel like I shouldn't bore you with the details since the developers clearly didn't seem keen on easily sharing them with you, so I won't. Just know that you play as the titular Black Knight, and it's your job to kill everything.
The game is encased in a stage setting, with a narrator and curtains drawn back to give the illusion of this being just a grisly show for your amusement. Enemies appear and move like puppets, while you control the hero as he jumps and fights off anything in his path with a trusty sword.
Purchasing upgrades to weaponry is vital, but so is the timing of such purchases, since you'll lose everything if you run out of lives and then must restart.
The constantly ominous (and often repetitious and grating) music only heightens the tortuous journey through the game's five levels, and this continues through the challenge and arcade modes when you're finished.
While five levels sounds brief, the amount of saves and restarts you need to finish each level takes time, and only those with a hero's heart and the will to win will probably see it through.
-- Chris Campbell, Scripps Howard News Service