If your girlfriend isn’t very good at video games and is easily distracted by shiny things, Trine 2 is the perfect option for you. The game isn’t riddled with zombies or ninjas or blood or guts, but it still somehow manages to be a fun way to pass the time. Trine 2 is a simple 2D platformer, mainly driven by a series of puzzles that are occasionally punctuated with little goblin tussles and boss fights. The game allows up to three players, and trust us, you want to play with multiple people. Not because it’s difficult in single-player mode, but more because playing it alone feels like you went to see the re-release of Beauty and the Beast in theatres by yourself. You’re just too old for that shit, bro.
Your girlfriend, however, will be way into it. The entire game is very cute, from the fantasy-driven storyline, to the sparkling flowers that grow with magical water, to the flamboyantly colorful art style. Seriously though, there’s enough light bloom in this game to give someone a seizure.
The main heroes of Trine 2 are a magically inclined trio: Amadeus, the wizard; Pontius, the knight; and Zoya, the thief. Amadeus’ most worthy ability is conjuration—he can create boxes and platforms from thin air, and lift them to help his partners jump to higher areas. These are also fun to drop repeatedly on your partner’s head. Pontius is a typical sword and shield knight, but his attacks are powerful and will easily get you through any goblin attack. Zoya is probably the least powerful of the trio, but she has a fairly useful bow and can grapple off wooden surfaces like Batman, so that’s fun. Overall the characters are fairly well-balanced, and the puzzles require each of their skills at one point or another. The game also gives you the option to switch between any of the characters on a whim; for example, both players can be playing as Amadeus to solve a puzzle, and then transform instantly into Pontius or Zoya to take care of surprise goblins.
Trine 2 might not be the most sophisticated game, but the experience of it grows on you, and you can play it with pretty much anyone: your girlfriend, your little sister, your pet iguana. Even your mom.
Limbo is the probably most popular of these three games, and for good reason. It’s one of the most original, challenging, and thought-provoking puzzlers we’ve ever seen. Danish game company Playdead formed solely for the purpose of developing the game, and its revolutionary visuals and “trial and death” playing style have almost created a new genre of video games as art.
In the first few moments, the most striking feature is that the entire game is in black and white. Objects aren’t really defined by shapes, but beautifully intricate layers of shadow that take the concept of gloominess to a whole new level. The gloom-meter goes off the scale when you find out that the plot surrounds a little boy who is attempting to follow his sister into death. The game never explicitly states this; in fact, it never gives you any verbal hints whatsoever. It’s vague in both story and gameplay, and the player is left to infer most everything on his own.
Fortunately, the commands are very simple. The little boy can only run, drag things, and jump, but his extreme lack of hops gets a tad bit frustrating. You don’t typically need much more for a puzzle game, but Limbo isn’t typical. The extreme simplicity of the art and facilities make you feel like the puzzles’ solutions should be simple as well, but they’re quite the opposite. Each section is exponentially more complicated than the previous, so that by the end of the game we were painfully sneaking hints from Google every five minutes. It just got too damn hard.
Aside from the ingenious puzzles and incredible art, Limbo is simply morbid as fuck. The game seems to take place in hell for kids only, and many of the scenes include dead children sprawled across your path or hanging innocently from trees. The little boy seems to only die in the most disgusting and depressing ways, from drowning in a puddle to being impaled on sharpened sticks, and the difficulty of each puzzle means you watch him die an awful lot. Each time the boy’s guts explode in an eerily graceful eruption is like the first time; it never gets any easier. Regardless of this, Limbo’s gorgeous simplicity and addictive gameplay makes it one of the best games you can get for 15 bucks.
Bastion is the perfect happy medium between the simple solemnity of Limbo and the lighthearted fluff of Trine 2. From the start-screen on, the first thing you notice about the game is its unique art style. It has all of the color and charm of cartoon illustration, but the masterful graphics prevent it from feeling too childish. Each world has a fairly generic background, but this simplicity is offset by the interactive technique used in the ground: individual tiles appear from the abyss to construct a path under your feet as you walk. The effect is unsettling at first, but it wares off soon enough and simply becomes another interesting aspect of the game.
Bastion’s tone is instantly set by its brilliant narration, performed by nobody-actor Logan Cunningham. Cunningham’s raspy black-man voice provides one of the most unique forms of game storytelling seen to date. The narration is interactive as well, mainly in that it changes depending on your actions; and he constantly comments about the paths you choose, your style of battle, how much you suck, etc. You soon learn the narrator is actually an in-game character named Rucks: an old, quick-witted man who refers to your character only as “The Kid.”
The game begins as you awake in Caelondia, your home world that’s recently been torn apart by an apocalyptic event called “The Calamity.” The Kid is then transported to the Bastion, a small city in which Rucks has been hiding out as the event’s only known survivor. He slowly unravels the history of Caelondia and its ancient feud with a race of people called the “Ura,” of which, it turns out, there are still a few remaining. Rucks tells the story as he sends the Kid off throughout the shattered universe to collect shards of a monument in the center of the Bastion. The completed monument will restore the Bastion’s powers to full strength, and reverse the effects of the Calamity.
But of course, there’s a lot of shit between you and those shards. Each level has a distinctive playing style; some operate linearly, while others involve opponents attacking in waves. The journey entails a myriad of different enemies, each requiring unique strategies to defeat them. They range from the tiny and almost-harmless Squirts, which go down with a single hit, to a monstrous horned dinosaur-thing that angrily chases you around in a sadistic game of tag. Killing these enemies earns you XP in a basic level-up system, and each level allows you to purchase Spirits that essentially act as constant buffs.
To combat these adversaries, the game provides you with more options in weaponry than you could ever possibly need. You start off with the Cael Hammer, a big two-hander that does decent damage. Every few levels you’re presented with something new, from a fast-striking machete, to a scatter-booming musket, to a set of fire-breathing bellows. On top of that, each weapon has five unique options for upgrades. You can carry two at a time and return to the Bastion between each level to mix and match your personal favorites. It’s tempting to stick with your two favorites for the entirety of the game, but some of the new weapons do provide a necessary advantage in certain situations.
Overall, Bastion isn’t a terribly hard game on the “Normal” difficulty. However, you can activate different “shrines” that will simultaneously make aspects of the game more challenging, while providing you with extra XP or currency in return. Once you beat the game, you have the option to begin a “NewGame+” mode, in which you restart the game with every weapon and upgrade you unlocked the first time around. In exchange for these extra advantages, the enemies are much tougher to defeat.
Despite the riveting gameplay, this isn’t the best part of Bastion. The game is simply fun to watch. Each aspect, from the art to characters to the storyline, has an impressive amount of depth lacked by the other two games. Not to mention, the all-original soundtrack is brilliant and will be stuck in your head for days. Bastion will do more than just pass the time; it’s a detailed, entertaining, inexpensive game that will give you much more than your money’s worth.