The Trine series is one that was loved by fans following its first two puzzle-platforming 2.5D escapades, but with the third entry’s shift to 3D (and a smaller adventure) it was heavily criticised by fans. It’s not that the game was necessarily awful by any means and it still featured the stunning visuals that the series was known for – it just was nowhere near as clever in design, it was full of glitches, and a lot of gamers simply felt a bit short-changed by the smaller experience that it offered.
Alas, developer Frozenbyte has decided to return to their roots with Trine 4: The Nightmare Prince – gone are the 3D visuals and welcomed back is the 2.5D setup. It has turned out to be a very successful move too, with the game not only a beautiful and fun experience but also the best entry that I’ve played in the series so far.
Trine 4: The Nightmare Prince sees heroes Amadeus, Pontius, and Zoya reunite once more as they look to rescue a young prince named Selius. However, Prince Selius has been suffering from some very dark dreams and, thanks to his mysterious magical abilities, has been bringing vicious monsters known as Nightmares into reality. It’s up to the trio of heroes to take down these Nightmares and help Prince Selius recover for good.
Saving Prince Selius means adventuring through a fairy tale-like land that’s full to the brim with hazards to avoid, puzzles to solve, and nasty enemies to beat. Thankfully, our heroes are well equipped to survive in this tricky world thanks to their mixed abilities, but you’ll need to use them all efficiently if you hope to conquer the many obstacles in your path.
Amadeus is a wizard, so naturally his talents are magic-based – he’s able to move large objects around, summon balls to bounce around on, or even have an object float for you to use as a platform. Pontius on the other hand is a knight, so he’s more likely to use his strength to his advantage than any fancy abilities. Something need smashing? He’ll do it. Want to deflect any incoming threats? Pontius’ shield is perfect for that. His shield is also perfect for gliding, even if he doesn’t necessarily have the nimblest of frames…
Speaking of nimble, Zoya the thief is ideal for those moments where you need to be a bit more acrobatic, with her rope swinging perfect for getting around. Her bow and arrow are useful when you need to solve problems from range too, whilst the fact that she’s able to attach both ice and fire elements to her arrows can come in handy too.
You’re able to swap between the three characters and use their abilities in synchronicity to solve puzzles – you might need Pontius to protect the others with his shield whilst they do their work for example, or Zoya might have to blast an arrow onto an object whilst Amadeus is having it levitate for her. That’s just naming a couple too, with plenty of instances of teamwork required throughout the adventure. Trine 4: The Nightmare Prince controls really well though so you’ll never have any difficulty utilising each character’s abilities, whilst the platforming mechanics feel solid throughout too.
Knowing where and when each character’s abilities are required is vital and you could easily find yourself stumped on a puzzle for some time if you’re not willing to think outside of the box. It’s so satisfying when that eureka moment finally hits and you solve a tricky enigma though; Trine 4: The Nightmare Prince’s puzzles are all ingenious in design and blend together both logical thinking with a bit of physical work, so there’s something rewarding about getting through them. They’re just all brilliantly designed and I’d even go as far as saying these are some of the best puzzles I’ve seen out of all of the titles in the series – that’s a big piece of praise considering how critically acclaimed the first two games were.
However, whilst the majority of the puzzles are very clever in design, it is possible to clear some by being a bit naughty with each character’s abilities and exploiting loopholes. I mean, technically you’re still solving the conundrum, but sometimes a glitch in physics or some cunning thinking can see you bypass a puzzle completely – it’s a solution, but it won’t necessarily be the solution that the game was looking for. You can’t complain about that too much though and in fairness it’s something that has been present in the series in the past, so I wasn’t really expecting it to change here.
Whilst Trine 4: The Nightmare Prince’s puzzling is charming throughout, its combat mechanics just don’t feel as satisfying. It always felt incredibly simple in design, and whilst you can upgrade your character’s to unlock abilities to make them more able when it comes to taking down foes, I often just saw myself mashing the same moves time and time again. It’s nice that there’s some variety from all of the platforming and puzzle-solving, but it just felt a little bare-boned when compared to the game’s more fleshed out features.
At least the boss battles are a lot more fun, even if they are guilty of being a bit easy. They’ll require a combination of each character’s abilities to vanquish and they’re all pretty epic in design, so it’s never a case of just mashing out your fighting moves – each one is based off one of the character’s fears too, so they’re cleverly tied into the narrative. They just don’t provide too much of a challenge, and I never even came close to being defeated by any of them. It’s not necessarily a bad thing because the puzzles of Trine 4: The Nightmare Prince are taxing enough anyway, but it would’ve been nice to have my skills pushed a little during these encounters.
Players who prefer adventuring with friends will be glad to see that Trine 4: The Nightmare Prince has both local and online co-op options in place – what’s clever here is the fact that the puzzles change up to accommodate the additional players too, giving players a bigger challenge that’ll really put the extra pairs of hands to use. What’s interesting in co-op is that all players can use the same characters if they like, which can make for some very creative ways to solve puzzles. The Trine series has always encouraged experimentation and it’s something you can expect to do a lot of when working with others, and it comes together to make for a really neat co-operative treat.
One thing the Trine series has always been known for is its impressive visuals, and Trine 4: The Nightmare Prince is no different. The fairy tale-like world has never looked better, with its enchanting variety of locales and stunning vistas proving to be beautiful throughout. The characters themselves are all as charming as ever too, whilst I also didn’t encounter any performance issues when playing. It really is stunning and Frozenbyte have outdone themselves once again with this spectacle of an adventure.
Trine 4: The Nightmare Prince is a true return to form for the series, with the expertly designed puzzles, the creative character abilities, and the enchanting world all coming together nicely to make for a satisfying puzzle-platforming experience. It still has the flaws which are synonymous with the series such as some easily exploitable puzzles and dull combat mechanics, but these are just minor issues in what is otherwise a thoroughly entertaining release.
Publisher: Modus Games
Platform(s): PlayStation 4 (Reviewed), Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, PC