Frozenbyte’s Trine 4: The Nightmare Prince has launched for PS4, Xbox One, PC and Nintendo Switch. It returns the franchise to its roots with gameplay that’s akin to the first two games while also adding a few new tricks. Here’s our review, based on the PS4 version.
Meeting with Frozenbyte and going hands on with Trine 4 during this summer’s Gamescom reminded us of two things: how much we enjoyed the first Trine games, and that it had been a while since we played them. We went back and played (parts of) the first three games prior to diving into The Nightmare Prince, which reaffirmed our opinion that Trine is one of the best physics-based puzzle platformers ever made. We couldn’t wait to see if part 4 lived up to that standard.
As before, you take control of three very different characters, with a knight (Pontius), wizard (Amadeus) and thief (Zoya) each bringing their own abilities to the table – which are all gently introduced in a series of tutorials for those new to the series or needing a refresher. Also joining the cast is prince Selius, who is unwillingly covering the land in darkness as his dark dreams manifest themselves in reality. It’s this from which Trine 4 draws its full name, and what drives the narrative forward.
But although Trine 4 is narrative-driven, the game is very much about its puzzles, which are familiar kinds of physics-based challenges – especially if you replay the other games first. What stands out, however, is the way in which the puzzles are presented this time around – the backdrops, objects, characters and locations are all gorgeously realized in 2.5D, retaining their classic fairytale storybook-like aesthetic. This is augmented even further by amazing use of lighting effects, which adds to the mood and makes Trine 4 a joy to watch unfold.
The characters and their controls in Trine 4 feel familiar, but each character does have a few new abilities to play around with – which of course fit into new puzzle designs that were never featured in the original trilogy either. Controlling a character also feels tighter this time around, with controls that are less floaty and feel more like a traditional console platformer (the original game was built for PC and, I believe, even had mouse control implemented). This is a definite plus, especially for those jumping on board from other franchises rather than previous Trine outings.
One of the best things about Trine 4 is the ability to play the game with other human players. You can still play the entire campaign by switching between characters as you go along, but since the majority of the puzzles are built on the concept of cooperation there are few puzzle games better suited to multiplayer than Trine. Trine 4 adds to this concept by letting up to four players play together as once. The game intelligently scales its puzzles based on the (composition of the) party that’s playing as well, which gives you options to tackle puzzles different ways – adding replay value.
Combat, as was also the case in previous Trine games, is kind of so-so and forgettable (I think I forgot the original trilogy even had combat and just remembered the puzzles). Bad guys will show up and you can dispose of them in different ways depending on your character (it’s most obvious when you’re playing with Pontius the knight) but it would have been great if physics-based puzzles were more (often) a part of how you deal with enemies rather than just straight up combat. The boss battles in the game kind of prove my point here, since they’re a ton of fun and always involve some kind of puzzle solving to help weaken and/or defeat them.
Even with all our experience playing the previous games (which helps in understanding Trine’s general puzzle dynamics), the Trine 4 campaign still kept us busy for over 12 hours, which is very impressive for a game in this genre. With multiple ways to tackle puzzles, we could even see ourselves going back, and there are collectibles to stretch out the lasting appeal of the game even further. So even though Trine 4: The Nightmare Prince isn’t radically different from previous Trine games, it’s a must have for puzzle platformer fans, and Trine fans in particular.