Trine 4: The Nightmare Prince returns to the series 2.5D roots. It’s all the better for it. While developer Frozenbyte may have questioned the franchise’s future after Trine 3, it looks like that future was bright. An uninspired story doesn’t get in the way of the meat of the game: its puzzles, which — even though they’re not terribly complex all the time — keep you coming back to solve just one more.Developer Frozenbyte had released the game in 2009 to rave reviews and fan reception in an era when downloadable games were just starting to take form. This was a fully realized 2D platformer in the vein of something Nintendo would make. It may have been a little rough around the edges, but it incorporated ragdoll physics into its puzzle designs in a manner that was truly engaging.Trine 4: The Nightmare Prince indeed goes back to the franchise’s 2D roots and it’s a wonderful experience through and through. It tells the story of series stars Pontius, Zoya, and Amadeus who venture forth in order to return a runaway prince. However, this prince’s nightmares are coming to life and threatening the land as well as his sanity so you must battle the monsters that he dreams of every once in a while via closed-off arenas.
One is a wizard who can conjure boxes and willfully move objects with a Force-like power. One is a venturer that can shoot arrows at distant objects and even tag them to move them out of the way, or even swing on a rope like, well, Tarzan. And then there’s the knight, who can hack his way through obstacles and find a way to defeat the bosses the trio come across.Each character is fun to play on their own, though Amadeus is arguably the most important when it comes to the more complex puzzles thanks to his ability to conjure boxes and other shapes to help get the team over obstacles, and he offers the most flexibility in coming up with solutions. The basic synergy between him and the others remains almost entirely unchanged: Zoya’s like a Swiss army knife of utility with her grappling hook, bow, and elemental arrows; and Pontius just plays like a wrecking ball of destruction, capable of decimating enemies and obstacles in ways that the other characters simply can’t.This isn’t to say it’s not enjoyable. It’s genially written and the characters are as likeable as ever, bad jokes and all. But it’s not what you’ll be playing for. It also has zero relevance to the previous game’s plot which ended on a cliff-hanger. Apparently Frozenbyte want to pretend Trine 3 never happened, which seems a little harsh, but functionally it doesn’t make a huge amount of difference.Trine 3 – marking the series’ jump from 2.5D to 3D – which failed to live up to expectations and brought the future of the whole franchise into question. Not ones to be kept down, Frozenbyte went back to the drawing board for the next iteration, Trine 4: The Nightmare Prince, and doubled down on the tried and tested 2.5D gameplay that made the series so popular to begin with. It’s a move that has paid off handsomely. Though fans of the series may find things a little over-familiar, Trine 4 proves to be the fullest realization of the series’ core concept thus far.I appreciated the variety because it kept Trine 4 from ever becoming stale. Something as seemingly insignificant as the color palette used can make a world of difference. The entire atmosphere can change from level to level, and it breaks up what could have become monotonous designs otherwise.
Either because of a lack of experience or a slim budget, the final release of Trine 3: The Artifacts of Power ended up being a dud. It seems the ambitions its developer had were too vast for what it could afford, leading to a game many people weren’t happy with. It also nearly bankrupted the company.I am a bit disappointed that there’s no HDR support for my standard model PS4 because that would have made everything look even more beautiful but I digress. The whimsical soundtrack provides a lighthearted ambience to the journey while the sound effects are gratifying and the voice acting is superb; it’s as if you’re watching a classic narrated fairy tale. Overall, it’s one captivating game.Through this, as you make progress in the game, you’re able to unlock new skills for each character. For instance, the wizard, Amadeus, can conjure rolling balls, making it easier to get around. These new abilities prove useful with some of the later puzzles of the game, and you can unlock them however you see fit. It’s neat to see a progression system that really pays off over the course of the game.In Unlimited, everybody can swap to any character they want at any time, which means you can have wild situations like having all Amadeus’s on screen, each creating boxes and causing utter mayhem. This mode also allows for up to four players to play at once, whereas other Trine games were limited to three.
And in this area Trine 4 is positively feral. Not only is it the longest Trine yet – somewhere between 10 and 15 hours – it’s also the most varied, taking players from icy mountain plateaus to sun-dappled autumnal forests, pumpkin-spotted farmlands and magical elven groves. Frozenbyte have always demonstrated a passion for folkloric woodlands, but Trine 4 is truly one of the best-looking platformers – no, one of the best-looking games – I’ve ever played.Those of you looking for a deep or involved story won’t find anything of the sort here, but you also just may be surprised at how easily the plot can draw you in. Between the narrator on the world map, banter between the three main characters, and interactions with other residents of this curious world, Trine 4 presents itself to you in a storybook-like manner. There’s real heart to the writing and voice acting on offer here, creating a sense of wonder and curiosity in the player that all but forces you to push on and discover more about this world and its characters.The further I got, the more sophisticated puzzles became, which is how it should be. There comes a point early in the campaign where you’ll need to utilize each character’s unique abilities to solve a puzzle. There were definitely times I solved a puzzle in ways that I feel the developer may not have intended as the “correct” solution, but it worked nonetheless.He lacks control of the magic within him and his nightmares are starting to run amok for everyone. Not wishing to stand by as he destroys everything, the academy summons Amadeus the Wizard, Pontius the Knight, and Zoya the Thief to retrieve Selius and return him to the academy. After many years apart, the trio reunites after some short tutorials to set off on another adventure.
Pontius can stomp down after jumping, charge into objects, create duplicates of his shield that hover in mid-air as well as reflect light and such, use his shield to glide, and even magnetize his shield, too. Meanwhile, Zoya can launch fire and ice arrows as well as use a new Fairy Rope that can levitate objects. How cool is that? Finally, Amadeus can launch objects forward or down, Blink in order to dash ahead, and summon rideable balls and bouncy balls which adds a fun layer of intricacy to overcoming Trine 4’s many challenges.However, with unlimited mode, the bets are kind of off, as players can do whatever they please and have a lot of fun doing it. A versus battle it isn’t, but there’s something goofy and enjoyable about this mode that’ll put a smile on your face. And it’s good for both local and online, so even if you don’t have friends around, you can have fun with it.Whether it be Pontius’s Charge attack that can launch boulders to break certain walls, Amadeus’s ability to create planks and steel balls, or Zoya’s newfound technique of attaching a fairy rope to an object to make it float into the air like a balloon, they all open up some interesting new options.One level takes place inside a hobbit-like badger’s burrow, filled with rustic furniture and teetering stacks of books. In another, you help a grizzly bear pull a thorn from its paw, who then proceeds to follow you throughout the level. My favourite animal encounters involves a friendly seal who acts as big blubbery bouncepad to help you reach higher vantage points. In case that sounds a little cruel, the game briefly puts down its storybook to point out that it’s a special magic seal, and that, generally, animals shouldn’t be jumped on.