STAFF REVIEW of Trine 4: The Nightmare Prince (Xbox One)

Saturday, November 2, 2019.
by Adam Dileva

Trine 4: The Nightmare Prince Box art The Trine series has been around for a decade now, and in that time, has amassed a following, deservedly so. While I never got around to trying the series previously, the general consensus was that fans loved the first two, but the third departed a bit too much and wasn’t as well received because of it. It seems that developers Frozenbyte has taken that criticism and feedback to heart and has returned with an even better outing this time with Trine 4: The Nightmare Prince.

Returning back to 2.5D glory, Trine 4 once again follows the iconic trio in a new adventure, to save Prince Selius from his nightmares that seemingly are able to invade the real world. Pontius the Knight, Zoya the Thief and Amadeus the Wizard band together once again for a new journey that takes place in a world that looks as if it’s taken directly out of some sort of children fairytale. The Prince has gone missing, so it’s up to your trio to not only find him, but to stop the world from being invaded by his nightmares.

While the majority of the gameplay will focus on puzzles, this also means there are a handful of combat elements as well. Each character has their own set of abilities and uses, but won’t be able to solve many, if any at all, puzzles on their own. A blend of platforming and puzzle solving, Trine 4 will absolutely put your brain to the test with its complex puzzles, as you’ll need to swap characters on the fly to solve each puzzle.

Amadeus is a wizard whom is able to conjure a cube into reality, which is then able to be used in a multitude of ways. Most common would be using the box as a platform or to reach higher places, though can be used in other ways as well. Need to lodge a see-saw in a certain way? Box! Need to block projectiles so you can jump by? Box! While he is unable to fight traditionally, he’s much more of a support character and has specific uses.

Zoya is an archer who primarily uses her bow and arrow to attach to hooks and create tightropes that can be walked on. While she has the ability to use her arrows against foes, it’s not very efficient, as you need to aim in a direction for a short period before firing. When she starts to become much more useful is when she gains access to fire and ice arrows that has a multitude of uses, such as freezing platforms in place.

Ponitus, my personal favorite, is a beer bellied knight whom is much more straight forward with his sword and shield. He’s best used in the combat sections, but has many more uses, like being able to reflect light beams with his shield or bounce flowing water in another direction. He’s also able to eventually dash into objects and send them flying to smash certain barriers as well.

Together they all have their own uses, but it’s how you combine their abilities together that will take practice. For example, maybe you need to conjure a box and place it somewhere so that Zoya can attach a rope to it and swing to the next area. Or maybe Zoya can make a tightrope that Pontius can get across and reflect back a light beam to unlock a door. There’s a million situations like this that will take some practice, but being able to swap characters on the fly is simple and instantaneous. There are even skill trees for each character, adding some more depth and unlocking new abilities as you progress, like different types of arrows, other conjured objects and more.

Like any puzzle game, things start out quite basic and you’ll be flying through them with ease. Eventually they become a little more challenging and require some thought, then you’ll eventually hit a brick wall of frustration. That being said, the puzzles are quite clever and almost always require more than one character to solve. Once you start playing co-op, this is even more true, but more on that shortly.

Given that the prince is making his nightmares come to life, now and then you’ll come to a room where a bunch of enemies spawn, unable to progress until they are all defeated. These generic battles aren’t very difficult, as I simply use Pontius and slash away until they are all gone, but the bosses are a little more tricky and involved. I’m guessing that the combat sections were added to give some gameplay variety, but honestly, these were the sections I enjoyed the least. Trine 4 is a puzzle game at its core, so deviating from its greatest strength seems like an odd design decision. The fighting simply feels bland and repetitive and I wouldn’t have held it against it if it was missing these sections completely.

Just as I thought I was really getting the hand of solving Trine’s puzzles, I opted to try the game in co-op. With support of up to 4 players online or local, I thought it was going to be cake walk with another player able to also choose any of the three characters as well. What I didn’t know is that Trine 4 automatically scales a majority of the puzzles based on how many co-op players there are. While figuring out a puzzle playing solo could be tough, having another player who has their own responsibilities that needs to work in tandem with you, is a whole other level of challenge.

Once you need to deal with mirrors reflecting light, portals, magnets and more, adding another player essentially doubles the amount of ‘steps’ required to solve said puzzles. Yes, it’s still a better experience playing cooperatively with a friend, but the challenge does ramp up; I can’t even imagine how challenging the 4 player puzzles must be. Even though it was much tougher playing cooperatively with a friend, it was a better overall experience with two people trying to solve a puzzle as opposed to being stumped on your own, even if your partner can't always pull their own puzzle solving weight.

What maybe surprised me the most though was just how gorgeous Trine 4 can look at times. It’s as if the trio’s adventure was taken straight out of a fairytale story somewhere. The models for each character is impressive, but it’s the world and environment itself that really shined. There’s a whole pallet of beautiful colors that are utilized, bright and pastel with a ton of charm. Even though the game itself is in 2.5D, the world looks fully realized and quite the sight to simply take in. The audio is just as impressive, with an engaging soundtrack that suits each backdrop and excellent voice work overall from every character.

For as much as I enjoyed Trine 4, it felt very crowded when it came to mechanics and having to utilize certain abilities and combinations. Yes, you’re introduced to them gradually, but it’s a lot to take in and remember. I don’t think anyone would be saddened if the combat sections were cut, but I understand why narratively they’re included. While I may have missed the boat on the first few Trine games, I certainly won’t from this point forward; you have a new fan.

Overall: 9.1 / 10
Gameplay: 9.2 / 10
Visuals: 9.5 / 10
Sound: 9.0 / 10


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