Trine 4, like Trine 3, 2 and 1 before it, combines platforming and puzzle-solving set against a beautiful backdrop of a magical land.
And just like all three of its predecessors, Trine 4 also gives you control of three characters, each with a unique skillset that you’ll need to call upon in order to make your way through its sprawling levels.
In fact, forgiving the fact that Trine 3 tried to do something different by being 3D, Trine 4: The Nightmare Prince is very much like its predecessors indeed. Its three protagonists are the same – Amadeus the wizard, Pontius the knight and Zoya the bow-wielding thief – and its puzzles and settings feel awfully familiar too. That’s not necessary a bad thing if you’re a fan of the previous Trine games, but for a series that’s now over a decade old, is it wrong to perhaps expect a little more?
This time around there’s a prince who’s gone off the rails on the loose, causing havoc with his dark dreams. Naturally, it falls to our three heroes to save the day. To do so, the trio will need to make their way through five acts of levels, each featuring puzzles of increasing complexity. Needless to say, it’s not a game for folk who prefer to focus on action than head-scratching. There’s a bit of combat but it’s very much secondary to using each characters’ skills in order to move through the environment.
Amadeus’ skills of sorcery allow him to conjure boxes and eventually other items out of thin air, as well as move certain objects around the environment. Sword-wielding Pontius is more block-headed, his weapon allowing him to destroy certain obstacles and his shiny shield coming in handy to reflect beams of light. The quick-footed Zoya on the other hand, equipped with a bow and arrow, can shoot at range as well as fire rope, allowing her to swing from objects or create rope bridges between two points.
As you play, each characters’ repertoire of abilities grows larger, too. You’ll learn dash moves, for instance, and your existing skills can be upgraded by spending acquired skill points. Most puzzles in Trine 4 will require you to combine multiple abilities together, and handily you can switch between either character at the press of a button. If you’re playing in co-op – which Trine games have always felt geared towards – either player can control either character at any time, even if it means having two Zoyas, or two Amadeuses, on screen at any one time.
While Trine 4: The Nightmare Prince is perfectly playable as a single-player game, it’s in co-op where it shines. Solving puzzles as a duo is a much more rewarding activity, with any frustrations alleviated by your laughter as you undoubtedly – and often comically – fail numerous times before discovering a solution. It’s also seemingly much easier when playing in co-op; with two characters and two concurrent abilities to call upon, it opens up a wider range of solutions. You can create two wizard blocks rather than one, for instance. And with one character as the knight, it allows another character to stand on his shield to reach even greater heights. Sometimes it feels like you’re breaking the game, but it’s just more fun.
As with all the games in the series, Trine 4 looks stunning. Its levels are brought to life in beautiful, vivid detail. Its colour palette and environmental design make the game feel adequately magical, and several of the levels will have you transfixed in awe as you pass through luscious greenery or incredibly detailed interiors. The music, too, is a treat, setting the tone perfectly for your adventure. There’s definitely a hint of Hogwartian magic at play in the soundtrack.
Unfortunately, that audiovisual magic is somewhat lost in the fact that Trine 4: The Nightmare Prince simply feels like something we’ve experienced before. And indeed, if you’ve played Trine or Trine 2, you pretty much have experienced it before. The puzzles on offer may be slightly different, and some of the locations may look a bit sharper and more impressive, but Trine 4 does little else to further the series.
Perhaps more of the same is enough if you really love Trine. There’s no arguing that what’s here is very well done. It’s smooth to control, it looks wonderful, and some of the puzzles are genuinely rewarding to complete. But many of them are exasperatingly frustrating, requiring far too much patience or trial and error to complete, especially when you’re playing on your own. But again, hasn’t that always been the way with Trine?
If Trine 3 left you disappointed and you’re aching for yet another 2.5D Trine experience, you’ll undoubtedly love Trine 4: The Nightmare Prince. You won’t be surprised by it in any way, but you’ll lap it up from beginning to end. If you were hoping that there’d be something new introduced to the formula to shake things up a little and keep it interesting, however, you might be disappointed. Trine 4 returns to the safety of its roots, and feels unimaginative and unadventurous because of it.