The Trine series started out life over 10 years ago as a side project at Frozenbyte Inc. What developed from there is a longstanding 2.5D platformer series which stood out for its beautiful art style. Now, the team are back with Trine 4, which harkens back to the Trine of old, following the side-step of the third entry.
The story premise is pretty simple, and if you’ve played any of the old games it doesn’t depart too much. This time around, our three heroes are out to rescue Prince Selius and the world around us from his nightmares. The story has a very old-world fantastical vibe, and the narrated storytelling technique drives that home. The heroes and narrator are wonderfully voiced, and all play off each other in a neat way. The story won’t blow you away with plot twists and turns, but it serves the backdrop well and immerses you into its fantasy world.
That world has a gorgeous art direction, which again, doesn’t stray far from previous series entries. That being said, it doesn’t need to. From deep blue night skies to lush green forests and pristine palaces, everything in Trine 4 has a sense of place. The developers describe the style as rustic yet fairytale-like, which is a pretty good way to sum it up. There’s a children’s storybook aesthetic going on and it’s nostalgic in a way that most games don’t evoke.
However, from a technical standpoint, it is let down somewhat. The art style carries it quite far, but the visuals have barely moved on since 2011’s Trine 2. That game released as an Xbox 360 arcade game, and you’d expect a bigger jump in fidelity since then. Character models are poor by modern standards, and up-close texture work doesn’t hold up either. Playing on Xbox One X, the game isn’t enhanced for that machine, which is also a huge letdown. A little more time in the technical department would have made the visual style pop even more.
When it comes to platforming, the game shines in co-op. Whether playing locally or online, the three heroes can be interchanged at will, and their abilities play off each other well. You’ll need to use each hero to get through most stages, and my favourite is Amadeus the Wizard. There’s just something satisfying about being able to conjure up platforms out of thin air! Aside from him, Pontius the Knight is your typical brute character who focuses on up-close combat. And Zoya the Thief, who is useful for ranged attacks and using her rope to access hidden areas. In co-op, interchanging between the three works well, as sometimes you can be stuck with one character, only for your buddy to switch and figure it out straight away.
The system can be cheesed though. At times, it feels like the game has a set method of progressing, but spawn multiple boxes/platforms in the right places and you’ll be able to leap your way forward. Personally, I don’t mind the way Trine allows this, as it eliminates those frustrating mental-block moments puzzle games sometimes create. It also makes the game world feel more organic, as there isn’t one set way to progress through it. Creating your own puzzle solutions is a unique trait of the Tine series.
If you switch over to solo, Trine 4 doesn’t work quite as well. There is a hint system in there to replace figuring things out as a team, but some of the gratification is lost. The game is at its most satisfying when you work through puzzles together, and the game definitely feels like it’s built for co-op. If you’re someone who only plays solo there is still fun to be had in the world of Trine 4, especially as more skills and abilities are unlocked. However, I do recommend grabbing at least one other player for the adventure.
The combat has been reworked somewhat for Trine 4, but it’s slightly underwhelming. The fight sequences feel like they exist just to offer a break between platforming segments, and they feel half-baked. Combat sections largely come down to button mashing with the Knight’s sword or using his ground-pound to one-hit enemies. They’re also at odds visually, as they appear from the nightmare world and don’t blend well with the more organic-looking backgrounds. Boss fights fare a little better, as they attempt to mix puzzles and combat together. Whilst none were particularly challenging in my co-op playthrough, they were interesting to complete. Sometimes you’d simply have to use your abilities to reach the boss, and for others, you’d need to utilise parts of the environment to destroy them. All in all, it felt like the boss fights should have been the only combat sequences in Trine 4.
Trine 4: The Nightmare Prince is a fun 2.5D platformer set in a very charming world. If you’re new to the series it’s fine to begin here, as the story isn’t particularly important. However, if you’re a returning Trine player this fourth entry does little to justify its existence. If all you’re after is more Trine you’ll be well served, but those looking for more of an evolution might be disappointed with Trine 4. Now get me out of here, Amadeus!