The world of fantasy has two very distinct public appearances. One centres around the world of Game of Thrones; a mixture of sex and dragons sharing equal screen time, with the viewer feeling like they are actually there, covered in blood and cowering in the corner. However, the other side of the fantasy coin delivers a beautiful world full of magic, talking animals and comedy sidekicks. It’s a world where there is still danger and evil, but it’s all family-friendly and bloodless. Trine 4 is set in this latter world and I for one am in love with it. In fact, I don’t think I ever want to come back to real life.
Trine 4: The Nightmare Prince is the next instalment to the Trine series, moving on from the three Trine games that lay before it. The first two are heralded as classics in the gaming industry and have a huge fan base, while Trine 3 tried to experiment with the format a bit too much and wasn’t as well-received as the previous titles. Fast forward a few years to here and now in 2019 though and Frozenbyte’s team of developers have used all the best bits of the first two Trines, but developed the franchise into the modern era with a focus on environmental design and further cooperative gameplay.
The story follows the Prince of the realm who has evoked dark magic so that his nightmares are coming to life in the real world. The Prince has since gone missing though, and needs to be found and that is where you come in, with a rescue mission your objective across the whole game. Thankfully you have the usual three Trine heroes available to you; Amadeus the wizard, Zora the Thief and, my personal favorite, Ser Pontius the Knight. Each character has a particular set of skills that will help you in your journey throughout the entirety of the world.
Trine 4 plays out with a mixture of platforming elements and puzzle-solving opportunities. In a single-player walkthrough, you swap between the three different characters with the flick of a button. The wizard has the ability to summon boxes at will, which you can use in numerous ways, like as a platform to jump onto higher places, to jam a mechanism, or to activate a switch. The thief, in turn, can use her bow and arrow to swing off rings high up, traversing through the levels that way. She can also shoot to form rope walkways by attaching to items from across the screen. The Knight can attack objects and clear obstacles – much like a knight does. Yet he can also use his shield as a platform for others, or to deflect beams of light in order to activate switches. As you progress through the levels you gain upgrade points to enhance each of the character’s skill sets, so soon the wizard is summoning different shaped objects, the thief is firing fire arrows, and the knight is hitting things back with his lightning sword.
What’s amazing about Trine 4: The Nightmare Prince is that there isn’t just one way to complete a level. Many different options can be found by using a variety of skill and ability combinations from the various characters. For instance, taking the magical route may work out well, but similarly so could utilising the brute force of the knight. But then, you might replay the level a couple of times and find a completely different way of progressing through it. Trine 4 also has a solid mixture of brain ticklers and skill testers as things progress. For example, in one section you have a water wheel that opens up a doorway. There is water flowing from the ceiling but is a fair old distance from the wheel itself. So how do you direct the water into the wheel to get it moving? The answer is to summon a block as the wizard and put it down. Then switch to the knight and hold your shield up so that the water bounces from there towards the wheel, hitting the block and flowing into the wheel. Voila! There are probably other ways round the puzzles like this too, but that’s the joy of Trine 4. And in yet another great touch, new gameplay dynamics like magic portals that you can zip in and out of, or bouncy seals (yes you heard me right) to jump on, get introduced as you move along. It’s all a bit good in the way it drops new elements into the action.
There is one element to the gameplay that I’m not overly fond of though and that is with the combat and fighting mechanic. You see, every so often Trine 4 will be invaded by the Prince’s nightmarish creatures, and you will have to kill them in order to progress. It’s a piece of gameplay that doesn’t feel at home with the overall tone of the rest of Trine 4, leaving you to sigh before smashing buttons and jumping frantically in the hope that it’ll soon be over and you can get back to the exciting puzzle action. I’ll admit that there are a good few boss battles that are pretty enjoyable, but even they feel at odds with the overall texture of the game.
So you can play Trine 4: The Nightmare Prince alone, in solo, but teaming up with others and partaking in a bit of cooperative action is where the real fun is to be had. For the most part, I played with a single companion, but you can take in Trine 4 with up to four players, and it’s here where things really come alive, switching between any of the three characters at will, and even being able to run with multiple wizards/thieves/knights at the same time if you so wish. In any game, helping friends out and finding the solution to a specific puzzle together as one is the best feeling, and Trine 4 does this brilliantly; it could well be the perfect game to play with all the family.
Talking about family, the visuals of Trine 4 on Xbox One have stepped straight out of a children’s storybook. Beautiful colours and stunning backdrops fill each level and every single one of the five acts. You travel through a real varied bunch of stages too, with some great character design and amazing game physics and elegance throughout. The soundtrack is attractive as well, gliding along nicely with the action, never becoming tiring. And further to that, all the voiceover pieces work well with it, especially when it comes to the three main characters commenting on, and observing, their journey together.
Without a shadow of doubt, I would highly recommend anyone plays Trine 4. It’s a stunning adventure that is hugely enjoyable to take in, delivered with a gentle heart and soul, making it one of the few true family-friendly titles on console. The world is beautiful to look at and the gameplay is nothing short of fun; yet taxing at just the right level. I could well do without the fighting mechanics, but luckily they don’t ever take up too much time in the overall experience. And should you have the chance to play with a friend, you’ll fast discover the true potential of this clever, amazing puzzle adventure.