Fantastical fairytale themed puzzle games are few and far between these days, especially ones featuring co-op, but Finnish developers Frozenbyte have put their heart and soul into delivering such experiences for a decade now with the Trine series. Upon the release of the fourth instalment, Trine 4: The Nightmare Prince, publishers Modus Games have launched the entire range on Xbox One in the form of Trine: Ultimate Collection. Should everyone be gearing up for a trip down memory lane, or have these classics failed to age well alongside the brand new outing?
First and foremost it’s worth pointing out that for the price you’d normally pay for a game these days – £39.99 – you’re getting four puzzling platformers in Trine: Ultimate Collection. It includes Trine Enchanted Edition, Trine 2: Complete Story, Trine 3: Artifacts of Power and the latest in the series, Trine 4: The Nightmare Prince. You don’t need anyone to tell you that, on paper, it’s an absolute bargain. However, there are a handful of drawbacks to draw your attention to that may swing your decision on a purchase.
A knight, a thief, and a wizard walk into a magical academy… there’s no punch line here, that’s just how the adventures came to be. Pontius, Zoya, and Amadeus are drawn to a mysterious artifact at the Astral Academy, before becoming bound to said artifact, which is known as the Trine. This trio are tasked with ridding the rather run-down kingdom of the undead in the original Trine, whilst Trine 2 focuses on clearing out goblins and taking on an even greater evil. The third iteration of the series is different in many ways, especially in the narrative as our protagonists appear as more reluctant heroes and, unwittingly, have a hand in the creation of the newest threat. Meanwhile, Trine 4 sees a Prince’s worst nightmares turn into a reality, causing chaos throughout the kingdom.
The stories all tend to follow a similar pattern, with the heroes brought together for the greater good by the Trine. I’m not convinced the tales are very gripping in truth, but there are a couple of memorable twists and The Nightmare Prince specifically features some truly marvellous support characters befitting of the magical setting, really raising the bar to a whole new level. Throughout the collection, the voiceovers are of a decent standard; especially that of the narrator who has the ideal tone to set the scene – it’s like he’s reading a bedtime story to you.
In regards the gameplay, 2.5D side-scrolling platforming and the solving of physics-based puzzles is the order of the day in Trine, Trine 2 and Trine 4. The idea is to swap between and choose the right hero for the task at hand, each of whom possesses vastly different abilities. Amadeus, the wizard, can conjure and levitate objects; Zoya, the thief, has her trusty bow and arrow as well as a nifty grappling hook; and Pontius, the knight, provides the brute force with a sword and shield combination. And by collecting experience hidden in the most difficult of places to reach, you can upgrade the characters to increase the number of conjured items, garner elemental arrows and acquire a hammer that Thor would be proud to own.
The problems to overcome are immensely clever because there are two parts of a plan to put in place to succeed; first is deciding who’s best suited for the job and then it’s about figuring out a potential solution. There’s also the chance to use the physics aspect to your advantage, occasionally fluking advancement when you’re running out of ideas. The way that each puzzle has various solution methods gives the player more scope to try different options, which is mightily handy when you might have lost a hero to the spikes or a fiery blaze and can’t get them back until the next checkpoint. For example, there could be switches needing activation via boxes, which can be pushed by Pontius or levitated by Amadeus. More complex puzzles soon arise though, involving pulley systems, magic mirrors that act as portals and even bubbles capable of floating atop of.
Whilst Trine 3 features many puzzles akin to those in the other games, the main difference to gameplay is that it’s in 3D, with more roaming. Personally, I find it quite frustrating to platform into the background and foreground, as well as left to right. Failure is far more frequent as you miss-step into hazardous areas, but worse than that, are glitches and bugs that rear their ugly head too. These range from boxes getting wedged in awkward positions, rendering them useless, to your character into getting stuck inside a wall. To cap it off, the abilities are harder to pull off and aim because of the 3D aspect, thus making it the least enjoyable of the bunch. The only thing it excels at is tracking the collectibles, ensuring you know exactly what area of a level to scour when trying to mop them up.
And then there’s the combat, which seems to have gone from strength to strength since the original Trine. You are practically mauled by skeletons, goblins and other creatures far too regularly in the earlier instalments, which is a nuisance during your platforming escapades. Fortunately, by the time you reach Trine 4, these bits are sectioned off during a level to allow the focus to solely be on one thing or the other. Still, the fighting is the least exciting aspect of the adventures; aside from the occasional boss segment, which brings a tactical approach to the action as the challenge is more a mental problem to solve.
The most obvious reason to give Trine: Ultimate Collection a go though, is to share the journey alongside a friend or family member in co-op. In fact, four of you can jump in together, either local or online, for Trine 4 and experience the joys it has to offer. For some reason on Xbox One, the other three games are limited to just offline play alongside up to two companions. Nevertheless, it’s better to tackle the puzzles with the additional brainpower and create gaming memories in the process.
Visually, the whole collection is a bit of a mixed bag due to the age of the older titles, with the original Trine looking as if a hazy filter has been applied and the locations have less of a magical vibe, coming across darker on the whole. In stark contrast, Trine 4 is utterly gorgeous with delightful locations and characters that could have been taken straight from one of your favourite fairytales. To be fair, as you advance through the collection, you’ll notice more clarity, vibrancy and better character models on the whole. The audio is great in the way that it isn’t intrusive and merely helps to create a melancholic atmosphere.
The Trine: Ultimate Collection is great if you’re after a co-op puzzler – or four – with a ton of challenging, but fun, gameplay to be had. Without a doubt I’d highly recommend Trine 4: The Nightmare Prince because it’s almost faultless and the stunning world it transports you to is one that mustn’t be missed. In fairness, the only drawbacks found in the rest of the series are age-related and an ill-fated switch to 3D for Trine 3. So, if you can overlook those aspects and don’t mind learning slightly new controls each time, pick up Trine: Ultimate Collection on Xbox One and bathe in the puzzling glory!