It’s been 10 years since Finnish developer Frozenbyte hit its stride with physics-based puzzle platformer Trine. Early adoption of the bundle model ensured that the TITLE graced Steam accounts far and wide, and the game propelled the studio onto continued success. Despite stumbling with a 3D entry a couple years ago, the company bounced back with a few unique titles. Now, it made up for lost time with TRINE 4: THE NIGHTMARE PRINCE. A return to the tried and true formula, this 2D adventure isn’t breaking any new ground. Still, when you’ve got a blueprint this good, it’s sometimes best to stick to the plan.
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Like past Trine games, there are three distinct heroes in a high fantasy kingdom, each with unique abilities that work for both slaying foes and solving puzzles. Zoya the Thief wields a bow and arrow and a grappling hook. Pontius the Knight has a trusty sword and a shield that reflects light and blocks projectiles. And Amadeus the Wizard can conjure boxes and levitate items, but mostly just gets in people’s way.
The world of Trine has a lot of complicated ways to open doors, and you’re going to intimately explore every one of them. Most of them involve boxes. You can throw a box onto a button, weigh a platform down to pull a rope with a box, or even just jam a box under a collapsing stone door. Or, you can let your teammate try to do all these things while you repeteadly smash them on the head with your box. There may be other ways to get past most of these challenges, but one of the best parts about Trine 4 is that it lets the player use boxes an absurd amount of the time.
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There’s a lot of flexibility to all these powers, and it feels like every puzzle you come across has quite a few different solutions. Each player gets a full complement of heroes to switch between, and dying isn’t a chore. This makes for gameplay that is playful in the best way, even if you’re just trying to figure things out on your own. Levels change depending on whether you’re going solo or with a group, ensuring that there’s always a fair challenge to overcome. There can be some menu fiddling when switching between co-op and single-player since levels can’t change on the fly, but that’s a small price to pay for an otherwise flawless couch co-op experience.
Yes, local co-op. No internet involved. In an age where split-screen multiplayer is a foreign concept and local multiplayer craze has passed, it’s nice to be able to call your roommate over and enjoy a few levels with them in the same room. Of course, Trine 4 supports online play as well, but you don’t feel the enjoyment of knocking your friend into a spike pit with your box when you’re yelling over a headset. For a game as focused on co-op as Trine, it is great to have options.
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For the most part, all this so far applies to the entire 2D strain of the franchise. If you’re just looking for another fun time with these characters, that’s exactly what Trine 4 delivers. If you’re looking for something new, there’s a bit of that if you know where to look. Most notably, the thief gets elemental arrows early on, leading to some simple combat shortcuts and a nifty way to freeze platforms in place. The wizard even has some use in combat now, gaining the ability to smash boxes onto enemy heads. These changes are nothing major, but they do work to eliminate what didn’t work about past games and present something that much more put together.
Even with the changes, the combat doesn’t quite gel with the rest of Trine 4. Boss fights work well, letting you use your abilities to take down hulking beasts in multi-stage challenges. However, the basic enemy encounters that crop up every so often are mindless time filler from the start. They become even more pointless as you upgrade your abilities and give yourself countless ways to wipe out goons without breaking a sweat. Campaign variety is great, but Trine 4 could have shipped without any of these encounters and no replacement and it would have been fine.
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Whether you’re mindlessly slashing at dream wolves (don’t ask) or shoving a box on a button, Trine 4 treats players to a visual feast. The original Trine was quite a looker back in the Xbox 360 days, and Trine 4 continues in its footsteps once again. Everything from the character models to the backgrounds to the particle effects perfectly fits the fantasy atmosphere. This is a colorful world in a way that Trine has never been before and brings life to this long-established set of characters. While the animations have a bit of catching up to do, this art style could easily fly as a fully animated series.
For many Trine fans, the only real question they have is “Are we back?” After Trine 3‘s failed experiment, Trine 4: The Nightmare Prince is a glorious return to form. It brings subtle updates to the gameplay while preserving what works best in 2D. It presents gorgeous visuals, the type we will probably see more of as we gear up to a new generation. Most of all, it’s an inviting, comfortable playthrough. Whether you’re alone, with friends, or living in a box, Trine 4 is an old school co-op adventure worth taking.
GameRevolution reviewed Trine 4: The Nightmare Prince on Xbox One X with a code provided by the publisher.