Coming off the ambitious but ultimately flawed Trine 3: The Artifacts of Power, Frozenbyte decided to take a several year hiatus from the series that put them on the map. Now, they’re bringing the series back with the help of Modus Games and they are doing so with a title that harkens back to the series’ roots. In more ways than one, Trine 4: The Nightmare Prince feels much more like a continuation of Trine 2 rather than Trine 3, and that definitely isn’t a bad thing.
Trine 4: The Nightmare Prince is able to tap into what made the first two games in the series so engaging, creating a puzzle-platformer that is at its best when players are using each character’s powers in tandem to solve puzzles. Though dull combat and the occasional control hitches can sometimes get in the way, Trine 4: The Nightmare Prince captures the simplistic magic at the series’ roots in both single-player and multiplayer to create an experience that feels synonymous with the term puzzle-platformer.
The previous Trine game ended on a pretty major cliffhanger; in fact, it was one of the reasons people ended up disliking it. Players that were hoping for Trine 4: The Nightmare Prince to follow up on the final twist of the prior game in any sort of way will be disappointed. This game tells an original story, with Amedeus, Zoya, and Pontius attempting to track down the titular prince who has been corrupted by nightmarish magic. It’s a simple tale, all things considered, but it gets the job done. The highlight of the game’s writing comes in the banter between the three protagonists, as they have three games of history behind them.
Frozenbyte has built a good dynamic between Trine’s protagonists over the past decade, so the story of Trine 4: The Nightmare Prince is able to run like a well-oiled machine. The story does have fairly low stakes, but that also means that its ambition doesn’t ultimately backfire. There’s also an underlying theme about connecting with and respecting the environment. While that doesn’t really go anywhere, it’s a message that’s appreciated.
Like the first two games in the series, Trine 4: The Nightmare Prince is a sidescrolling puzzle platformer. Amadeus, Zoya, and Pontius all have unique abilities, and they must be used in tandem to solve both puzzles and platforming challenges. It’s pretty straightforward, but also really well designed. Amadeus can summon a variety of objects, be it boxes, balls, or platforms, and also has a dash that’s extremely helpful in traversal. Zoya has access to a bow with both fire and ice arrows and a rope, so she is very useful with platforming and hitting switches. Finally, Pontius can dash into objects to send them flying, reflect light with his shield, and is by far the most useful in combat.
Each character has their own strengths and weaknesses in their abilities, but these holes are patched up as Trine 4 encourages players to use many of the aforementioned abilities in tandem during any given puzzle. You may cross a chasm by using Zoya’s rope to connect two boxes spawned by Amadeus or freeze a moving object in place with Zoya’s ice arrows in order to let Pontius reflect light towards the right switch. Most, if not all, puzzles have multiple solutions. This not only adds to Trine 4: The Nightmare Prince’s replayability, but means that if a player can think of a solution with any combination of the protagonist’s powers, it is probably possible.
When it comes to puzzles, Trine 4: The Nightmare Prince is as good of a return to form that one could ask for as the puzzle design is the best in the Trine series. Even when I was left scratching my head for a minute or two during some scenarios, the possible solutions always made sense once I found them. For the most part, the platforming is solid, though I would run into weird movement hitches on slopes that would sometimes stop my movements. This was infrequent, but annoying whenever it came up in more momentum heavy platforming sections. Physics would occasionally weird out too, specifically with the bouncing ball Amedeus can spawn, though I can admit that these issues are pretty situational and really just show the limits of the game’s systems.
The only major part of Trine 4: The Nightmare Prince that is pretty dull is the combat. Levels will occasionally stop in their tracks so players can fight groups of enemies, and while each character does have some combat abilities, these never really evolve beyond mashing the attack button with Pontius and hitting the occasional fire and ice enemies with Zoya’s arrows. These situations never went on for too long, but I zoned out whenever they came up towards the end of the game. The shining spot when it comes to enemy encounters are the boss fights, which all take advantage of each character’s abilities in unique ways. If the developers had injected the regular combat encounters with some of this flair, they would not have been so boring. I understand their inclusion as combat is a major part of Pontius’ toolset, but this system has never evolved into anything interesting over the course of the entire series.
Even the weaker aspects of the game can be enjoyed with a friend and Trine 4: The Nightmare Prince is able to satiate that with its multiplayer. With some unique puzzles and solid netcode, multiplayer wound up being a solid experience both online and offline. This just serves as an embellishment on the overall package, as does the catchy soundtrack and some of the beautiful environments. This is not a groundbreaking or genre-defining title by any means, but it does remain a fun romp despite its problems.
Trine 4: The Nightmare Prince stands as one of the strongest games within its own series and certainly is one of the best titles published by Modus Games yet. It isn’t without its problems due to the occasional control and physics hitches as well as the mindless combat, but the solid level and puzzle design and charming world always make up for it.
Trine 4: The Nightmare Prince is not a direct continuation of Trine 3: The Artifacts of Power in any major way, and that ultimately worked to the game’s benefit. Now that the series has returned to its roots and found the spark that made the originals games great, one can hope that future games can follow up on Trine 3: The Artifacts of Power’s story in a meaningful way.
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