After the misstep that was Trine 3, the Trine series makes a triumphant return to form with Trine 4: The Nightmare Prince. Now back in 2.5D, Trine 4 offers up a world full of engaging puzzles, gorgeous scenery, and fun co-op gameplay. However, it is not without its problems, some of which definitely need to be discussed.
Beautiful graphics. One of Trine 4‘s biggest strengths is its graphics. Not only is the art style itself really good, but everything from characters, to environments, to even lighting is all superbly done and all work great in tandem with each other. It was one of those games where I would comment out loud about how good the scenery was in a certain level, an old habit from my let’s play days.
And of course, it’s not that the environments just look good, they are also very diverse. You’ll go from snowy mountaintops to forests full of life and even to dream worlds, all with their own gameplay mechanics to take advantage of. I personally really liked the Goldleaf Garden level, one full of overgrown plants, cool cave segments, and some really good background music. In fact, the soundtrack as a whole is worth praising as well, it really adds to the game’s overall aesthetic.
Excellent puzzle design. Normally, when you get a puzzle game like this, you’re expected to solve puzzles in a certain way. Developers often come up with a solution and work the puzzle around it, expecting you to figure out that sole solution given some time. However, with Trine 4, this is subverted. Instead, Trine 4 designs puzzles in such a way as to allow players to approach them from several different angles, not just one pre-determined one. For example, you can approach one puzzle and try to find the intended solution using whatever characters at your disposal, but it’s oftentimes more fun to just come up with your own.
In fact, my friend and I managed to pretty much break the game at times trying out our own solutions, even coming up with a way to infinitely levitate each other up into the air on some puzzles. It was an absolute blast and had us both breaking down laughing at numerous points throughout the game due to just how stupid our solutions would be. It was honestly really refreshing to see such open-ended puzzle design and it makes solving said puzzles that much more fun.
Fun and dynamic gameplay. Building on its excellent puzzle design, Trine 4 also offers some fun and dynamic gameplay to match. I say dynamic because the gameplay is constantly changing, introducing new mechanics in almost every level to shake up the experience. You start off with your three characters and their most basic abilities, then eventually get stuff like light puzzles, bouncy balls, and portals that make use of momentum just like in the game Portal.
However, it does this without ever making players feel overloaded. Puzzles that make use of these new mechanics are introduced at just the right pace to give players the time to adapt to them, to feel comfortable with them. The mage, for example, starts off only being able to summon one object at a time, but eventually is able to summon three at a time, leading to more complex puzzles in the end, but never enough that it feels like too much. Sure, there are some mechanics that are harder to grasp than others, but I grew to appreciate how dynamic the gameplay was, it kept the experience fresh for the entire seven hours that it took to beat the game.
Repetitive combat sequences. Trine 4 is pretty good on the gameplay front, but does suffer from some rather repetitive combat sequences. In pretty much every level (usually multiple times) you’ll run into an area that was deliberately designed to serve up one of these sequences. A bunch of platforms will appear and several enemies will then spawn, prompting players to make use of their offensive abilities to dispatch of them.
The problem is that the combat isn’t really the game’s strongest feature. It isn’t really all that impactful, can be played the same way every time outside of the occasional boss fight or two, and doesn’t offer up enough enemy variety to warrant having so many combat scenes. As it stands, it just feels repetitive.
Subpar storyline. If there is one area that Trine 4 is really lacking in, it would be its storyline. It’s one of those video game stories that is there simply to be there, rather than to really add anything to the experience. It’s generic, full of bland characters, and develops in a predictable way. There are bits and pieces of the story scattered throughout (some told in the form of letters found in hidden chests), but these hardly added anything to it. Granted, the story is just there to serve the gameplay (to give the levels some sense of progression), so this isn’t really all that bad, but could be a disappointment to some.
Controls can be iffy at times. Although Trine 4 is pretty good from a technical standpoint, it does have some issues when it comes to controls, specifically when using a controller. My main complaint would be with the game’s awkward targeting system. A couple of the characters rely on having to target specific objects on the screen, but when there’s more than one it can become a bit of a cluster. The mage is the primary culprit here, as he works by moving around objects on the screen. I would oftentimes have trouble playing this character simply because it was hard to actually select the object I wanted to.
Additionally, the drop-in/drop-out controls can be a bit finicky as well. For some reason, only player 1 can pause the game. Whenever a second player tries to do so, it simply boots them from the game. Normally, this second player can join right back by pressing start again, but I did run into a couple issues where player 2 would somehow gain control of player 1’s character and sometimes even join back as a player 3 instead, leaving a phantom player behind. These issues did not occur all that often, but are worth noting regardless.
Trine 4: The Nightmare Prince is a fantastic experience overall. It looks great, plays well, and is a blast in co-op. It does have some issues with regards to its combat sequences and controls, but it is a great game regardless and definitely earns my recommendation. It’s been a while since I played a great couch co-op game and Trine 4 was the perfect game to fill that void.
You can buy Trine 4: The Nightmare Prince on Steam here.
I was provided a review copy of the game in order to write this review. Read more about how I do my game reviews here.