The tale of Trine and its heroes Amadeus, Zoya, and Pontius continues after the series' four-year hiatus and it's back with a bang. Trine 4: The Nightmare Prince continues the delightful saga and improves upon the formula set by the Frozenbyte team. In the fourth installment, you're working towards finding and saving prince Selius, a young noble having been partially corrupted by a dark force of sorts, taking the form of his own shadow following his curiosity regarding magic and power getting the better of him.
To save the prince, you'll have to embark on an epic journey through a vast, magical land by solving puzzles, completing platforming sequences, and fighting the young prince's nightmares.
As per usual when it comes to Trine as a series, the main focus is on the various puzzles that will end up taking up most of the players' time - as it should be, considering how well-put-together the puzzles are. These make use of all three characters, so if you're playing alone, you'll have to switch between characters quite often, which is done by a simple press of either bumper. If you're playing co-op, however, which you can do either locally or online with up to two friends, meaning you'll simply have to work together to meet your goal.
As for actually getting through the environments, the three heroes of Trine, of course, have separate abilities. Amadeus, the wizard, can conjure four different kinds of objects - a box, a plank (that can be used as a ramp or a bridge), a metal orb, and a bouncy ball, although we didn't really get much use out of the latter. These objects can stick to some surfaces - such as deep snow, spikes, and magic panels - and they can also be moved around freely using Amadeus' telekinetic abilities, or have ropes stuck to them by Zoya to either swing from or attach to other surfaces to create bridges to walk on.
Zoya, apart from being able to attach ropes (of which there are two variations, a regular old rope and another allowing the attached object to levitate) to various surfaces and creating bridges, has three different arrows at her disposal: standard, fire, and ice arrows. Fire arrows are used to solve puzzles involving specific thermal pressure plates, and the ice arrows are used to freeze moving surfaces needed to stay in position for the player to proceed. The arrows are also, of course, used in combat, and some enemies are weak to specific elements. Zoya is also the only character who can swing from metal hoops and Amadeus' conjured objects too, which is useful.
Lastly, Pontius is the brute of the gang, with three character-specific abilities. He has a useful melee attack, a dash (which is set apart from the dashes of the other two characters) that lets him smash objects into specific walls - which we'll talk more about later - and a shield that he can use to direct beams of light, something used when solving some of the later puzzles in the game, as well as to deflect projectiles and levitate with. As the shield gets upgraded, Pontius is able to set a "spectral" shield up to two times, making light puzzles easier to manage.
All of these different skills and their variations work in unison between each character in a spectacular way. Amadeus, for example, may encounter a crystal wall which can only be broken by one of his conjured metal orbs or a boulder. Zoya can then attach said orb to a metal loop on the ceiling, followed by Pontius slamming the orb, causing it to swing from the rope attached into the crystal wall, shattering it. There are many variations of such a scenario and each time you figure the puzzles out, you feel as though you've truly accomplished something.
The game is very linear but there are a lot of secret paths to find if you explore the levels, and once found, more difficult puzzles will often be hidden inside, offering a tougher experience for those who wish to take them on.
As the puzzles get more challenging, which they naturally do, you will want to upgrade your characters - something you do by using the games' currency, which is essentially orbs that you'll find as you make your way through each level, with the secret areas often granting you more of them. The main abilities are unlocked as you play, while some upgrades have to be purchased (which we forgot about plenty of times even though there's a prompt on the screen when you have enough points to spend, making some fights rather tough - oops).
The story of the game is an interesting one, and the pieces that are shared come at the right time just between each chapter, meaning the puzzle-adventuring you'll have to do isn't interrupted by pushed cutscenes. Some complained about the previous game in the series hinting at DLC when none was planned, but that didn't feel like the case in Trine 4: The Nightmare Prince. The game feels complete and has a definitive ending, while making room for a future adventure, which after playing this instalment we definitely want to see in a few years.
One aspect that really stands out in Trine 4: The Nightmare Prince, apart from the masterfully crafted puzzles, is its fantastic visuals. The world of Trine is absolutely beautiful and despite the previous instalment in the series having expanded the dimensions to 3D, Frozenbyte has gone back to its 2.5D roots and it just feels right. Incredible detail has been put into the environments and the whimsical design, accompanied by a wonderful soundtrack and a lovely narration, makes playing it feel like jumping into a storybook. Every choice made when creating the world of Trine 4: The Nightmare Prince feels like the right choice, because each aspect plays so well with the other.
We couldn't put the game down, nearly at all, and played it over four days. While we weren't keeping track of the time, we can definitely say that the game is of a pretty hefty size for its genre and it never got tedious. We didn't encounter any bugs in the game either, except the fact that the achievements on Xbox One stopped unlocking after about a third of the story.
Trine 4: The Nightmare Prince is a beautiful, whimsical tale of three loveable heroes embarking on an epic quest while taking the player along for the ride. The three heroes each have their own distinct personalities, and it's lovely to listen to the banter between the characters as you move through the puzzle-ridden world. We had a blast experiencing the game both solo and with a friend and we can whole-heartedly recommend it to every gamer looking for an epic puzzle-adventure fairytale to get lost in.
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