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Trine 4: The Nightmare Prince

Platform(s): Nintendo Switch, PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One
Genre: Action/Adventure
Publisher: Modus Games
Developer: Frozenbyte
Release Date: Oct. 8, 2019

About Chris Barnes

There's few things I'd sell my soul to the devil for. However, the ability to grow a solid moustache? I'd probably sign that contract ... maybe ... (definitely).


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PS4 Review - 'Trine 4: The Nightmare Prince'

by Chris Barnes on Dec. 18, 2019 @ 12:10 a.m. PST

Featuring an all-new story that reunites Amadeus, Pontius, and Zoya, Trine 4: The Nightmare Prince returns to the magic of 2.5D with the puzzle-platforming gameplay that defined a genre in Trine 1 and 2.

Buy Trine 4: The Nightmare Prince

A wizard, a thief, and a knight walk into a bar. The thief and knight get angry at the wizard for not levitating the bar before the collision.

Okay, maybe I should stick to game reviews and leave the joke-writing to comedians. In the same vein, Frozenbyte has learned its lesson, gone back to its roots, and left behind the 3D platforming from Trine 3. As a result, Trine 4: The Nightmare Prince is a delightfully charming physics-based puzzle platformer that's sure to please anyone who's craving something from that genre.

Trine 4 is set in the same world as prior entries in the series, with Amadeus, Pontius, and Zoya leading the charge through whimsical fairytale environments. The game has the heroes chasing down Selius, an on-the-run prince who's struggling to learn how to contain his nightmarish powers — literally. Selius can conjure the nightmares of nearby characters and make them into reality.

The artistic design of these environments is just as enchanting as ever. Players will traverse a multitude of biomes: daunting astral planes, snowy mountaintops and sun-drowned lakesides. As in other games in the Trine series, players will use various character abilities to interact with assets in the game world. Levitating a log with the wizard's powers to steer water toward a drying bud lets it grow into a marvelous plant. Reflecting light with the knight's shield will send it bouncing through a room until it reaches its target to unlock a door to the next room. These familiar mechanics will serve as comfort food to those who are acquainted with the series.

Of course, any good puzzle-platformer is only as good as puzzles within it. While the fanciful levels absorbed me in the beginning, the clever puzzles kept me coming back with a smile. The player can switch between the three heroes on the fly and leverage each skill set in various ways. The wizard can craft balls, boxes, and flat panels; the knight can reflect light and enemy projectiles with his shield; and the thief can create bridges with her rope, shoot arrows to interact with distant buttons, and swing from mounts.

While the first act of the game offers simplistic puzzles that demand usage of just one or two of the skills, later levels require the player to combine a multitude of characters' skills to progress. Because of this, it makes the cooperative multiplayer that much more appealing. It's worth noting that I never really had that "ah-ha!" moment after being stumped by a puzzle section. This is often my favorite part about puzzle games, but despite the game missing any head-scratchers, because the characters skills can be combined in various ways, there are a ton of different ways to approach any given section. This allows for fun replayability and multiplayer moments when you see someone tackle a problem in an entirely different way.

Similar to the puzzles in Breath of the Wild, I often found myself thinking, "Surely this isn't what the designers had in mind, but it works!" Not only does Frozenbyte encourage this behavior, but it has also done a good job of creating puzzles that require more than just creating a levitating box. In Trine 2, I levitated (read: physics hacking) boxes in most levels without much variation. Trine 4 does a much better job of incorporating the other heroes' skills to progress.

The game's enchanted forests aren't all sunshine and rainbows, though.

The Dark Prince has been running through the world and summoning nightmarish creatures. Unfortunately, this leads to combat scenarios that are the weakest part of an otherwise great game. The controls are floaty and lack any sense of impact. Pontius, the brave metal-clad knight, may as well be waving a pool noodle at his enemies.

As with the puzzles, you can combine the characters' skills to alleviate some of the pains that come along with the combat. Zoya can shoot ice arrows from her bow to freeze enemies, which can be followed up by a couple of free hits from Pontius' sword. Once I discovered this tactic, I never felt the need to switch it up. There aren't any strengths or weaknesses to expose from enemy to enemy. Every encounter starts and ends the exact same: dodge, freeze with ice arrows, attack with sword, and rinse and repeat. The only instance when this is not true is during the boss battles, which occur at the end of each act, of which there are five. Boss encounters often require some light puzzle-solving or platforming to succeed. They never offered too much of a challenge, but it added some variety to the predictable combat in the rest of the game.

The lackluster combat can easily be overlooked when your eyes are so distracted by the gorgeous visuals in Trine 4. From lush, green forests inhabited by adorable bears, badgers, and seals to the illusory, celestial roofs of an Astral Academy, each and every level is bursting with character. The same cannot be said for the characters, though. Although the environments across all five acts are dripping with life, the character models feel like clay-formed dolls that have been sapped of any emotion or soul. Their bug-eyed stares and stiff facial animations are a harsh juxtaposition against the gorgeous backdrops that surround them. It is a bit surprising that a game with so much heart poured into the art design of the levels misses the mark so much on the character models. When the game's primary focus is physics-based puzzles from a side-scroller perspective, the character models are a minor gripe that hardly detract from the experience.

Overall, Trine 4 is a delightful game that's sure to satisfy anyone looking for a fun, light-hearted physics-based puzzle game. With roughly 10 hours of content, it's an easy recommendation if only to experience the game world's rich art design and clever puzzles. The puzzles aren't as complex as those found in Portal 2 or The Witness, but the variety of approaches is rewarding in its own way. For that reason alone, it's easy to recommend Trine 4, a game in a genre that rarely receives entries with this level of heart and soul in the art design department.

Score: 8.0/10

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