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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: Fall 2019

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Switch/PS4/XOne/PC Preview - 'Trine 4: The Nightmare Prince'

by Thomas Wilde on July 8, 2019 @ 12:00 a.m. PDT

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.

Pre-order Trine 4: The Nightmare Prince

Four years later, it looks like Trine's future is no longer in question. The puzzle-platformer series was on life support for a while there, due to Trine 3's bad press and truncated length, which made it a surprise to walk into Modus's booth at E3 2019 and see a Trine 4 demo sitting there like it wasn't a big deal.

Trine 4: The Nightmare Prince is a sequel both in its series and to Frozenbyte's 2017 co-op action-RPG Nine Parchments. The Nightmare Prince of the title is Prince Celius from the latter game, who's lost control of his dream powers. It's up to the original trio — Amadeus, Pontius and Zoya — to bring Celius back to safety before he manages to hurt anyone.


The E3 demo was a short stretch of the early game, which reintroduced Pontius. The Trine games have traditionally been lush, colorful puzzle-platformers that revolve around cleverly using the three heroes' trademark abilities; Zoya the thief has a grappling hook and a bow, Amadeus can conjure and move items in the environment with magic, and Pontius is a burly armored knight with a sword and shield, the latter of which can be used to block attacks and reflect projectiles.

I found the first couple of games to be charming back in the day, as they feel a little bit like throwbacks to a very specific genre period. Trine is more challenging due to its puzzles than its action, traditionally, with a likeable central cast of characters in a relatively lighthearted fantasy world. Within about 30 seconds of playing the E3 demo, I felt immediately back at home with the controls and the setting. Trine's now a little more cartoony than it used to be, like the series began as low-stakes post-Tolkien fantasy and is now slowly finishing its evolution into Discworld, but it's not wildly out of step with what came before.

In the demo, Pontius has set out to defeat an undead knight who's holed up in a nearby ruined castle, and he's congratulating himself on his cleverness for deciding to do so at high noon, when undead monsters are traditionally not as active. He's both right and wrong, as he was hoping they'd be asleep, but Pontius ends up with a big advantage going in due to the monsters' vulnerability to sunlight.


As usual for Pontius, his shield does a lot of the work for him; he can use it to bounce projectiles back at their users, block incoming attacks, and most importantly, reflect beams of sunlight. The trick to getting through the castle is typically to figure out a way to get the sun into the room with them somehow. You can smash open walls, use seesaws to propel yourself upward, or just haul off and deck something with Pontius' sword, using crates and giant pumpkins as stepping stones, counterweights, or in the pumpkins' case, rolling along on them like logs.

The E3 demo was about 15 minutes long, full of simple puzzles revolving around those themes. ("Giant pumpkin" is a theme now.) You bounce fireballs back at their casters to clear the way, use sunlight to burn away corrupt vegetation or weaken undead, and eventually confront the undead knight in question. He has a simple, powerful attack pattern that is easy to exploit but takes almost no damage from simple hits. The key was to keep figuring out new ways to smash open the walls and ceiling, because a dose of sunlight made the knight vulnerable enough that I went from chipping away at his health to taking him out in three hits.

It wasn't much, but that's the Trine formula as I recall it. The early levels in the last games were simple too, because it was saving up its real challenges for when you had access to all three characters' special abilities.

Trine 4: The Nightmare Prince will be available on PC, PS4, Switch and Xbox One later this year, both as a physical disc and digitally via Steam. You can opt to pick up the game by itself or grab it as part of the forthcoming Trine Ultimate Edition pack, which collects all four games in the Trine series.



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