In hindsight, 2009 turned out to be a great year for gaming. Several definitive I.P.’s had their first installment, a few superb sequels were released, and, above all, studios were clearly not afraid to get experimental with their games. It was during this year, next to masterworks like Batman: Arkham Asylum, Bayonetta and COD: Modern Warfare 2, where an indie studio named Frozenbyte released their side-scrolling puzzle game, Trine.
Trine captured the hearts of many in no time. The game featured a wizard, a knight, and a thief, each with their own set of tricks for players to combine or alternate as they made their way through an enchanting, fairytale-like world. In every way, Trine was a joy to play as Frozenbyte managed to craft a game that offered engaging puzzle designs, beautiful graphics and highly likable characters.
Now the series is set to reach its fourth release in Trine 4: The Nightmare Prince a whole decade after its debut, and the developers have taken the opportunity to remind a new generation of players what once made this franchise so charming. If you like many fans felt things had gone a little off track with Trine 3, I am here to assure you that Trine 4 will feel like reconnecting with an old friend.
Three’s company too
The Trine franchise has always been distinguished by the creativity of its ‘puzzle-platforming’ gameplay. Rather than pushing the player to rely on brute logic for solving the puzzles, the gameplay encourages experimentation and imagination which is supported by a realistic physics system.
Once again players will step into the roles of Amadeus the wizard, Zoya the thief, and Pontius the knight as they search for a young prince with the ability to bring monsters from his nightmares into the real world. As in previous games, the wizard can help the party gain some heigh by summoning a box from thin air, or use his own brand of “wingardium leviosa” to move around objects in the game via levitation magic.
The thief, on the other hand, is all about them arrows. This includes the ability to shoot rope arrows for tying things together or swinging over gaps, but she also has elemental arrows used for melting away ice or creating frozen platforms to cross water.
Her bow isn’t much use against enemies though, which – as you might’ve guessed – is where the rotund knight comes in with his sword. He also has this really neat ability to deflect things like light beams, projectiles, or even streams of water with his shield when a specific puzzle calls for it.
The core of Trine 4’s gameplay is, of course, how the trio’s different abilities can be used creatively not just by themselves, but also in how they can be combined. This makes the puzzles, challenges and obstacles so much fun as the gameplay is focused more on how the player can experiment with finding the solution between the three characters.
Back to formula
Older fans will notice immediately that Trine 4 has returned to the classic, ‘2.5D’ style of the first two games. This gave Frozenbyte the chance to refine the physics of the puzzles throughout the game, and make the behaviour of objects much more predictable and fun to play with.
The return to two dimensions also made more room to crank up the graphics due the player’s fixed perspective on the world. As such, Trine 4 looks gorgeous, and the dreamy, spell-binding setting of the trio’s adventure could rival the best-looking platformers currently out on the market (even from Nintendo). You could even say that all the vivid backdrops in this game are a component of the overall storytelling.
Unfortunately, the intermittent combat encounters need some polish. Here the player will face shadow monsters from the prince’s dreams by using Pontius for the most part. Unfortunately, the knight’s rather slow and cumbersome movement leave the combat encounters feeling slightly clunky, which is only worsened by his sword slashes that feel ineffective against enemies. Definitely an area that Frozenbyte might want to tweak in upcoming months.
Keep your eye on this one
The brief moments of combat were few and far between throughout the six areas I could play in the preview build, and they do not even come close ruining my overall impression. Trine 4 is true to all our favourite things from this series, which is good news to players whose fandom is now reaching a decade in age.
Newcomers, however, will feel right at home here because of how accessible the gameplay is, and it helps that absolutely no prior experience of the previous games is required. You can just jump right in, and it is an added bonus that Frozenbyte have also designed a set of completely different puzzles for when you play cooperatively with friends. I now find myself without any reasons for why you should give Trine 4 a pass.
- Engaging puzzle design
- Interesting characters
- Perfect difficulty curve
- Enemy encounters need some work
Trine 4: The Nightmare Prince releases on the 8th of October.