In hindsight, 2009 was a great year to be a gamer. Several definitive I.P.’s had their first installment, a few superb sequels were released, and most studios were 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 a studio named Frozenbyte released their side-scrolling puzzle game, Trine.
Trine quickly captured many hearts. 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 a fairy-tale world. Overall, Trine was a joy to play as Frozenbyte managed to produce a beautiful game that played like more than the sum of its parts.
Now the series is set to reach its fourth release in Trine 4: The Nightmare Prince a decade after its debut, and Frozenbyte have taken the opportunity to remind a new generation of players what once made this franchise so charming. If you, like many fans, thought 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 mental capacity for solving the puzzles, the gameplay encourages experimentation and imagination with physics from the player’s side.
Once again fans will step into the roles of Amadeus the wizard, Zoya the thief, and Pontius the knight as they search for a young prince who brings monsters from his nightmares into the real world. The wizard can help the player climb to higher areas 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.
Much like our other friend, Garret, the thief is all about those arrows. This includes the ability to shoot rope arrows for tying things together, swinging over gaps, as well as 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 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 particular puzzle calls for it.
While Amadeus, Pontius and Zoya cannot save the prince alone, it is when their abilities are combined that they actually stand a chance. Most importantly, it is how this premise has been deeply integrated into the gameplay itself that really makes Trine 4 engaging.
Back to formula
Fans will notice immediately that Trine 4 has returned to the classic, ‘2.5D’ style of the first two games, which includes combat encounters. This enabled Frozenbyte to refine the physics of the puzzles throughout the game, and makes 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 limited perspective on the world. As such, Trine 4 looks gorgeous, and the dreamy, fairy-tale like 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 an element of the overall storytelling.
Unfortunately, the intermittent combat encounters need some tweaking. Here the player will face shadow monsters from the prince’s dreams using Pontius mostly. Unfortunately, the knight’s excessively slow and cumbersome movement leave the combat encounters feeling slightly clunky, and his sword slashes feel as if they have no weight 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 Frozenbyte have also designed a set of completely different puzzles for when you play cooperatively with your buddies. 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.