When I first started playing Trine 4: The Nightmare Prince, a thought crossed my mind. What was the last game I played that made me feel smart? You know what I'm talking about right? Those games that have you bashing your head against a wall, trying to figure out a solution to a puzzle that seems like it was designed by sadist of the highest order... Until you figure it out, and realize that person is in fact a devious genius and in completing their seemingly insurmountable task, you join their MENSA-like ranks for you problem solving prowess. I looked back at the games I've recently played and realised just how much I missed that feeling. It feels like every game I play these days holds my hand at every turn, or requires nothing more than fast fingers for shooting the bad guys more efficiently. It was a magical moment when those long dormant feelings of smug intelligence returned, satisfied and reinvigorated by Trine 4 and it's excellent puzzle design.
The first two entries in the Trine series were both excellent games and displayed a penchant for creative puzzles, beautiful world design, and some of the best co-op gameplay in the genre. The third entry upheaved the game from its 2.5D roots and opted for third person gameplay, which was met with great displeasure from fans. Thankfully Trine 4 goes back to what made the series so popular, ditches the third-person perspective and makes several tweaks that get the series back on track in all of the best ways.
If you've played the previous games, you'll immediately recognise the main cast; Pontius the knight, Amadeus the magician and Zoya the thief are all back. This time around, they're called to adventure by Prince Selius and his terrifying nightmares that are manifesting in the world, bringing chaos and destruction hot on their heels. The setup is straightforward, but the delivery is wonderfully executed with Monty Python-esque humour and buckets of charm.
Each character has a set of skills and abilities that you'll need to use to overcome the games many puzzles and combat encounters. The trio also has a small skilltree each, which opens up your toolset for traversing the world and finding solutions. For example, as Pontius, you can unlock the ability to leave a clone of your shield in place, allowing you to move to a second location and use your shield again, thuus allowing you to redirect water or light beams in more branching ways. Another of the upgraded skills allows Amadeus to summon a metal ball, which you can use to roll across treacherous ground. And then there's Zoya and her ability to fire an arrow attached to rope, forming bridges or pulleys. The small amount of skill upgrades like this leads to greatly expanded problem solving opportunities and an even greater sense of satisfaction after completing the more complex areas. To say too much about the powers and their many uses would be doing you a huge disservice, as unlocking these new techniques and putting them to use is such a huge part of the joy I felt while playing.
Developers Forzenbyte have outdone themselves on every level with Trine 4. In an incredible move, they've even tweaked puzzles so they change depending on the amount of people playing. Opening up the game to replayability like that was a smart move on the devs part, and it's got me eager to show it off to my friends at the next gathering. Solving the plethora of puzzles throughout the world never felt unfair, but it definitely provided plenty of challenge. There were times where I stared at my screen for upwards of five minutes, trying to piece together how on earth to progress. You can turn on hints that will pop up after a few minutes if you want, but I'd strongly recommend sticking with it as many of the puzzles often have more than one solution. There were times where I was absolutely sure I had come up with a game-breaking solution, but I came to learn that the developers made the puzzles this way. Utilising each characters abilities in interesting and experimental ways is the heart of the experience. I can't even begin to imagine how they pulled it off, but no matter how you get through a puzzle, beating it is satisfying every single time. I lost count of how many times I laughed out loud or grinned from ear to ear after coming up with what I felt was an unorthadox solution. Now, I'm not saying I'm any kind of genius, seriously, but this game made me feel like one regardless and I'm almost positive it'll do the same for you.
With puzzles this good, I'd forgive Frozebyte for skimping on presentation, but Trine 4 really is a beautiful game. The world is simply magical in its design and each character, both the ones you play as, and the NPCs you'll meet along the way, are brilliantly brought to life with their fantastical design. Playing in handheld on the Switch, visuals obviously take a bit of a hit as the resolution is dropped down, giving everything that common Switch-blur. Despite the visual cutback, the game still looks great in handheld, but it's well worth playing on the big screen, so you can take in all of the incredible views. Everything runs smoothly too as i didn't notice any major slowdown or performance issues throughout.
While the focus of the game is on its puzzles and traversing the world, there is combat in the game and it's easily the only real weak link in an otherwise superb game. Coming up against the occasional group of enemies feels more like a chore than fun. Thankfully the games variety between bosses doesn't mean you'll always need to swing your sword or fire off a few arrows. Many of the games impressive bosses also require a bit of thought and often require the use of each characters skillset. While I didn't enjoy coming up against fodder enemies, facing of against the bosses was almost always a great deal of fun (with a bit of frustration here and there).
I can't state strongly enough just how much I loved Trine 4: The Nightmare Prince. Sure, the puzzles may be a bit too familiar for series veterans, but they're still a ton of fun. I wasn't quite expecting a game of this calibre, but now Frozenbyyte has their work cut out for them in topping it with the inevitable fifth entry in the series. From it's incredible puzzles, to the awesome skills of each character and the magical world, it really is a complete pleasure to play. Now if you'll excuse me, I'm off to wrangle a few pals to help me find some more out of the box solutions.
+ Gorgeous visuals.
+ Brilliant Co-op gameplay.
+ Amusing dialogue.
+ Wonderful Soundtrack.
- Puzzles not too different from previous entries.
- I already want more.
- Now have years to wait for Trine 5.
- Maybe don't play it if you don't like puzzle games?
- You should probably still play it though...