Trine is back, and it’s arguably better than ever. While the series has evolved over the last three entries—mostly in good ways, others in bad ways, some might say—Trine 4: The Nightmare Prince returns the series to its roots. Gorgeous visuals, a charming soundtrack, and plenty of puzzles to twist your brain over the 16 available levels all coalesce to make Trine 4 the best title in the series to date.
Trine 4: The Nightmare Prince reunites our three heroes—Amadeus the Wizard, Sir Pontius the Knight, and Zoya the Thief—on a quest to find the runaway Prince Selius and return him to his home at the Astral Academy. What at first seems like a young prince defying the wizards’ orders soon turns into our heroes’ realization that there may be more to Prince Selius than at first thought. As it turns out, the prince has an ability such that his dreams manifest into reality. The problem is, the prince’s dreams have been nightmares of late, so the Heroes of Trine are tasked with chasing the prince and defeating the nightmares in his wake. It’s a simple story that’s easy to keep track of, but compared to earlier entries in the series, Trine 4’s story is far more memorable, and the game is enriched because of it. Thus far in the series, story has been secondary to the moment-to-moment gameplay, but in Trine 4, not only did the fun of the gameplay keep me coming back for more, but I also felt compelled see the narrative through to its end.
If you aren’t familiar with the Trine series, the cliff-notes version is that these games are fantasy-themed, action-puzzle platformers, typically in 2.5D (save for the experimental 3D as seen in Trine 3—more on that later). While you jump around solving puzzles, enemies will appear from time to time that you have to dispatch, and you unlock different abilities along the way that enable you to interact with the environment in new and sometimes mind-bending ways. Trine 4 is like bread and butter when it comes to sticking to this formula, which isn’t a bad thing. Series veterans will immediately notice that Trine 4 has returned to its 2.5D roots—that’s right, no more 3D exploration. While 3D movement in Trine 3 was a bold move that took the series in a fresh direction, developer Frozenbyte opted to return to the series’ roots in Trine 4, and I couldn’t be happier.
The trade-off was well worth the wait, because Trine 4’s puzzles are some of the most clever in series history. Nearly every unlockable ability serves a purpose at some point during the roughly 12-hour campaign, and I found myself combining abilities and terrain in ways I’m not sure were entirely intended, but that’s the beauty of Trine 4. Most puzzles don’t have one set way to progress, and the game gives you the toolset you need to experiment to find a solution that works. Taking boxes made by Amadeus and using them to anchor Zoya’s ropes, for example, barely scratch the surface at some of the complex combinations one can come up with to solve these puzzles.
Most puzzles’ solutions are quickly apparent, but others I had to spend some time with and experiment a bit. And Trine 4 will reward you for experimenting and keeping a keen eye. Each level has three collectible items which are often either hidden, locked behind a complex puzzle, or both, though often these areas can be found by those observant enough. Players focused on getting to the end of the level will likely miss these subtle cues, but these areas and puzzles are often challenging enough that getting each unique item or parchment makes the challenge worthwhile. It doesn’t hurt that most of these items cue off a funny one-liner or a round of banter between the heroes.
The game takes the player through a variety of locations across its 16 levels and five acts, including sunny lakesides, snow-capped mountaintops, lush forests, and more. The game’s art direction simply drips with fantastic personality, giving off the feeling that everything in the world is enchanted. One minor complaint I have with the game is its enemy variety. The player is introduced to a few enemy types in the first encounter, and beyond that, the later game’s enemies don’t evolve too much from those. About midway through the game, I’d seen every enemy type the game had to offer, which was a bit of a letdown by the time I’d rolled the game’s credits. That said, the gargantuan bosses at the end of each act do change things up and make for a nice palate cleanser from the rote nature of the rest of the game’s enemies.
The Switch version of Trine 4 doesn’t offer any unique features, such as motion controls, but it’s not really needed. The great selling point for the Switch version is the portability factor, and playing Trine 4 in handheld mode certainly doesn’t disappoint. That said, I did prefer my time with Trine 4 played in docked mode, as the game’s UI was slightly difficult to see in handheld mode, particularly immediately after undocking. However, it’s definitely not a deal-breaker, and having portable Trine is absolutely a plus. One thing to note, however, is playing Trine 4 in handheld mode made my day-one Switch fairly warm temperature-wise, so it seems like Trine 4 pushes some of the system’s limits. My Satisfye grip made this barely noticeable, but it’s worth mentioning for those with launch-day hardware.
Unfortunately, I didn’t have an opportunity to test the game’s multiplayer prior to launch, as I didn’t have anyone to play with locally, and the pre-launch online servers were empty each time I checked. That said, publisher Modus Games says puzzles will change between single-player and multiplayer, which should add to the level of complexity needed to solve. If switching from multiplayer to single-player, be sure to restart the level in single-player, as attempting the multiplayer content with one player will leave players unable to progress. Additionally, Frozenbyte is currently working on a patch specifically for the Switch version which will enable local wireless multiplayer. It’s a bit of a bummer this won’t be included at launch, but it sounds like it’s coming soon.
Seeing the Heroes of Trine return for another adventure is nothing short of amazing. Excellent puzzle design, lovable heroes, and a compelling and memorable story make this game the best of the series to date. Though there are some misses in terms of enemy variety, in the grand scheme of things, it doesn’t much matter. Trine 4: The Nightmare Prince takes the lessons learned from the first trilogy of games and refines them into a can’t-miss experience on Nintendo Switch.
Disclaimer: A review copy of Trine 4: The Nightmare Prince was provided by the game’s publisher.