Platformers are a dime a dozen on the Nintendo Switch thanks to both first party efforts and the hundreds of indie developers cranking out dozens of games on a weekly basis. However, not all are created equal and there’s a decent amount of variation to be found in the genre. One of my favorites is the puzzle platform game that has been around since the days of Out of this World and Flashback on the 16-bit systems. Earlier this year I finally played Inside and Unravel Two, both of which are great examples of combining puzzle elements into the standard run and jump formula. However, if you’re looking to really sit down and enjoy one of these types of games with some friends, Trine 4: The Nightmare Prince will be right up your alley.
This being the fourth installment in a series might turn away newcomers, but trust me when I tell you there’s no need to have played any of the previous games in the series. The story is self-contained and the tutorial areas for each of the playable characters do a great job of introducing their unique powers and abilities. For the uninitiated you’ll be playing as one of three different protagonists: Amadeus the Wizard, Zoya the Thief, and Pontius the Knight. If you’re playing solo you’ll be able to alternate between the three of them on the fly to solve the various puzzles and remove the obstacles in your path. Up to four players can play co-op and that’s where the game really shines because you’ll have to work together to progress through the stages.
If you’ve played the previous games you’ll know what to expect with each character. The wizard can conjure up a magic box that he can then levitate and place on the screen. The box can be used to reach new heights or to break obstacles or even drop it from a distance to solve various puzzles. Other items, like wooden planks can also be manipulated in this fashion and you can even twist and rotate the item to create new walkways. The thief is very nimble and she can attach a rope to special hooks and swing about the area. She also has the ability to tie off the rope to two different objects to create a sort of tightrope to navigate other portions of the level. Her bow comes in handy to break down barriers and snipe at enemies. The knight has a sword and shield and is rather bulky to move around. He can do a sort of butt smash to destroy things below him and his shield is used to solve puzzles that require bouncing projectiles off to hit weak spots or reflecting light to unlock switches. As you collect items and defeat enemies you can level up your abilities via a skill tree to increase your power and abilities.
There’s a loose story to follow as you play, although it’s not anything to lavish. It turns out that Prince Selius wants to try his hand at magic, but he’s ill prepared for the consequences of his actions. He unleashes his nightmares into the real world and its up to the trio of heroes to rescue him from the depths of his dark dream manifestations. These turn up as enemies throughout the various stages and culminate in large boss creatures that can only be defeated by using your full skillsets between the characters.
Making the gameplay even more fun is its reliance on physics. Each item has weight to it and you’ll often play around with trying to pull levers or move gears in such a way that progresses you forward in the level. Many of the puzzle elements can be solved in a manner of different ways, including seemingly breaking the game in ways the developer might not have intended. This is always fun to figure out and when you have a group of people playing it’s even more engaging and entertaining because oftentimes there are multiple schools of thought going on simultaneously, often leading to hilarious consequences. Just remember you’re on a team trying to move forward, not screwing around trying to kill each other!
Trine 4 features some beautiful landscapes. The 2.5D perspective looks fantastic on the Switch, and I’m sure it looks even better on the more powerful consoles. I didn’t notice any glaring issues with framerate or any other hiccups, but man the character models are sort of ugly. Whenever the game zooms in on one of the main cast they just don’t look that great. They sort of remind me of something you’d see in a cheap CG cut scene back on the PS2. Luckily most of the game is zoomed out and they’re not as noticeable, but for all the gorgeous backgrounds and cool stages, it’s odd that the characters look so cheap.
The soundtrack is pretty laid back and has a sort of fantastical sound to it. The voice acting fits each character perfectly and I did appreciate the occasional conversations between the main crew when stuck in a spot for some time that tried to clue us in on what to do next.
Really my only gripe is that the combat is rather ho-hum. Not all characters have fun attacks at the ready and it’s just not that satisfying attacking shadow monsters all the time. There’s surprisingly little depth to the combat, although bosses often do take some thinking to figure out how to dispose of them.
Trine 4 is one of those games that are more fun to play with friends than solo. That’s because it can be sort of daunting to constantly change between characters to solve the puzzles. Interestingly enough some of the puzzles dynamically change depending on the number of players, which is pretty cool to see. The game feels rewarding and it’s fun to discover all of the secrets tucked away in each level. There’s a lot of stop and go action in this one as you’ll constantly come across something blocking your way forward that you have to figure out. As the levels progress new mechanics are introduced and the game never got old or stale. You can play couch co-op or online with friends and a patch after launch is in the works to allow local wireless co-op as well. If you’re looking for a new co-op action platformer that requires brains as well as hand-eye coordination, this one’s the perfect choice.
Trine 4: The Nightmare Prince Review
- Graphics - 8/108/10
- Sound - 8/108/10
- Gameplay - 8/108/10
- Lasting Appeal - 7.5/107.5/10
Final Thoughts: GREAT
Trine 4 offers up fun and engaging gameplay for up to four players simultaneously. The game is more fun when played with friends, so be sure to invite some over and spend a few nights going through the various worlds, which are beautiful to behold!