Thursday, January 16, 2020

Trine 4: The Nightmare Prince (PS4, XB1, NSW, PC) Review

There's magic in the air and a potential for puzzle-solving, so that must mean only one thing--it's time to review a new Trine game! Trine 4: The Nightmare Prince launched on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, and Steam late last year, and now SuperPhillip Central conjures up this review for the game.

A game that plays more like a dream than a nightmare

The Trine games are a series of puzzle-platformers with some light combat involved. That said, the main focus is on solving environmental puzzles--getting from point A to point B while attempting to stay alive in the process. The first two Trine games were 2.5D titles and were fairly well received. Trine 3 came along and introduced 3D, and while the effort was of a high quality, the overall game was not, featuring plenty of bugs and glitches as well as an abrupt and disappointing cliffhanger ending. Trine 4: The Nightmare Prince returns to the series' 2.5D roots while not completely forgoing features found in its 3D predecessor. What the game ends up being is one of the best entries in the Trine series yet.

Trine 4: The Nightmare Prince tells the tale of an eponymous prince who against the wishes of the Astral Academy, dabbles into some dark magic via a spellbook. This book preys upon the Prince's nightmares and turns them into reality, causing massive damage to his home castle, and resulting in the Prince running away from home. The heroes of the Trine--Amadeus, Pontius, and Zoya--reunite for the sole purpose of tracking down the Prince along his trail of nightmares and returning him to the Astral Academy. Most of the story is told through spoken dialog during gameplay, but the 3D engine from Trine 3 is also used to implement some engaging and entertaining cutscenes to share bits of the story as well. The voice acting is rather pleasant, using English accents for each character, and it's all quite natural sounding.

If you've played a Trine game previously, then you'll feel right at home with Trine 4. If not, then this game is still a perfect jumping in point, not just for gameplay reasons but the aforementioned story is self-contained anyhow. You start playing as each of the three Trine heroes individually in their own levels, and these serve as tutorials.

Amadeus the Wizard can use his powers of levitation to make platforms in a pinch.
Beginning with Amadeus the Wizard, you learn how to move objects around such as boxes and wooden planks and also how to conjure your own boxes to use as platforms and to hold down buttons. With Pontius the Knight, you learn how to roll on spherical objects, stomp downward, reflect projectiles with Pontinus' shield, and engage in basic combat against a puzzle-themed boss. Finally, with Zoya the Thief, you learn how to swing from hooks, tie a rope to two grappling points to build a makeshift bridge, and fire arrows at various targets. These three tutorial levels show off a host of methods to complete the puzzles and challenges that await when the heroes rejoin forces in the fourth level of the game.

Whereas Zoya the Thief can connect two grappling points with ropes to serve as a bridge of sorts.
Trine 4 plays out across over 15 unique levels that progressively get more devious and challenging with what the game asks of you to solve in the puzzle department. Boxes must be moved to hold down switches and reach higher platforms, spikes and other types of hazardous chasms must somehow be crossed, and doors must be opened via various means and methods.

Meanwhile, Pontius the Knight can use his shield to deflect flaming fireballs such as these.
As the three heroes of the Trine progress in their adventure, new skills and abilities are learned. Oddly, these don't come naturally. Instead, they just appear seemingly out of nowhere as the game requires it with no story or lore reason for new abilities popping up. It's weird to suddenly get the ability to conjure two boxes at a time in the middle of the adventure with no rhyme or reason when that ability would have helped previously in the journey. Still, it's understandable why these abilities unlock slowly and not all at once--I just would have liked to have a valid story reason for them to be locked instead of just being available seemingly at random otherwise.

Apart from being able to conjure more boxes, Amadeus learns the ability to conjure steel balls, allowing him to cross spike-filled chasms unharmed by rolling on these summoned spheres. Meanwhile, Zoya gains various elemental arrows, perfect for freezing and unfreezing things like moving platforms and other machinery in place. Then, there's Pontius, who can learn an ability that allows him to summon a glowing shield to be held in place, great for being a second point to reflect light or water off of to solve puzzles.

Zoya's favorite genre of music? Rock and roll, of course!
Aside from the tutorial levels, each level possesses three unique collectibles in the form of letters, treasures, and knickknacks. These all require some involved investigation and exploration in levels to find them, and the latter two are generally locked behind room-contained puzzles that must be solved with some smart thinking to overcome them. Finding these rooms is a challenge all to itself, and really, that's a theme of Trine 4--and just the whole Trine series in general. The designers are great at hiding things, and while sometimes it's because it's difficult to see things in the occasionally garish environments, most of the time it's due to the fact that they're well placed.

Trine is a series that tests players' mental mettle, and Trine 4 is no different here.
When you're not solving puzzles and performing platforming, there are set spots in levels where you do quick combat with a room full of nightmare enemies. This is a part of the Trine series that is generally weak, and it's no different with Trine 4. Combat is clunky, ungraceful, and inelegant as ever, and it's disappointing that nothing has really changed here. Attacks have no weight to them, hit detection isn't perfect, and combat just feels shoehorned in like usual.

On the more positive side, Trine 4 implements many of the quality of life features found in its predecessor, Trine 3, such as for instance having players conjure up boxes and planks as Amadeus via the press of a button rather than the slower process of drawing out shapes like in Trine 1 and 2. Additionally, no longer do players of the completionist variety have to scour entire levels to see where missed experience bottles are located. Instead, experience bottles are listed by checkpoint, so if you missed any, you'll get a general idea of where they are. Of course, they're still hidden in some tricky spots even with this knowledge! These experience bottles or vials can then be spent on upgrading the Trine heroes' abilities. Zoya's arrows can cause more damage, Pontius' stomp can freeze enemies, and Amadeus can levitate enemies when enough experience is earned.

Zoya's arrows have a multitude of uses aside from attacking and assaulting foes.
One of the most enjoyable parts of the Trine game is being to play with friends either locally or online, and this multiplayer trend continues with Trine 4. Puzzles change their makeup depending on how many players are active in the game. As one can imagine, it takes some serious communication to solve puzzles together, as everyone needs to do their part. Players can switch between characters on the fly, just like when playing solo, and just like solo play, it's required to get through each level. Many times you'll find yourself having to switch between characters quickly just to solve a given puzzle in a level. While more players makes puzzles more difficult, it also makes traversing levels easier. Though I'm not sure if the way my brother and I levitated boxes and planks, repeatedly grabbing them once they stated falling, and raising them higher to reach inaccessible platforms was the intended way the designers had of completing some of the puzzles in the game. Probably not.

Depending on the amount of players, puzzles need to be solved in slightly altered ways.
Trine 4 is a gorgeous game, much like all past entries in the series, so this also keeps another series tradition going. Some environments are a bit too radiant, making it hard to distinguish between platforms as well as safe and hazardous locations in levels, but overall, the game looks stunning. The environments range from glorious to breathtaking in their detail and beauty. There is some clipping problems to be found, and the occasional glitch did happen, especially backgrounds flickering, but all in all, Trine 4 is a competent technical package.
If you needed any further proof of Trine 4's gorgeousness, here you are.
While Trine 4: The Nightmare Prince does not really revolutionize the series in any measurable way, it does succeed in bringing the series back to a comfortable place--back to 2.5D and back to its normal, high quality. The QOL improvements brought over from Trine 3 make for a more enjoyable, less stressful and tedious experience, and overall makes for a puzzle-platforming adventure that is in many ways the best that the Trine series has ever been.

[SPC Says: B+]

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