Another couple of weeks, another solid entry on the Switch! Let me tell you, I’ve made it known that the 3DS is my favorite console of all time for a myriad of reasons, but the Switch is proving to be true contender for that title. Yeah, I said it. I’m also ripped on coffee so that may have something to do with my positivity this morning. While the Switch does have a ton of catch-up to play, especially in terms of overall charm (we need THEMES, damnit!), I keep lucking out on my gambles. Trine 4: The Nightmare Prince is the latest bet I’ve won.
I don’t typically prefer diving into a series in any way but at the beginning, and as there is a physical collection of Trine 1-3 I was tempted to, but from what I understand each of the installments are fully standalone and thus free to be enjoyed in any order. I also found a cool deal where you got a free cloth banner if you bought it on release day from BestBuy or GameStop, so what other option did I have?
Trine 4‘s a 2D – sorry, 2.5D – side-scrolling puzzle-platformer, one of my personal favorite types of games if I’m being honest. What really intrigued me about the brief gameplay videos I watched was that there wasn’t much in the ways of combat. We’ll get to that in a bit but overall, the focus is on taking your time, breathing in the atmosphere, and enjoying yourself while monkeying around with an assortment of abilities, in a valiant attempt to move left to right and find a prince.
You control three lovable characters of whom you can switch between instantaneously, a trait of this title I absolutely love. As someone who is obsessed with learning mechanics until I can optimize and maximize and exploit them, figuring out how to manipulate the puzzles by rapidly switching characters and using abilities became an IV-drip of bliss. I cannot tell you how many times I was able to go back to earlier levels (after having learned more abilities) and absolutely cheesing puzzles, solving them in ways that were most likely never intended by abusing the physics.
On the subject of physics abuse, one characteristic of a well-made puzzle-platformer with physics as a central ingredient is the ability to solve puzzles in multiple manners. This is for the simple reason that it allows the player to truly master the game, and then rewards them for it. In fact, many of Trine 4‘s hidden collectibles are set in places that I could not figure out how to obtain in a legitimate manner. By that, I mean that I felt like I was cheesing puzzles. It’s almost as if developers Frozenbyte understand game design…
The plot itself is simplistic and doesn’t take itself seriously – it acts as mere reasoning as to why the trio is seeking out the Nightmare Prince. I’m not sure if this ties into previous entries in the series as I have yet to play them, but from what I understand the plot is entirely standalone, but a simple plot is all that’s really needed for a game like Trine 4.
The characters, with their unique abilities, also possess varying personalities that range from sarcastic to downright slapstick-ish. One of my favorite qualities of a game that I first noticed with Xenoblade Chronicles is when characters act like real beings: they chat amongst one another, they comment, and they banter. This was also fairly common in my recently playing Final Fantasy XV: Pocket Edition – and it really drives home the point that you’re on an adventure with these characters. Rather than putting you in control, you’re joining them as some sort of fourth wall breaking character. It’s entertaining and it makes for some really fun gameplay.
The differences between the characters are fairly vast: you have Amadeus the Wizard who can conjure various boxes, as well as “Blink” himself across the screen (much like the Dishonored ability of the same name), Pontius the Knight can smash things and fight off enemies (more on those later), and Zoya the Thief has a trusty bow & arrow, and can join two points with rope to balance over, amongst other feather-footed features. Personally, I felt that Pontius the Knight was a bit underused, as once you start to purchase upgrades you can generally get through most puzzles without him.
In fact, Pontius at times seems to exist solely for fighting enemies. Ah yes – the enemy battles. They are clearly added to the game to break up the puzzles, but the consoles are very much not geared towards combat. Switching characters and attacking is not intuitive or easy to do at all, and during most fights I found myself ill-prepared, mashing my character switch button to Pontius, before mashing the attack button and trying to avoid ranged attacks and glowing frosty dogs. It’s not a great element of the game, but it is very welcome at times, particularly as the problem-solving part of your brain begins to tire.
Aside from the occasional battle, the minute-to-minute gameplay is centered around collecting all of the orbs in each level, as well as finding secret collectibles, including knick knacks that will appear in the main-menu level once they form items (like chandeliers and see-saws), letters, and treasures. They are very well hidden and can take multiple playthroughs of each level if you’re interested in collecting them all. Personally, I think you should, as a) it’s very rewarding to find everything in a level, and b) the developers really hooked us up here, as you can see exactly how many collectibles you have left in each level, as well as teleport directly to the part of the level where the collectibles are.
Talk about respecting my time. Mad props for doing this, Frozenbyte!
It’s absolutely worth noting that this is a gorgeous game, and considering the short load times and general lack of any frame drops, Trine 4 is definitely an accomplishment. The lighting in particular looks fantastic, and the over-saturated colors really work well to establish the dream-like (or nightmarish) ambience. The music is charming and fits the mood beautifully, and in fact you can listen to the whole thing here, on Spotify:
The attention to detail really cannot be overstated, but rather than go into it more, why not take a look at some of my screenshots? What adds an impressive touch is the action going on in the background all this time – why can’t more developers add this kind of beauty to their games? Plenty of times I found myself stopping just to take a screenshot! In fact, when I offloaded my Switch screenshots recently, I had over 50 for just Trine 4 – more than I had for even Breath of the Wild. But hey, have a look for yourself:
Trine 4: The Nightmare Prince was an enjoyable experience from start to finish. Relaxing at the end of the day to solve some tough but never quite frustrating puzzles felt extremely rewarding and if you need to relax more, Trine 4’s your game. As the fourth entry in the series, developers Frozenbyte have clearly learned from any past missteps and dialed in the general ebb and flow to provide a terrific experience, and one enjoyed from anywhere on Nintendo Switch.
Have you played Trine 4 or any games in the Trine series? How did you like them? Let me know in the comments!