There’s something just absolutely charming about the Trine series; from its gorgeous fairy-tale visuals, through the melodic and enchanting soundtrack, to the use of physics across this otherworldly place that gives everything a sense of weight cohesion. After a slight misstep with the 3rd entry, Frozenbyte come back with a title that more than makes up for any disappointment fans may have felt then.
We start of as Amadeus the Wizard, waking from a slumber; a quick nap before going to the Wizards Convention later in the day. Of course, he’ll not make it, as sure enough a letter comes informing him of the need for his help in an urgent matter. Prince Selius lacks control over his magical talents, and this is manifesting itself by bringing dark creatures from his nightmares to the real world. He needs our heroes help to vanquish the demons and save the day.
Each hero is in turn introduced to us with a brief solo level, allowing players to get to grips with their unique talents and how they can best be used. While short, these opening sections are filled with inventive uses of abilities, and allow you to come up with solutions that feel your own, even if there’s only one way to proceed.After the Wizard, we take control of other series regulars Pontius the Knight and Zoya the Thief. As a returning fan, it’s great to get back to grips with these heroes, and the 10+ hours spent with them through the campaign made my fondness for them grow ever more.
Once past the opening levels, we are then able to switch between each of the three at will. You’ll need to do so often, as the majority of the puzzles will require a combination of the talents to solve. In the original Trine, I found that simply abusing Amadeus’ conjure spell got me through most areas – Trine 4 will be nigh on impossible should you try this tactic! The interplay between the characters abilities is brilliant, often requiring out of the box thinking to put them to good use. While series veterans will likely storm through a lot of the earlier puzzles, later areas – and the optional hidden ones – will test them too.
Along the way pink glowing bottles are dotted about the place. Collecting these grant experience that allows for upgrades to our heroes abilities. Options are a limited here, with the majority of powers only gained by hitting certain points of the story. The experience can then be used to supplement these, adding more objects for Amadeus to conjure at once, or letting Pontious freeze enemies with his stomp as just a couple of examples. Once again, grabbing some of these experience bottles is super challenging, requiring some real thought and manipulation of the games physics to achieve. I definitely got lucky more than once, with a bodge of boxes, arrows and a shield bash somehow raining experience down. Everything we can interact with has physics applied to it, from giant leaves that bend when stepped on to swinging boulders attached to frail rope than can be snapped with a wayward arrow. Unlike a lot of side scrolling games, the solution to traversal is largely left up to your ingenuity. Of course, there’s an ideal way to progress, but there are rarely any moments that restrict your creativity.
Occasionally, we’ll be dropped into combat. Progression is walled off, leaving a small arena to fight in. Again, you’ll need to mix up characters to succeed, but these areas are definitely the weakest in my opinion. Much like I mentioned about the first games puzzles, here I found myself solely relying on Pontious’ sword and shield. The encounters feel like they were made for him, and you’ll notice this when he dies as things suddenly get a lot more…complicated. Zoya’s arrows do little damage – though can be upgraded to ice and fire varieties, which helps – and Amadeus is all but useless, relegated to hopping about the place waiting for the others to respawn. An upgrade allows him to pick up enemies with telekinesis, but this does no damage and isn’t much use against multiple foes. Enemy projectiles can also pierce the floating platforms but yours can’t, which got a bit frustrating at times.
These segments are short though, and while less enjoyable than the platforming, they are still fun. Boss battles fare better; each of our heroes has a solo fight at one point, with each encounter tailored to their abilities. While not the hardest boss battles ever, they are well designed and last just long enough to present a challenge without dragging things on. Without spoiling things, I was a little underwhelmed by the final fight, but that is a mild blemish on what was a thoroughly enjoyable experience.
And of course, all this is fully playable in multiplayer. There are two modes to choose from; Unlimited, in which any of the 4 players can be any hero at any point, leading to a barrage arrows and boxes. Or Classic, which limits the player count to 3, each controlling one hero a piece. In a rather brilliant touch, playing with others actually alters the layout and solutions of puzzles and levels to encourage teamwork. This is, as you may imagine, easier than it seems, leading to many a ‘hilarious’ fall as my co-op partners destroy the delicately balanced contraption that would lead us to safety just as I reach the top. Ha. Ha.
Local co-op works well, but perhaps due to the nature of video game physics engines, online play can sometimes see items flicker in and out of existence, or flail wildly as all players consoles try to sync up the location. It doesn’t make things unplayable though – if anything, it adds to the hilarity – but it did lead to a couple of moments where were had to stop, wait and restart an area.
That all of this takes place in a beautifully rendered fairy tale world is just icing on the cake. I remember the original games catching my eye with their vivid colours and large, expressive designs. Trine 4 takes this philosophy and runs with it; it’s absolutely gorgeous to look at, with more colour squeezed in to a scene than I would think possible, yet it never looks over blown or gaudy. The large, superbly animated characters fill the screen with life, while incidental details give the world a real feeling of being alive. Little critters scamper about under your feet, water runs from an unseen source across the land and leaves and trees sway in the breeze, shuffling abruptly as you move past them. It’s almost a shame to make any progress, such is the charm packed into each area, but the allure of whats to come wins out every time. Backed by a truly wonderful score that I’ve been humming non-stop all week, there’s very little to complain about here.
Trine 4 is an absolute masterclass in 2D puzzle platforming. Everything about it – from the brilliant use of physics, through the wonderfully crafted world to the constantly engaging gameplay – is a step above most other titles out there. Combat is about the only weak point I can think of, but even that manages to be fun, just not as much as the puzzling. Whether you’re new to the series (pro-tip: the collection of all 4 titles is out on the same day) or a returning veteran, Trine 4 will keep you enchanted from start to finish.
This game was tested and reviewed on Xbox One. All of the opinions and insights here are subject to that version.Want to keep up to date with the latest Xt reviews, Xt opinions and Xt content? Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.