Trine 4’s fantasy puzzling will delight fans of the series

 

It’s been a good long wait for fans of the Trine series, but the heroes of Trine have been called into action once more, this time to save a prince from himself and his powerful, magic imbued nightmares. Trine 4 sees the series returning to its classic 2.5D form, after the third game’s step into the third dimension, filled with familiar abilities, characters and types of physics-based puzzles to overcome.

The opening few levels are a lovely reminder of each character and their abilities. Amadeus the Wizard heads out from his mountain retreat to collect the post, a bizarrely long and treacherous distance away, forcing him to break out his telekinetic spells and summon boxes to overcome the scenery in his way. Meanwhile Sir Pontius is adventuring underground, seeking out a dead and reanimated knight to put an end to their menace, and Zoya is, well, she’s engaged in a little light thievery, but is still a do-gooder at heart.

Once reunited, it’s then up to you to combine their abilities to overcome the puzzles ahead of you. If there’s a shaft of light, it’s time to break out Sir Pontius’ shield to reflect it, metal rings can be grappled onto and attached together with Zoya’s rope, and Amadeus is on hand to move and create platforms. The opening level requires a lovely blend of the three’s abilities, never being particularly taxing, but getting you back into the swing of things.

However, as the background scenery changes and the mood darkens, you can find yourself trapped in battle with shadowy purple wolves and creatures sending homing balls of nightmare energy your way. What might have seemed a clear path is now blocked in both directions by misty walls and cloud-like platforms spring up for you to leap around on, evading or engaging in the fight.

Initially it’s really only Sir Pontius that does much meaningful damage, with his sword and butt stomp, as Zoya’s arrows merely tickle enemies and Amadeus can just push a box in their face. However, they do eventually earn more aggressive moves, like a box slam.

Combat also comes into play when meeting the end of level bosses, but here there’s much more of a puzzling element to the battle, as you figure out how to stun or weaken the character so that you can deal damage to them. For the first one, a gigantic wolf that slaps parts of the level with its front paws and summons regular enemies to get in the way, it was Sir Pontius’ butt stomp that became most useful, but another from later in the game leant much more on Pontius’ other abilities to reflect incoming attacks.

While you can obviously play the adventure on your own, switching between the characters on the fly, the series’ staple has really been its three player co-op. It’s here that I feel the game’s puzzling comes to life, especially when in the hands of two developers who know what they’re doing.

Obviously having rehearsed and explored the game’s mechanics a fair bit, playing through a level in the third act made the puzzles look almost like a plaything to them. The way that abilities combined, that they could split up and show the different paths through an area that characters could sometimes take, the playful way that they managed to mess around and almost break their own puzzles. It really was a delight to see. If only I was even vaguely clever enough to pull these tricks off myself, perhaps my lasting memory of the first game won’t have been cheesing our way through every puzzle with the summonable box!

The game is as lovely as ever to look at, but at the same time, we’ve seen the series’ brand of colourful, bloom-filled world three times already. With the game reverting to side scrolling gameplay, it feels a little safe. There’s nothing wrong with that, of course, and there’s been a good long break since the third game came out in 2015, but there’s not the same kind of wow factor that Trine and Trine 2 once had.

It shouldn’t really come as a surprise, then, that the game looks and plays wonderfully well on the Nintendo Switch as well. Playing through the opening level in handheld mode, none of the style or fidelity feels like it’s been toned down for the console, though I get the impression it’s perhaps a step or two below a native 720p resolution – I may be wrong about this.

After a few years thinking that the series had been put to rest, Trine 4 is a lovely surprise to see once more. It’s not breaking boundaries anymore, but after Trine 3 disappointed fans (albeit primarily with technical hiccups and its brevity), it makes sense to get back to what the first two games managed to do so well.

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