I loved how Trine 3 moved the beloved platformer franchise to full-3D, so my initial impression of Trine 4 was that it felt like a step backward with its return to a locked 2.5D perspective. But developer Frozenbyte’s fourth entry didn’t take long to remind me that the Trine series transcends its gameplay perspective and shines brightly because of the dedication it brings to its vision and characters. Trine 4 isn’t just another Trine game — it’s an exquisite love letter to fans of puzzle-platformers and fantasy storytelling, and I’m enamored.
Jumping into Trine 4 feels like reuniting with long lost friends. Amadeus the Wizard, Zoya the Thief, and Pontius the Knight all return, and it’s never until I’m reintroduced to these lovely characters in each game that I remember how much I love them. Like the game itself, the trio of unlikely heroes all share a likable quirkiness, firing funny quips and commenting on one another’s lives in a way that draws attention to their long history together. It’s this levity that gives the Trine franchise such an engaging narrative tone, opting for lightheartedness over serious fantasy, and it shines through here more than ever before.
I found Trine 4’s story more intriguing and accessible than previous entries. This tale sends the three friends on a quest to find and rescue Prince Selius, a fledgling magician who has recently suffered an onset of nightmarish dreams that have begun to manifest in reality and threaten the world. The twists and turns, upbeat narration, and the aforementioned character banter keep things entertaining and lively from beginning to end. You won’t find anything here that rivals Lord of the Rings in terms of depth, but it’s a fun fantasy tale that is brought to life with excellent writing and voice work that far exceeds the production quality of past entries.
Speaking of production quality, Trine 4 is absolutely gorgeous. Whether you’re traversing the rooftops of a stunning Paris-inspired city at night, exploring a tricky hedge maze, fighting your way through a moonlit swamp, or discovering the mysteries of an abandoned castle overgrown with lush vegetation, the sheer diversity in areas is staggering. Everything is brought to life by the game’s vivid backdrops that feature an astonishing level of detail and stellar lighting. Forzenbyte has achieved an unparalleled sense of place and wonder that shows their dedication to making Trine feel like a lived-in world that any fantasy fan would love to visit.
When you’re not admiring the beautiful scenery, you’ll be switching between the three characters, each of whom possess invaluable skills that must be used in tandem to overcome a wide variety of environmental puzzles and periodic combat encounters. Amadeus still has his box conjuring and telekinesis skills, Pontius is an adept fighter and can stomp through breakable flooring, and Zoya’s rope and arrows allow for extensive traversal opportunities. The puzzles in Trine 4 are far and above the best in the series, and though they’re never exhaustingly difficult, solving each one brings a true sense of accomplishment.
What’s so impressive about Trine 4, however, is the multitude of ways puzzles can be solved. A large majority of these expertly-crafted obstacles have multiple solutions — albeit some more graceful than others — which led to me feeling like I solved them through personal ingenuity rather than following an inflexible path to success. This has existed in all of the games to some extent, but it feels more frequent and natural in Trine 4, and I appreciated the depth of freedom given to me to tackle things in my own way.
On the other hand, while combat isn’t an offensive addition, it never feels like a necessary pillar of the game. Zoya can freeze or burn enemies with her arrows, and Pontius can wail away on them with his sword, but it typically boils down to haphazardly button mashing until you deplete an enemy’s health bar. The series as a whole works best when it’s testing your intellectual prowess, so the padding that comes from these combat encounters simply feels at odds with the game’s primary focus.
Trine 4 features hundreds of experience vials, hidden collectibles, and expositional letters to collect throughout its levels, and a handy tracker allows you to effortlessly keep up with them all. Additionally, I loved that the chapter select feature makes it a breeze to return and round up anything you’ve missed without having to replay entire levels, giving players incentive to enjoy the game without becoming too concerned with the occasional overlooked trinket.
Stars you earn in battle unlock skills that can then be augmented using your collected experience in a linear skill tree. Amadeus eventually gains access to conjuring new items and levitating enemies in combat, Zoya can get elemental arrows and a roll, and Pontius gets new ways to use his shield for interesting puzzle-solving scenarios. The skills themselves grant useful new perks for taking on the game’s puzzles, but because the fairly infrequent battles give a specific amount of stars, you tend to unlock abilities at precisely the time they’re naturally needed in the game, granting a false sense of decision-making that renders the skill tree superfluous.
Trine 4 can be played cooperatively through online matchmaking or at home with friends and family. Tackling the game’s puzzles in co-op offers an assortment of new ways to solve them, but it also means that you’re no longer completing them for only one person – Zoya may be able to cross that gaping chasm, but figuring out how to get Pontius across might require everyone to think outside the box and work together. I still prefer taking the game on solo, but there’s no denying that Trine 4 makes for an exciting and creative cooperative experience.
I walked away from Trine 4 enchanted by its marvelous visuals and excellent puzzle design that gave me the freedom to experiment. The choice to take the game back to its side-scrolling roots results in a brilliant return to form, and it’s crafted in such a way that feels like a heartfelt apology to those underwhelmed by the previous game’s controversial design choices. I’m not sure when we’ll see another return to this magical world, but I can’t wait to catch up with these old friends again someday.
A PS4 key was provided by PR for the purposes of this review.
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Trine 4 is a love letter to fans, providing a fully-realized puzzle game rife with experimentation, quality-of-life features, and utterly breathtaking visuals, all but guaranteeing a bright and beautiful future for the franchise.