The Fourth Adventure in a Fun Series
Trine 4: The Nightmare Prince is a fantasy adventure game from Frozenbyte and the (unsurprisingly) fourth title in the Trine series.
Prince Selius, being your typical angsty teenager, has run away from home after the grown-ups in his life have failed to understand him. However, unlike most runaway teens, Prince Selius’s nightmares have mysteriously come to life, forcing ghostly spiders and wolves, among other things, on the world. It is now up to a trio of heroes, Amadeus; the stylish, box-loving wizard, Pontius; a chubby, but mighty knight and Zoya; a dangerous thief, with a hidden compassionate streak, to find Prince Selius and save the world from his dreams.
The game comes together with elements typical of the fantasy genre. An unlikely group of heroes goes on a quest, the quest turns out to be more complicated than initially expected, but everyone works together using both magic and physical combat to defeat both magic and physical combat. But The Nightmare Prince is far from a typical fantasy game and is an (almost) perfect version of what it is.
Wizards, Knights, and Other Magic Things
What I think Nightmare Prince does well is producing a good balance between being an exciting and engaging story, while not taking itself too seriously. None of the good characters are held on pedestals, destined to be great at everything, and there is no evil one dimensional ‘bad guy’ who wants to destroy the world because they said so. This formula is a trap most fantasy games fall into, deliberately or otherwise, and doesn’t make for an interesting story, even if the concept is unique.
Also, while Nightmare Prince is far from being a fantasy-parody, it does slip in the occasional joke or line that is relatable to modern culture. Not so often that it becomes eye-roll worthy, but often enough that the atmosphere stays playful.
The game’s story is fairly unique and delivers an interesting premise. I like that it gets rather dark in places, despite the game’s “family-friendly” atmosphere, which mostly comes from the narrator and their annoying story-time voice. I understand why there was a narrator, but I would have liked the option to turn this off.
The free main characters are pretty well rounded. You get glimpses into their personality and backstory as the game develops. However, I do find the character of Zoya a little typical. She’s a fun character and was my favourite to play with due to her having the most appealing combat options and powers. But I feel that the “thief, who doesn’t like to call themselves a thief and is a nice person deep down” has been done to death in modern fantasy. (And traditional fantasy, come to think of it)
Swords and Puzzles
The levels that the heroes go through in order to find Prince Selius combine both puzzle-solving and combat. The three heroes all have very different abilities. Amadeus can summon (mainly) boxes, that can be used to weigh things down or for players to climb on, along with levitating other objects. Zoya can attach ropes to boxes and hooks, which can pull players up ledges, create bridges, or anchor objects down, along with firing arrows while Pontius can jump on things and use his shield to redirect things such as water or sunlight, along with making use of his talents as a fighter.
What’s great about the puzzle-solving in Nightmare Prince is that it doesn’t feel linear. The game world is so open and free that if you, for example, make it up onto a ledge, the only thing that matters is that you make it on the ledge. How you get yourself up there is up to you and the people you’re playing with. I got the impression that there are multiple solutions to a lot of puzzles, allowing players to get creative and have fun with the heroes’ powers.
However, an issue with this take on puzzle-solving is that the puzzles rely very heavily on multiplayer at times. I get that Nightmare Prince is primarily a multiplayer game, so puzzles are designed with the likelihood that all characters can come at it at once. But when playing single player, it feels like the puzzles you encounter have not been well adapted to just you. On a few occasions, I had to jump back from Amadeus and Zoya in a matter of seconds, in order to progress.
The game’s combat is fairly basic but does improve the more you play. While the combat starts out as the typical, “press this button to hit the enemy”, the more you unlock for your characters, such as Zoya’s elemental arrows which can set enemies on fire, the more engaging the combat becomes. Even in the beginning, when the combat is very basic, the game does it’s best to stop it from becoming too dull. Such as in the first real boss battle at the end of Pontius’s tutorial level, when he has to startle the shadow knight with sunlight before he can run over a hit him with his sword.
Magical to Look at
What makes me adore Nightmare Prince, by far, is the way it looks. This game is absolutely gorgeous! The colours and the detail used are so clear and bright. But more than that, the world created in this game, such as the forests and lakes, really create the fantasy setting that the game is going for.
The creators have talked about how the game world is inspired by the countryside and nature in Finland. As a resident of Finland, I can say that this is very well done. At the risk of turning this review into a tourism brochure, there is a beauty in Finnish nature that cannot be matched. My husband’s family has a small cottage in the mid-lands of Finland, next to a large lake, and it’s honestly the most beautiful place in the world, no matter what the weather or season. There is much colour in the surrounding nature and the lake are so serene, so much so that at times it feels out of this world. Even where I live in Helsinki, the capital, there are flower gardens and forests nearby. I can recognise this going through the Nightmare Prince.
The passion for this world is clear in Nightmare Prince, and this well-designed gameworld is one of the most beautiful I’ve ever seen.
I also like the 2.5 D side-scrolling layout, as it makes the game easier to navigate. I love a huge 3D open-world sure, but there are always dead ends somewhere and pointless areas. This is fine if you’re playing alone, but when it’s a game designed for a group, it’s better if someone can’t run off and get lost, delaying everyone’s progress. Every area in Nightmare Prince is there for a reason and while there are areas you don’t have to visit, all areas in the levels benefit you either with extra points or progress.
Far From a Nightmare
Trine 4: The Nightmare Prince, is probably one of my favourite games of 2019. Mostly due to it being incredibly gorgeous, but also because of the freedom it gives, that is rare to find in puzzle-lead games. While the game does follow a linear storyline, I do feel like every playthrough you go through could be its own experience, especially if you play it with new people each time (something entirely possible with the online multiplayer option, which lets you enter a random game online.) The single-player puzzles could be better, but they are doable by yourself, and the game does sell itself as a multiplayer experience.
The Nightmare Prince is a great addition to the Trine series. It’s an interesting and engaging fantasy experience, that I would definitely recommend to those both familiar and unfamiliar with the previous games.
Final Verdict: 4/5
Available on: PC (reviewed), PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch, Xbox One; Publisher: Modus Games; Developer: Frozenbyte; Players: 4; Released: October 8th, 2019; MSRP: $29.99
Full Disclosure: This review is based on a PC review copy of Trine 4: The Nightmare Prince given to HeyPoorPlayer by the publisher.