Developer Frozenbyte’s Trine series is returning with Trine 4, and it’s shaping up to be a return to form for the franchise. The last entry in the series, Trine 3, landed to mediocre reviews and disappointing fan reception citing a short length and disappointing ending. Frozenbyte went so far as to say “the future of the series is now in question” after Trine 3‘s difficult launch, but, luckily for fans of the co-operative puzzle platformer, Trine is back.
I was walked through a new hands-off demo of Trine 4 by Frozenbyte’s Kai Tuovinen. They’re calling the series’ fourth entry “the most complete Trine ever created,” and although there are new additions that seem interesting and worthwhile, this is still fundamentally Trine. Our three heroes, Amadeus the Wizard, Pontius the Knight, and Zoya the Thief return, tackling a quest to save the young Prince Selius from peril.
Trine 4 feels like it has the same DNA as my favorite entry in the series, Trine 2. And the team was keen to play up the similarities to Trine 2— perhaps to downplay comparisons to the disappointing third entry and its polarizing move into 3D action. Trine is once again a 2D platformer, and that’s the way it should be.
The part of Trine 4 that most impressed me was the co-operative puzzle solving the series is known for. We were shown the game in both single-player mode, where players can switch between heroes on the fly, and co-operative multiplayer with up to four players locally or online. Pontius can use his shield to redirect light onto a plant, causing it to sprout up and open the way to the next area. Amadeus can use his Wizard powers to levitate objects that can be used to create new paths forward. And Zaya can tether objects together with rope, holding doors open or linking platforms together.
The artwork of Trine 4 is really nice. Based on the flora and fauna of Finland, there are tons of glowing neon purple hues, bright green vines, and warm Autumn oranges. I appreciated how each area they showed us felt distinct from the other, with its own striking visual identity and accompanying set of puzzles. A recurring puzzle involved redirecting a stream of flowing water onto a plant to get it to blossom. One of Pontius’s abilities, the Dream Shield, allows players to leave multiple phantom shields hanging in mid-air, and it’s useful to create platforms to redirect streams of water or help reach new areas.
I wasn’t as keen on the combat of Trine 4, which didn’t really stand out. Your characters enter the battle with foes that resemble devilish yellow hedgehogs and demonic goats. Combat is a fairly simplistic affair, with your usual mix of melee and ranged attacks supplemented by some ability trickery. It’s not bad, but it doesn’t stand out compared to the sleek, clever puzzle solving. But playing with friends, or by yourself, there’s a certain charm to Trine that makes its world feel worth exploring. Let’s hope that when Trine 4 arrives in the fall of this year, that charm can hold up across the length of the campaign.
Trine 4 will release in Fall 2019 for Nintendo Switch, PS4, Xbox One, and PC.