BY ALEX WAKEFORD
The fourth instalment of Frozenbyte and Modus Games’s 2.5D puzzle-platforming Trine series has released to great fanfare and critical acclaim!
This week, Universally Speaking looks at the charm of the series that has endured for over a decade and what makes Trine 4 stand out among its peers in the genre.Puzzle-platformers are immensely popular, over the last decade there’s been a boom in creative titles that became instant classics – Limbo, FEZ, Braid, Celeste, Thomas Was Alone, and many more…
Many of these titles carry with them some kind of unique exercise in their genre, from Braid’s time manipulation mechanics and retro aesthetic that kicked off the indie boom, to the profoundly immersive atmosphere of Playdead’s masterclasses in audio and visual design Limbo and Inside, to the surreal and innovative FEZ which encourages players to embrace mistakes as a learning process.
Trine is similar in many ways, yet notably different in that this is now the fourth instalment in what has become a widely successful and popular series of games. It isn’t a one-off, it has had time to establish itself with a core identity and to experiment with its formula – the previous game notably opting to go full 3D.
Trine 4, then, comes as a unique opportunity for Frozenbyte to refine this entry into not simply ‘another game in the series,’ but an affirmation of the best of what Trine is.
It’s a rare opportunity, and one that Trine 4 makes its mission statement: Deliver the best, most complete Trine experience yet.Trine is perhaps most notable for being a 2.5D physics-based puzzle platformer with gorgeous visuals and shines for its approachable simplicity.
You’ll be switching between the three main characters – Pontius, Zoya, and Amadeus, fitting the archetypes of the warrior, thief, and wizard – with their own unique abilities and ways to contribute to solving puzzles across the game’s levels.
Pontius can dispatch foes with his sword and reflect light with his shield; Zoya can swing vast distances with her rope and string objects together as well as use fire and ice arrows; and Amadeus can summon a variety of objects as well as move things around.
Trine’s aesthetic has always been within the realms of fairytale fantasy, but Trine 4 takes that to a whole new level with its vibrant palette and vast landscapes.
To simply look at this game can’t be described as anything less than utterly enchanting!Every level has a unique look, it quickly becomes clear that the artists and designers were given a lot of latitude to absolutely go ham on making such visually diverse setpieces.
This also extends to the puzzles. The types of physics-based manipulation throughout the game stays fresh, no idea ‘overstays its welcome’ as you’ll find each of the levels has a number of new things to throw at you.
Additional depth is put into the puzzle design because they change depending on whether you’re playing solo or multiplayer. An area you might have breezed through by yourself might just make you stop and think when you have to factor in your reliance on up to three other people.
In a lot of ways, this co-op experience feels close to the kind of experience one might have had at the apex of the Xbox arcade party game era of the last generation.As its puzzles are physics-based, Trine 4 never tries to punish the player for finding more… creative ways to brute-force their way through the puzzles, much to the betterment of the experience.
This was, in fact, a big part of why Trine 4 was so fun to test during the QA process, which is where we at Universally Speaking come in.
It’s always a special moment when a game that we’ve worked on releases, and this one is particularly special for me because Trine 4 was the first big QA project that I worked on. I was tremendously lucky to be part of that process and – because of the latitude Trine 4 provides the player, to see how far things can bend before they break – there was never a dull moment, even after several replays.
You’re not railroaded into playing by the game’s rules, solving puzzles exactly as intended. There are many times where more out-of-the-box thinking for puzzle-solving and experimentation will be rewarded with unexpected progress.
Trine 4 never tries to enforce where and when ‘the fun’ happens.
It gives the player the tools they need to make that happen for themselves, and that is something that naturally makes this a game you’ll want to experience again once you reach the end – whether you’re playing by yourself or with friends.
Maybe there’s a ledge you can’t quite figure out how to access, but you don’t want to miss out on the experience vials (which are used to upgrade your abilities) up there… well, maybe you might resolve this problem by summoning a box as Amadeus and simply using that to drag the vials to you, as they are also objects in the game world that are affected by physics.Further to this, it’s a completionist’s dream!
Throughout the game, the main things you’ll be collecting are experience vials (to spend on abilities) and battle stars (to unlock abilities), but you’ll also be finding other types of rewards for completing off-the-beaten-track puzzles and finding chests that might reference series in-jokes or provide additional little story and character details.
Tracking the progress of your completion is made easy by a fantastic menu UI that breaks each level up into checkpoints, informing you of how many experience vials you’ve collected out of how many are in that area.
Of the many fantastical foes you’ll fight throughout Trine 4, one thing that is never your enemy is the movement.
Even when playing on console, the controls are intuitive and everything feels responsive – you’ll likely get greater speed and precision out of your abilities on PC, but Trine 4 does not seek to urge you through its challenges.What you get as a result of all of this is the kind of game that is fun for everybody and anybody to play.
Want something to play together with a younger gamer, or somebody who has limited experience playing or never played video games before? Trine 4 is a great game for exactly that.
It’s an unintrusive experience where learning and mastering the synergy of character-swapping and ability usage to build momentum in solving the game’s puzzles brings a unique kind of satisfaction.
Trine originally released in 2009 and its unique ideas and presentation made it an instant success. Not every game gets to have a second, third, or fourth go at building on its foundations, but we now have a series that spans four titles across a decade.
Trine 4 is not only a beautiful refinement of the best of the series, but a love letter to its fans – one that absolutely succeeds in its mission to deliver the biggest and best Trine experience yet.
We at Universally Speaking are thrilled for the well-deserved success Frozenbyte, Modus Games, and Maximum Games have seen for this title and it is humbling to have been part of it!
The best-selling Trine series returns to the magic of 2.5D! Join three iconic heroes as they set off on a quest through fantastical fairytale landscapes to save the world from the Nightmare Prince’s shadows.
Trine 4 released October 8th and is available on Xbox One, PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch, and Microsoft Windows platforms.
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