Trine 4: The Nightmare Prince for Xbox One review — A lackluster story doesn't spoil challenging puzzles

A knight, a thief, and a wizard make an unlikely trio, but they complement each other well.

Following the 3D gameplay of its predecessor, Trine 4: The Nightmare Prince returns to the series 2.5D roots. It's all the better for it. While developer Frozenbyte may have questioned the franchise's future after Trine 3, it looks like that future was bright. An uninspired story doesn't get in the way of the meat of the game: its puzzles, which — even though they're not terribly complex all the time — keep you coming back to solve just one more.

What I like about Trine 4: The Nightmare Prince

The puzzles themselves don't break the mold or do anything new to elevate the genre, but they don't need to. They are perfectly fine as what they are: simple puzzles that shouldn't take more than a handful of minutes to solve, if that. They are usually only one "room," which roughly equates to the size of your screen or a little larger.

Each level has its own theme, whether it be a dark foreboding forest, an enchanted castle, or even the home of a talking badger built inside of a tree like its own Hobbit hole, and I appreciated the variety because it kept Trine 4 from ever becoming stale. Something as seemingly insignificant as the color palette used can make a world of difference. The entire atmosphere can change from level to level, and it breaks up what could have become monotonous designs otherwise.

Progression feels natural, and puzzles do a good job of incorporating new abilities that you earn. I never felt like I hit a wall where the game tapered off and I wasn't learning new tricks. At the same time, these abilities were slowly introduced to me as I progressed and weren't thrown at me all at once. The further I got, the more sophisticated puzzles became, which is how it should be. There comes a point early in the campaign where you'll need to utilize each character's unique abilities to solve a puzzle. There were definitely times I solved a puzzle in ways that I feel the developer may not have intended as the "correct" solution, but it worked nonetheless.

The levels are also broken up with combat sections, where manifestations of nightmares will appear, like wolves or spiders, and you'll need to quickly take them out. These are incredibly easy to do, especially in co-op. You won't find a challenge in this regard, but it again serves to mix up the gameplay.

Trine 4: The Nightmare Prince has a forgettable story

If you asked me to recount the story, I probably couldn't tell you much other than "a prince has bad dreams and three people are sent to rescue him while getting caught in the nightmares as they spread throughout the kingdom." That's reductive, of course, but it's honestly the gist of it and about all you'll need to know about the narrative.

I played Trine 4 on an Xbox One X. The left and right bumpers rotated between each character, and the right trigger and X button both performed important actions used frequently. None of that sounds complicated — and it isn't — but a problem did arise that left me constantly frustrated. I would always seem to hit either X or the right trigger before swapping to the necessary character I wanted, thus cancelling out whichever ability I had used previously. A conjured item from the wizard would disappear, the platform I had steadied with a rope would break free because I accidentally shot an arrow at it instead.

This sounds like more of a "me" problem than a game problem, but I feel like swapping between characters would have been better served by binding them to the D-pad. As it stands, you can't remap these controls, though you can remap which buttons fire the bow and arrow.

Should you buy Trine 4: The Nightmare Prince?

Trine 4

Trine 4 (Image credit: Modus Games)

Trine 4 is easily better than its predecessor, but it's by no means a groundbreaking entry in the franchise. Regardless, it stands as a strong game on its own. Frozenbyte clearly found its niche, I just hope Trine 3's reception doesn't stop it from experimenting in other gameplay ideas and trying to mix up the formula in the future, too.

Fans put off by Trine 3 who preferred the classic experience will definitely want to try out Trine 4. I can see it winning some players back. And even if you weren't familiar with the series before, fans of puzzle games will surely want to see what the fuss is about. It's simple enough that it's accessible to nearly anyone, but some headscratchers are thrown in to prevent you from getting bored.

Jennifer Locke

Jennifer Locke has been playing video games nearly her entire life, and is very happy Xbox is growing a stronger first-party portfolio. You can find her obsessing over Star Wars and other geeky things on Twitter @JenLocke95.