Special to El Observdor
This action rouge-like game may drive you as insane as the main character. In Phantom Trigger you play as Stan, a man dealing with some mysterious illness which seems to cause some sort of… mental lapses. Without spoiling too much, the narrative is a bit jarring by design; it jumps around and leaves the player as confused as Stan. It shifts from Stan’s real world – working out his illness with experts and his wife – and some fantasy land where the user gets to control all of the difficult action.
Though the story is confusing, it’s actually in-line with how the rest of the user’s experience will go. There is a distinct lack of tutorial or hand-holding to start the game. I like to imagine myself as an experienced, “pro” gamer, but even I was calling for a bit more guidance. Phantom Trigger gives no attempt to clue the gamer in on controls, combos, or even where to go. Luckily the level design is a bit linear.
Though the level design isn’t too large or sprawling, it is possible to get lost as everything looks a bit same-y. The environments in each episode look like they are in the same “cave” (think dark colors), but I wouldn’t say this is necessarily a bad thing. The levels themselves are a tad confusing, but nothing that will leave you lost for a lengthy period of time. And even if you were to get lost, you can take comfort in knowing that your dash mechanic is fun and fast. Despite its faults, where the game shines –the combat, mobility, combos – it really shines.
Our hero has the ability to use an instantaneous dash maneuver. The dash moves so fast it’s essentially a teleport move that requires caution of any line-of-sight obstacles which may block your dash when you need it most. The best part of the dash is that it’s blended in with the combat system which has some set predetermined combos that are learned by leveling up.
The combat is both satisfying and frustrating. When you are able to “get in the zone“ and weave in and out between enemies without getting hit, the game feels great and satisfying. But mis-time an enemy’s attack or mis-judge the dash’s length, and it’s easy to descend into frustration. The enemies have extremely predictable patterns and taken 1v1, they are not too difficult. The issue arises with juggling multiple enemies in a confined space and having the attacks compound on you with a single mistake.
Upping the difficulty a bit too is the game’s checkpoint system. It’s a standard system where you are granted re-tries and are respawned back at the latest checkpoint upon death. The issue is it’s very easy to allow two hits from the monsters to become 6 and then suddenly you’re left hunting the next checkpoint with only two hits worth of HP left. Dying comes very easily, forcing you to replay the same areas constantly, and leave you wanting to take a long break.
Lastly, I also had a minor grip with the controls. It seems like the kind of game that would work natively with a controller, but it required a keyboard /mouse set up, but that’s okay. The issue is that there is a cursor on the screen but our hero does not attack in the direction of the cursor, he attacks in the direction he is facing, mean you aim with the WASD keys. It took a bit getting used to, but I still maintain that overall it felt very imprecise and a bit counter-intuitive.
For a game that starts on “hard” by default, it surely lives up to that standard. Despite the difficulty and control issues, the game as a whole is fun and definitely warrants some attention. The total length of the game is ~7 hours and is reported to have 5 different endings!