By Marisa Alexander / February 17th, 2018
|Developer||Bread Team, Victor Solodilov, Denis Novikov|
|Release Date||August 10, 2017|
|Age Rating||None Provided|
If there is one thing I tend to dislike about the indie industry, is that too many titles replicate 4th generation console sprites. However, that doesn’t mean I don’t give these titles at least a chance, as any good concept can win me over. As such, here is Phantom Trigger, developed solely by Victor Solodilov and Denis Novikov. It is a hardcore neon slasher with RPG and rogue-like elements, with the aim to weave a tale of what might be real or is just a figment of one’s imagination. It looked interesting and fun due to its vibrant color palette and rapid pace. In the end, let’s see what the two developers had to offer.
The story begins with Stan, a very normal human being. One day, however, he falls ill for no apparent reason, and his wife sends him to the hospital. The scene then immediately transitions to the player character called the Outsider stepping onto a pier. The game wastes no time thrusting the player into the unknown, seeing all manners of humanoid creatures and a talking tree. At first, it seems the Outsider is tasked to destroy four creatures that are damaging the world. Unfortunately for him, there is more to the world than he initially thinks.
That is the basic synopsis of the plot, as the story quickly begins to reveal information bit by bit. However, the game doesn’t truly take advantage of its setting to craft a gripping narrative. Stan’s world and the Outsider’s world are supposed to be linked. Yet, the only clear connections are the humanoid creatures and even they don’t have much to offer. The pacing also is off, as story bits in Stan’s world are given abruptly during exploration. Due to the rogue-like nature of the game, it felt like there was no pattern as to when they happen.
Another issue lies in the scarcity of information. Beyond being directed to destroy four beings, the Outsider’s world doesn’t give any exposition until the very tail-end of the game. Most of the game’s narrative is given through Stan’s world, as he tries to solve his medical problem. Even then, the game doesn’t even provide the actual nature of his condition, list the treatments used to try and prevent it, and why he is extremely opposed to surgery compared to alternative means. Ultimately, the aforementioned issues leave little drive to learn about the game’s world.
For gameplay, the controls are left very simple and easy to understand. The Outsider has four basic actions, three being attacks: a quick sword, a whip to pull in enemies, slow but powerful gauntlets, and the ability to quickly zip across the screen. The weapons can be combined in any way to form a three-hit combo. By using them, they can level up in order to unlock special combos. For example, using the sword twice then the whip allows the Outsider to freeze enemies in a single direction. All in all, the game controls very well.
However, the game is extremely repetitive due to how the game is built around the main gameplay. Enemies typically only make melee attacks, typically with an after-effect such as leaving a damaging trail behind them or forming a trap where they struck. In fact, the first half of the game only features one ranged enemy. Combined with only two special combos being really useful, the gameplay quickly becomes dull. It doesn’t help weapons can be somewhat finicky such as the whip being fairly awkward to hit enemies with.
While exploring, there are meant to be puzzles in order to provide some variety. However, puzzles only fall into three categories: use the whip to fling blocks onto a switch, play a game of Simon Says with multiple pillars via hitting them in the right order with the associated weapon and hit a button with the right color-coded weapon quickly enough. As such, traversing through a level is extremely bare. There are also mirrors that grant massive experience to one weapon and chunks of rock with items to give to the creatures in the main hub. One final issue is after the first level, levels gate off the boss with busywork such as collecting gold for the boss the Outsider is meant to fight.
In terms of presentation, the game looks and sounds fairly nice. The sprite work is animated very well, especially for the Outsider. Thanks to both the color palette and the lighting, the game certainly pops. Each level environment is very striking and offers at least an interesting visual experience. The electro soundtrack is somewhat muddy, however, with little in the way of variety. Audio-wise, everything sounded clean, and it helped with hit confirmation as well.
There were also a number of technical faults I experienced while playing. One prominent example is that sometimes talking to NPCs will cause the game to somewhat softlock. Another issue is weapon and enemy hitboxes are not as apparent as they should be. There were many times I used the gauntlets and it looked like they hit an enemy dead-center but nothing happened.
Overall, Phantom Trigger was an exceptionally dull experience. The surrounding design around the main gameplay and lack of drive for the story made for an awfully repetitive and unimaginative time playing. The game could’ve used more focus on the main combat and story, instead of attempting multiple elements from various genres. That way, everything might have been polished. In terms of the story, there should’ve been more links between the two worlds as well as far better pacing. For $14.99, the game’s 3-4 hour playtime makes it very hard to recommend. $5 would be better for those curious about the title.
Review copy provided by the publisher
Bread TeamDenis NovikovHardcorePCRPGsSlasherSteamVictor Solodilov