Originally Released: August 10, 2017
Available on: PC, Switch
Reviewed on: Switch
Reviewed by: Joseph Yaden
Phantom Trigger is an action, hack ‘n’ slash game, with the same isometric viewpoint as Diablo and Transistor. Without spoiling too much, this game has an interesting story, which is perhaps its greatest strength. It deals with mental illness in an engaging way, a topic not often covered in the medium.
Throughout the story, the player is given a glimpse of what is happening in the real world. This breaks the monotony of the doom and gloom fantasy world in which the action takes place. The usage of flashbacks helps the narrative move along in an intriguing way. The art and sounds work to the game's advantage, too. Each of the three weapons have their own unique sound and rhythm making combat sections almost feel like a music game . With a beautiful retro art style like this, my first impressions were positive...
...but great sound design and visuals can only carry a game so far. The combat tries to be deep, but doesn’t always function as intended. Enemies have misleading hitboxes, where I'd try to strike, only to miss when I definitely shouldn't have. In order to ensure a hit would land, I would have to get right up next to an enemy, which would sometimes result in me taking damage. The whip also causes problems. The player is able to whip enemies closer, but unfortunately, the enemies just end up slamming into the player, dealing damage. The entire foundation of the gameplay is the combat and it just doesn't work.
Aside from combat, the player is tasked with exploring and solving light puzzles to progress. This could be a welcome addition, but trying to traverse the levels with no map is an outdated feature, or lack thereof. There is little visual variety within each level, so it's easy to get lost and lose track of what to do.
In typical video game format, each level ends with a boss battle. Like the exploration, these bosses feel flat and obtuse. It seems like the developers were struggling to add difficulty to the game, but instead just made the bosses weird and confusing.Tutorials and explanations are kept to a minimum, making the moment-to-moment gameplay frustrating and the sense of progression feel like a tedious slog.
Phantom Trigger attempts many things that other modern games do better in every way. The obtuse level design, boss battles, and combat make this game not enjoyable to play, with the art style and story being its only saving grace. While there are a lot of positive aspects, the design decisions result in an obtuse and disorienting game. This is a game I wanted to like, but sadly, Phantom Trigger is short-changed my numerous design flaws.
Consider playing if:
- You enjoy games with a weird, psychological story
- You like games that give you little to no direction
- Repetition doesn't bother you
Consider skipping if:
- You're looking for a rewarding progression system
- Smooth, fluid gameplay is a priority
- Top down/isometric viewpoints aren't for you
This game is mostly difficult to enjoy but may appeal to players with certain tastes.