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Phantasmal Review

Phantasmal Review

Phantasmal Review

Overall, Phanstasmal has some interesting ideas but they are all implemented very poorly


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Release date: April 14, 2016
Genre: Horror Survival

Phantasmal is a horror survival game developed and published by Eyemobi Ltd. Phantasmal tries approaching horror genre in a unique way by bringing in RPG-like elements, stealth action and having a less serious tone in terms of story and characters. Unfortunately it is a failed attempt; even tough Phantasmal has some interesting ideas, it is also full of design errors and annoying action sequences, which translates into a frustrating and confusing gameplay experience.

The game takes place in city of Kowloon (which used to be a real city in Hong Kong, it was demolished in late 80s). There is not much story in the game, the introduction sequence does not give a lot of background and ends rather abruptly. Basically, you are on the trail of your missing aunt and somehow you end up in Kowloon, which is overran by zombies, spiders and tentacles etc., and you need to find a way to past these monsters and find your aunt. The story is told by comic panels (which in my opinion, unless done extremely well, one of the worst storytelling tools for a computer game) and is narrated by sub-par quality voice-overs. Apparently story gets linked to Lovecraftian themes in the later chapters, however that did not really add anything to the plot at all. Apart from taking place in an interesting real life location, I could not find anything remarkable about the story.

Visually, the game is well above average compared to other indie games. Lighting effects and shadows are well done, so is the most of the interior design. The same cannot be said about the animations tough; monsters move in a very weird fashion. Unfortunately the term weird here does not translate to creepy or scary, it is simply funny. Animation of the monsters reminded me of the arcade game House of The Dead from my childhood days, and apart from making me feel nostalgic, animations look very amateurish and unpolished.

Anyway, not having a solid story or strong graphics can be easily overlooked if a horror game has good gameplay and level design. That is where Phantasmal fails in every imaginable way. It is evident that developers had a lot of good ideas, however those ideas were simply not transferred into the finished product.

Much like an RPG, Phanstasmal’s levels are procedurally generated. You actually get a different level (as in different map layout and different monster spawn locations) every time you play the game. That sounds like a great idea, who wouldn’t want to play a horror game where it is impossible to predict where the monsters going to jump on you? Unfortunately it does not work at all, because the randomization does not translate into interesting maps. The map layouts are mostly confusing and difficult to navigate. It was impossible for me to get from point A to point B without getting lost at least a couple of times. Also, monster locations are spread out very heterogeneously. There were times where I did not see any monsters for quite some time and then there were some hallways full with so many of them, it was almost impossible for me to get through even on the easiest difficulty setting. That is the main problem with the game’s randomization mechanics, it usually leads to very frustrating situations, forcing you to restart the game to get a new level.

Phantasmal also uses a sanity meter, your vision get blurry and the screen starts to shake if you stare at the monsters too much. This kind of mechanic has been implemented numerous times by previous games (Call of Cthulhu, Amnesia etc.) hence there is hardly anything surprising here. It is hard to say Phantasmal adds anything to this concept. The textures/animations of the monsters were not that scary, I felt that the character was the scared one most of the time, not me.

The last problematic gameplay mechanic I want to mention is the shopping system. You can upgrade your weapons/abilities in between the levels, however the price is insanely high even for the simple upgrades. I do not think the pricing system was sell balanced at all, it took me a lot of time before I could buy my first upgrade, and I was already starting to lose interest in the game by that time.

Overall, Phanstasmal has some interesting ideas but they are all implemented very poorly. Game feels very unpolished and untested. That being said, I think the designers has some potential and I hope that we will see products with improved gameplay from them in the future.

Grade: C-
A brave attempt to bring in RPG elements to horror genre
+ Graphics are not bad for an indie game
– Almost no story, poor monster animations, randomization is poorly implemented, difficult navigation and controls, frustrating gameplay




System Requirements

OS: Windows 7 
Processor: 3.16Ghz Intel Core 2 Duo E8500
Memory: 6 GB RAM
Graphics: 1GB (AMD Radeon HD 5550 or Nvidia GeForce GT 430)
Storage: 4 GB available space
DirectX: Version 11

Kemal Ure

Kemal Ure

Kemal Ure is an avid adventure gaming fan, artificial intelligence nerd and death metal bass player. He got hooked on adventure games at 1998 when he first played Grim Fandango. Later he discovered Myst and Gabriel Knight, which led him to start a personal quest on playing all the adventure games ever published. After years of gaming he discovered that he has a lot to say about adventure games and started writing reviews at his personal blog. Eventually he started writing for JustAdventure at 2014. He mostly prefers games with challenging puzzles and dark stories.He is currently a professor of aerospace engineering at Istanbul Technical University, Turkey. He got his PhD degree from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) at 2015. When he is not teaching at the university or playing adventure games, he spends most of his time playing bass for various metal bands and composing music. He publishes bass playthrough videos regularly at his YouTube channel.

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