At first glance, Phantom Trigger can be deceptively average. It appears like a lot of hack-n-slash games we’ve seen before, but with a grittier bit-style that we’ve come to see in a lot of indie titles. But when you see that the game is being published by tinyBuild, you know there has to be a little something extra under the surface. If anything for the fact that the company likes to create weird titles. We got ourselves a copy of the game for a review we were intrigued to write.
Phantom Trigger is an action adventure title where you get two different perspectives of the story currently happening. The first is through cutscenes of a man named Stan who suffers what appears to be overtaken by an illness, as we see how his life and relationships around him are affected in the “real world.” The other half (which serves as the core gameplay) you play as “The Outsider,” a warrior with no memory who fights in the “neon world.” As you make your way through one world as the warrior, you’ll be taken back to the other world to see what happens to Stan as the two stories begin to merge.
As you progress through the game, choices you make on either side affect what happens to the other, so whatever you do does have consequences. The game itself plays a bit like a dungeon crawler where you’ll be given a mission from a glowing source, head off in a particular direction and clear out the enemies. You’ll collect items that eventually lead you to a boss battle, which is both the most creative and hardest parts of the game. You’ll gain three different attacks over the course of the game along with a dash maneuver that will get you out of tight situations, which you come across frequently. Thankfully, you’ll be able to find healing stations and checkpoints along the way so it isn’t starting you back near the beginning, which is a nice relief considering how these corridors get so confusing at times.
While the enemies in Phantom Trigger aren’t very imaginative, the combat and levels are quite nice. Battling doesn’t feel boring or repetitive as you’ll encounter enemies with different power levels and tricks up their sleeve, along with rooms that will trap you in bars of fire until you beat everyone in that area. Some enemies have to be defeated by a certain element or maneuver, and if you don’t do it correctly, they’ll keep spawning until you do. The boss battles will be somewhat complex and, much like dealing with Mega Man villains, you’ll have to find the pattern of their attack in order to derive a weak point.
Here’s the downside to all of this. The two stories, while they’re supposed to woven together, are not a perfect fit. If I had to take a guess about the game’s development, I’d say the primary action part of the game was created first, and then the story was jammed into it so it would seem cooler than it is. It’s hard to separate the two since that’s what you’re introduced to—but if you divide it in your mind, you’ll see exactly what we’re talking about. Another problem is that the game ends way too soon. I got the impression there would be a lot more, then one of the many endings the game has crept up on me. I get that creating multiple endings adds to replayability, but give me more of a game so each time feels like a complete experience.
Phantom Trigger is okay in my opinion. It isn’t a terrible game, but it becomes way too easy to see the flaws. I would have appreciated more of an effort to tell a story within the “neon world” half of the game rather than trying to have some sort of half here/half there kind of story. I get why it’s here, I just don’t believe it works as well as the devs may think. There is a nice feature of playing co-op on PC and using two Joy-Cons for the Switch, but you both share a single life bar to add to the challenge. Go in for the action if you’re going to get this one, but the story may not be your cup of tea.
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