Phantom Trigger Review
Phantom Trigger is a Hack and Slash game, which has just released on PC and on the Nintendo Switch. The game plays in a 2D perspective and features a pixelated artstyle. The developers Bread Team have coined the term Neon Slasher for this title, as it features a lot of bright neon colors. Using our unique value-based review system we want to find out, if you should get yourself a copy of this game. A video version of this review can be seen next to this paragraph.
What is immediately noticeable in this game is its artstyle and atmosphere. The game uses a combination of bright neon colors for particle effects and darker colors for the environment. These distinctions work quite well for the pixelated artstyle, as things are quite clearly distuinguishable from another after the first glance. Further, the game has quite a decent background soundtrack. The soundtrack combined with the artstyle create a bit of a melancholical ambience, which definitely emphasizes the tone of the story of the game well.
The game gives away very little of the story from the beginning, which definitely leaves you intrigued throughout the whole playthrough. Its background is the following; your name is Stan and after a little morning chatter with your wife, you collapse on the floor and are then taken to the hospital. After this sequence, you suddenly play a different character that goes by the name of the Outsider.
What the game does especially well here is that the context of the gameplay as the Outsider is unclear to you. Are you in a sort of purgatorio in your journey towards death, is it a dream or even a psychodelic trip towards insanity? This is precisely what makes the story of the game stand out and is overall a big plus for the quality of the title.
Further, the game will sometimes interrupt gameplay for a brief moment to continue with the story that goes on with Stan, who is currently suffering from a terminal illness. These intermissions are well placed and always feel like they add to the experience.
The one thing that you could criticise on the story itself would be the multiple endings of the game. While multiple endings can be a good thing as they add replayability to the game, it is really disappointing if you receive an unsatisfactory one on the first playthrough.
Moving on to the gameplay, it is all about blinking and using three types of weapons to defeat your enemies. Those three weapons each have a distinct color, red, blue or green, whose distinction is the key to solving some of the challenges in the game. What you will be doing the most in the game is defeating hordes and hordes of enemies in dungeons. You enter these dungeons with a specific goal in mind, to kill its end boss. To unlock the door to the boss room, you need to fulfill an objective in each dungeon, which prompts you to explore it.
However, the biggest downfall of the game is that it becomes very repetitive. Going through each dungeon and just hacking and slashing your way through it, becomes tedious and there is very little to spice things up. There are a few puzzle sequences here and there, which we really struggle to call puzzles at all though. Here, multiple poles rise from the ground, which then flash the earlier mentioned colors in a sequence. You have to then hit the poles in the correct sequence with the appropriately colored weapon. However, this kind of puzzle would be neat if it occurred only a few times, but if it is the only puzzle that you will ever see, you will get bored. This kind of challenge only tests your memory skill rather than your ability to think critically and logically.
Further, the game has a big issue with enemy variety. While each successive dungeon adds one or two new enemy types, there are overall very few of them and some of them are simply older enemies with a different elemental attribute. This really adds to the repetitiveness of the game and makes combat a drag. We found that just simply trying to avoid fighting enemies and just rushing through the dungeon by the way of blinking was a more efficient experience than trying to fight all the enemies.
Another issue we noticed was the checkpoint system. While they are fairly placed, it is quite easy to miss them. You need to directly step on checkpoints to activate them and as your character is able to blink multiple times in fast succession and the checkpoints being a bit hard to see, it is really easy to miss them. This can result in frustration, if you have to redo a long and difficult section, just because you overlooked a checkpoint.
Overall, when it comes to the combat itself, it’s fine barring its repetitiveness. Controls work precise and are good to use. The game features combos, which definitely require some skill to use as they are oftentimes quite short ranged. Most combos have a short wind-up time before they activate. This gives you enough time to pull in enemies with your whip for the combo to hit. However, the combos barely do any more damage than standard attacks and are therefore unrewarding to do. They are oftentimes only useful in marginal situations and you’re oftentimes just better off by meleeing your opponents with standard attacks.
One last point has to do with the game’s bosses, which are beaten by rather unintuitive measures. When a boss has a puzzling mechanic with which to beat it, a well-designed game would put examples of this mechanic earlier in the level. This would make the game’s ruleset clear to you, but just throwing you in blindly with the end boss, could result in you struggling for a long time. If you want an example on this, click on the spoilerbox below.
How does the game fare on the Nintendo Switch then? One thing to note positively here is the coop mode, where two people can use a single JoyCon each to play together. There are a few issues present with the Nintendo Switch version here though. The A and B button are seemingly swapped, as you select menu items with the B button. This is very unintuitive for someone used to Nintendo’s control scheme and is probably due to the game being developed with an Xbox Controller in mind, where the A and B button are inverted compared to Nintendo’s layout.
Further, it takes a bit over 50 seconds to boot the game and to enter its main menu. This is quite long and definitely an issue if you plan to switch between games frequently. Overall, the performance during the gameplay is fine; the Switch runs the game in 720p and 1080p at 60fps in undocked and docked configurations respectively. While we could be mistaken, we did notice some mild stutter here and there during normal play though.
Where stuttering definitely occurred though were the checkpoints. Hitting a checkpoint would make the game stutter for a second. Also, the game noticeably chokes when you respawn at a checkpoint. These points leave gameplay unaffected for the most part, but are certainly strange.
There were a few bugs present in this game too, with only one being truly gamebreaking. This was us being teleported outside of the map during a fight, prompting us to restart from the last checkpoint. We also experienced a graphical bug with a minecart, which continued its path off the tracks after hitting an end. The minecart then returned to the previous position right after; the issue is therefore absolutely minor.
As Red Value Gaming, we try to review games a bit differently to others, by giving a second review score in form of a monetary value. With this value, we try to give you an objective measure of the content of the game, which is evaluated seperately from the review score we give to the game. For a more detailed information, visit our How it Works page.
The main playtime of Phantom Trigger is around five hours compared to Mr. Shifty’s three. However, the gameplay of Phantom Trigger is quite repetitive compared to Mr. Shifty’s action-packed playthrough. Both titles have a great soundtrack and atmosphere, which we deem to be equivalent in terms of quality. Phantom Trigger does have a more intriguing story than Mr. Shifty though.
Another plus to the value of Phantom Trigger is the ability to play it in coop and its arena mode, which you unlock after you beat the game. Overall, we value Phantom Trigger at $9 below Mr. Shifty’s ten. While Mr. Shifty is a shorter game, Phantom Trigger is quite repetitive, which really hurts its value. Phantom Trigger’s saving grace is the ability to play the game in coop here.
Overall, we give Phantom Trigger the score of 67, mainly due to its repetitiveness and lack of original challenges making it an unexciting experience. Its best parts are definitely its story and atmosphere, which are however unable to make up for the lacking gameplay. If you are still somewhat interested in the game, you might want to check out Mr. Shifty first. We do however recommend waiting a little for a sale on both games, since $15 is a steep asking price in both cases.
(out of 100)
Phantom Trigger is an unexciting experience, mainly due to its repetitiveness and lack of original challenges. Its best parts are definitely its story and atmosphere, which are however unable to make up for the lacking gameplay.
Rate our Review: