Reviews

Review: Phantom Trigger for PC

BreadTeam
Phantom Trigger - Fresh off the boat and the river might be Styx BreadTeam
Phantom Trigger - Fresh off the boat and the river might be Styx

Phantom Trigger has some impressive visual and sound design going for it, but the PC version in its current state is a mess from a technical standpoint. What could have been a pleasant series of execution challenges is mauled by a lack of playtesting and polish.

I've been sitting on a copy of Phantom Trigger for a week now, constantly going back into the game with vigour, only to find myself in full rage-mode a short while after I would start it up due to design oversights that are baffling.

BreadTeamPhantom Trigger - Fresh off the boat and the river might be StyxPhantom Trigger - What is behind that gate? I will never know.

The game has a beautiful art style and pleasing colour palette, similar to that of Hyper Light Drifter. The soundtrack is an interesting take on electronic music in service of ambience. I was genuinely interested in seeing how the game would tie its two story facets together - a man battling a fatal disease and his own psyche on one side, and a character in an allegorical fantasy setting on the other. I wanted to see how the two realities the game presents would blend and flow into one another, but the game wouldn't let me.

It is rare, but might not be too surprising considering that Phantom Trigger is an indie effort, to see a game fail on the input level.

BreadTeamPhantom Trigger - Fresh off the boat and the river might be StyxPhantom Trigger - Only way out is over dead bodies

Phantom Trigger uses WASD for moving the player character around the world, and the three types of attack at the player's disposal are bound to the mouse buttons. Trouble is, the movement based and oriented direction which the player character is facing is the direction he will execute attacks in while the mouse cursor present on screen does literally nothing, other than confuse the player during the unforgiving and hectic combat.

I was constantly forced to focus on ignoring the mouse cursor in fights, which is extremely counter-intuitive. This would be ok if Phantom Trigger didn't enjoy increasing difficulty by swarming the player with more enemies, instead of adding depth or variety to fights by way of AI or level design.

BreadTeamPhantom Trigger - Fresh off the boat and the river might be StyxPhantom Trigger - Neon gates

The dance would usually follow the same pattern. I would walk into an area that wouldn't let me leave until I deal with the enemies found there. I would do well at first, fighting my own instincts and the cursor, while simultaneously fighting the enemies. After making a few mistakes I would panic and feel those instincts kick in hard, and then impotently rely on the useless cursor to guide attacks. Fail, respawn, repeat.

I found myself milliseconds away from throwing my keyboard out the window on more than one occasion because of this.

BreadTeamPhantom Trigger - Fresh off the boat and the river might be StyxPhantom Trigger - Combat chaos

To make matters even more frustrating, the game requires relatively precise inputs, but has a very erratic framerate. The player character's animations also seems to be lacking frames which should indicate what direction the character is actually facing. While idle or attacking, the character will only animate to the left or right, but attacks are performed in 8 directions. That wouldn't bee too much of a problem if it wasn't for the already mentioned control issues. 

Another thing that struck me as odd was that during the story segments one could simply hit the spacebar to advance dialogue, but had to use the mouse for selecting dialogue options. It breaks what little flow the game manages to conjure up even outside of the combat.

BreadTeamPhantom Trigger - Fresh off the boat and the river might be StyxPhantom Trigger - The other side of the story

This isn't good game design. This sort of thing usually gets stomped out in playtesting, and I doubt a lot of PC testing happened.

After I finally gave up on the game, preferring to keep my sanity, I googled around a bit and realised that Phantom Trigger also came out for the Switch. I also found out that controller support was patched in soon after launch and that a patch that would allow players to customise controls was on its way. Too little too late.

BreadTeamPhantom Trigger - Fresh off the boat and the river might be StyxPhantom Trigger - Simon's puzzle pillars

Phantom Trigger is more than enjoyable with its visual and sound design. The simplistic writing could be excused when considering the story it's trying to tell, but I sadly doubt I will ever see the end of that story because I don't have the time or the patience to wrestle the game's control scheme while fighting the increasing number of enemies it kept throwing at me.

If you were considering buying the game for PC at this time, I would advise you to wait until the developers get the project to a state where it is actually playable. Phantom Trigger for PC feels a lot like a lazy release-then-patch kind of port. Making sure the port works requires testing, and that requires time and money the developer and publisher didn't invest. I have no other way of explaining such major flaws in what is supposed to be a finished game. If you have no problem with paying money in order to participate in testing, go ahead - you have been warned. 

BreadTeamPhantom Trigger - Fresh off the boat and the river might be StyxPhantom Trigger