Phantom Trigger tells the story of a husband with a life-threatening illness who mentally struggles to cope with his own being. A fabricated alter ego is slowly possessing his mind and blurring the lines on where his split priorities lie.
On one side, he is a man called Stan who undergoes an experimental yet less costly form of treatment to ease the financial weight that may succumb his wife in his possible passing. On the other, he is a hunter known as The Outsider, where fate is in his hands to be triumphant against the antagonistic forces that threaten the survival of the strange world that surrounds him. You play mainly as the role of The Outsider, tearing your way through hordes of enemies throughout a neon landscape, satisfying the needs of a mysterious woman called Ant along with the allies that support you on your journey.
As you progress you start to experience glitches that channel in the events of Stan’s treatment, the struggles of his coping wife and his grip on reality. These events are a nice touch that would fit well in selling you its story if it weren’t for the poor dialogue that is presented to you like the rushed homework of a 9-year-old child using a blunt pencil. The whole thing loses any sense of immersion by how poorly written it all is. Of course, the storytelling doesn’t really matter that much if the gameplay is engaging enough. In this case, it really isn’t.
Phantom Trigger is a hack ‘n’ slash dungeon crawler where your moves consist of a Mr Shifty-style dash and three attacks: A light slash, a whip that drags your enemy towards you, and a heavy-handed fire punch, each possessing their own glowing colour to lend you a hint on how best to use them. As you begin to level your character up, you are granted with new combo sets to let loose with. Unfortunately, your combos always end after three hits. The only way I could find a possible extension of a combo was to freeze an enemy at the end of one sequence and begin another three-hit attack which really didn’t feel like a true string.
This all leads to a mind-numbing repetitive experience that you perform over and over again throughout the game’s 5-6 hour run time. By the end of the game, I was seriously questioning my own sanity as I executed the same few combination of attacks for the umpteenth time. What made the experience even duller was the fact that you run into the same four enemies that you face a million times over, that weren’t even fun to fight the first time you encountered them.
The boss battles are a little more interesting though, each acquiring a light puzzle element to expose their weakness. Although I couldn’t help but feel that my enjoyment was a by-product of staring at the screen dead eyed and dribbling as I painstakingly grinded throughout each level leading up to them.
The graphics overall are actually quite good though, as the layers of the 2D landscapes move across at a subtle pace as you hack your way through each room. The animations in-game are nice and fluid despite the lack of variety of enemies. The artwork of the main character thumbnails that accompany the script look awful though, it’s almost as if they have been knocked up on the back of a bus in about five minutes.
Phantom Trigger has potential when you first dive into it, but it really doesn’t take long to see the full extent of what it has to offer. There are a few puzzle elements and objectives that are needed to be met to complete each level but, again, it’s pretty much the same thing throughout that usually involves finding something or using your colour coded attacks to solve them.
After reaching one of four possible endings I had no interest whatsoever to seek out the other three. You do get awarded with an Arena mode that’s unlockable once you have finished the game if you really have a craving of doing more of the same thing. There’s also a local co-op option that has been tacked on if you fancy sharing the pain with a friend.
If you are the type of person who could be locked in a room for twelve hours, content with nothing more than a fidget spinner and a bucket then you will love Phantom Trigger. It’s amazing. For everyone else, you will probably get very little satisfaction from this extremely repetitive and frustratingly boring dungeon brawler.
Version Tested: Nintendo Switch
Review copy provided by tinyBuild