Phantom Trigger (Switch) Review – Beautiful Repetitivity
Platforms: PC, Nintendo Switch (reviewed)
Developer: Bread Team
Release: 10th August 2017
Slowly but steady more and more Publishers and Developers bring their games to Nintendo´s Switch with tinyBuild already releasing their second game onto it, called Phantom Trigger. Made by two people, Phantom Trigger promises a deep 2D neo slasher, an interesting psychological story and an overall great time! So, naturally, you may ask the question, if you should resist the urge to feed your Switch with new games or give in and throw some money at tinyBuild for bringing more and more games to this great console? Let´s find out, shall we?
Phantom Trigger´s story focuses on Stan and his psychological problems and shortly following crisis. Similar to the recently releases Hellblade, it tries to focus on a rather uncommon problem, showing how Stan slowly drifts into madness. Honestly, in concept, a quite appealing story, due to the lack of stories told in such environments. However, as expected from a two-man developer, a lot of Phantom Trigger´s concepts are underdeveloped. Combined with the unlucky release right after Hellblade, a game which handles this story way better, there´s not much to shine here.
One of the reasons for the underdeveloped plot are the short conversations, only showing us the most important parts of Stan´s steps into his crisis, every ~30 minutes. Especially for such a character focused plot, the most important parts aren´t often enough to truly show the dimensions, inner conflicts and consequences. As a result we´re presented an often superficial presentation of mental problems. Sadly, even the ending can´t really convince, since it seemed to be a bit rushed or simply lackluster.
On the other hand, Phantom Trigger´s gameplay is pretty great, as long as you don´t play it for hours and hours. Choosing a 2D hack´n slash gameplay for its ~8h long campaign, we have to slaughter us through hordes of enemies. Basically only allowing 3-hit combos, consisting of either pure hits, or special button orders to unleash some cool moves. Additionally to pure slashes, Phantom Trigger also adds ice and flame elements to the mix, as well as a whipe to pull enemies in front of you. Because of the quite fast movement and ability to pull enemies to us, Phantom Trigger can be played as a very fast, action fueled slasher, once you got a hold of the different systems.
However, as great as it might sound and be, Phantom Trigger mostly fails at adding the needed depth or longevity to the combat. Besides our two elemental attacks, there aren´t many ways to deal with enemies. The provided combos are often too specific or weak, making it unnecessary to go through the hassle of executing them. Due to the fact, that nearly all enemies need more than 3 hits to die, never follow a predictable movement pattern and are so fast, the AOE combos were never as useful as our basic attack. Most of the time I simply played with the standard 3-hit combos. At the end of my ~8 hours playthrough, I got pretty sick of the repetitive combat, with or without using the 8 (or so) additional combos. Phantom Trigger never did enough to expand on the first very enjoyable hours.
Aesthetically, Phantom Trigger is also one of a kind, featuring a very unique pixel neo look, with some heavy vibes from Hyper Light Drifter. Fortunately, it does enough new things by implementing a mix of modern and old graphical elements, some great 3D like effects and an overall very distinctive feeling. Especially the enemies are pretty cool, at least during the first hours when you´re not sick of the ever repeating same ones. The music may be a bit too lush tho, lacking a lot own vibes or individual moments. Last but not least, the Switch port is one hell of a great thing, I mean, it runs at 60fps most of the time, what else can you want? While I would have loved to see a loading screen, to avoid 3-4 seconds long stutters in the menus, if you begin to load a level.
Overall, Phantom Trigger surely is a fun game, suffering from a too superficial combat and too repetitive design. Where I had a true blast playing through the first three hours, yet, shortly after I began to learn the limitations of a game made by two guys. At the end I only played it rarely, due to the lackluster “endgame”. Honestly, I wouldn´t be able to play it on PC, a platform that´s more fitting for game you can play for hours on end. On the other hand, it may just be the perfect, fast “in-between” snack for Switch owners, since it´s fun for a little while but gets boring after you spent too much time in a row with it. So, for fans of the genre, definitely worth a shot!
[A Review Code was provided by tinyBuild]