Retro arcade experiences have been remodelled and re-imagined since the dawn of modern indie games. Each title inherits old gameplay styles while lending new and creative ideas to the experimental games releasing under independent developers. Phantom Trigger is exactly that, bringing old school dungeon crawling elements, while the strategically smooth hack ‘n’ slash playstyle brings a much-needed breath of fresh air to the mildly stagnant, and highly saturated genre.
Starting the game as Stan, you’ve abruptly collapsed in the midst of what seems to be an ordinary morning with your wife. Awakening in a strange, dreamlike world, you venture into the unknown, meeting with the strange creatures and mysterious people who inhabit the phantom realm. Dungeon crawling takes place in a semi-isometric 2D perspective, with beautiful neon coloured pixellated graphics and detailed pixel shading. The further you advance in the game, the more you find out about Stan’s illness, and the mysterious tale begins to unfold.
Equipped with a few various weapons and abilities – such as the defensive manoeuvre to instantly dash a few paces forward, swing your trusty whip, slash your blue sword or swipe your mighty ‘phantom’ hands upon enemies, each tactic proves its own worth given the appropriate time. The dash move is self-explanatory, offering a quick “in-n-out” fighting style, keeping plenty of movement to and from the enemy. Also, this skill becomes valuable when traversing through walls and areas throughout the game.
The combat moves start off with the faithful green whip, which offensively reels in monsters, right into the hands, or blade, of the aggressive protagonist. Once found early on from the mystical talking tree, the blue blade swipes and slashes through waves of various types of enemies. Once passed the subtle difficulty curve in combat, the use of the blink dash ability and the whip’s ability to bring enemies to you sees fast-paced action that is found in few other titles to date. The one-two punch from the whip/sword combo proves a viable go-to skill for much of the modestly difficult game. The red phantom hands are found just a little further into the game, offering a mid-range ability to advance the technical abilities of Stan.
Each move carries its own combo set, increasing the action and strategy gameplay mechanics that’ll help you progress further in the game. As you gather experience points in each weapon category through fighting and defeating enemies, more combo abilities will unlock for the designated weapon, being the icy blue sword, the vine-like green whip or your flaming phantom hands. Each weapon is colour coded in green, blue and red, matching various items and enemies spread across dungeons, as well as providing elemental damage to help you place opportune strikes in the thick of combat.
Though most of the game plays the same and repeats various monsters across similar dungeons, Phantom Trigger plays comfortably and tells an eerie tale of an ordinary man trapped in a dangerous world. At the end of every dungeon lies a powerful boss, each with its own unique method of defeat, further increasing the challenge. The addictive gameplay may get a little tiresome after long sessions of gaming, but it’s moderately short story and engaging action keeps things just interesting enough to pull you through satisfied.