Neon themed games are a favorite of mine, and they have been increasing in volume in recent years. From smash hits like Hyper Light Drifter and Hotline Miami, to more recent releases like Aaero and Tokyo 42, there is a wide variety of games and genres that fit the bill. A recent release that hit the Switch and Steam also fits that bill to a T. That game is none other than Phantom Trigger from developer Bread Team and publisher Tiny Build. I followed this game up to its release and was incredibly excited for it, especially with Tiny Build being on board. Sadly, the game does not meet the standards that I thought it would, and after playing it I can’t say that it is a memorable experience. It’s not that it is an entirely bad one, it’s just not overly good in any aspect.
Phantom Trigger puts you in the role of a man who is terminally ill, and due to this illness he is seeing or living a second life as a being he created in his mind long ago. The Hunter, as he is called, is a master warrior, lost in a dark realm with nothing but the Hunt ahead of him. Using the Hunter, you fight off various monsters with a few different weapons. With that in mind, I will dive right into the combat, as it is the main gameplay feature of Phantom Trigger. Across your journey, you will have to fight to survive. A lot. Using a combination of your sword, whip, power gloves, and dash ability, you will find yourself in the midst of beating down baddies quite often. The sword does a basic slash attack, while the gloves do powerful punches, both of which are for relatively close range encounters. With no long range weapons at your disposal, you must use your whip to reel enemies in towards you, then resume the beat down. Your dash move allows you to fluidly move around during combat, either letting you close the gap between an enemy and yourself or quickly dodging one’s attack. Early on, it plays out alright, but the more you get into it the less exciting it gets. For a hack and slash to feel dynamic and rich, the combat has to feel fun in every situation. In Phantom Trigger, it does not. The enemies are bland, and fighting them is no better. Your moves do not feel special, they just feel by the books. I just did not find the combat gripping sadly, even with the RPG-ish mechanics.
With the combat in mind, you can get some slight changes to your fighting style. Over time and usage, each of your three weapons will level up, effectively unlocking new combo moves. These make the combat a bit more diverse, but not enough to make it worthwhile, as the moves are not really memorable in themselves, but rather just simple variations of each other. Want a snazzy dash attack? That comes in two flavors: Fire or Ice? Want a ring of protection? Those same flavors are readily available. It just seems like a lazy, color coded way to add variety in to the mix, but variety is nothing without proper implementation. Same goes for the enemies, which are mostly just reskinned versions of the ones you initially encounter. Spikey. Slimey. Explosive. These are the variations of monsters you will run into. While they have some solid designs behind them, their implementation once again is somewhat of a dud. I just can’t appreciate the simple gestures that don’t enrich the overall product.
Some of the better times in the game are had in co-op. I much preferred playing with my little brother than playing solo. The combat is more engaging when you have a second body dashing and slashing around with you. Only downside to this otherwise welcomed feature is the sharing of a single life bar. Again, I was playing with my little brother, who is not as good as I am in this type of game. This meant deaths that were more or less a result of his skills, and not that of mine. I would have preferred some type of revive or respawn feature for the downed player, instead of having both parties punished. At least the game looks stylish during all of this too. That is another strong suit of the title. It is easily visually appealing, with popping neon colors for days. The animations are very solid too, I liked the gritty appeal of the enemies and the flow of your attacks. Unfortunately, the audio side of things fell flat. While there are a few cool songs, most of the game is dragged down by a repetitive and dull background track. Furthering the issues are your characters awful noises he makes when getting hit. These are beyond bland and I could not stand the grunts he made by the time I was a few hours in.
Even with its issues in mind, I did find it enjoyable occasionally. Once in a while I would find a fight to be quite enjoyable and balanced difficulty wise. But the bulk of Phantom Trigger was rather, well, plain. It just did not stand out by many accounts, feeling more like a simple mobile game rather than a full on experience. I don’t mean to down the team behind it, considering their size and what the game went through to get created, but it’s just an average title at best. Though its development is commendable, I cannot excuse the game itself. Don’t jump the gun on this one, and only pull that trigger if you are truly sold on the gameplay behind it.
*Note: A copy of this game was provided for the purpose of the review.
Final Score: 6/10
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