Phantom Trigger, which launched last week on Steam and the Nintendo Switch, may be quickly assigned the title of “It’s like Hyper Light Drifter”, as both games use a neon-pixel art style that’s become sort of trendy in Indie games of late. But to simply call Phantom Trigger an also-ran would be doing it a disservice. Made by a team of two, it’s quite an impressive feat, and overall a fun and difficult action game that’s held back by a short game length, odd difficulty spikes, and missing combat tutorials. This is our Phantom Trigger review.
Phantom Trigger tells the story of Stan, an ordinary guy, husband, and worker who finds himself dying one morning. Throughout the game, this alternate reality Stan finds himself in, you’ll uncover bits of his story, and meet characters in the alternate reality that mirror those in his real life. Presented with three ways to fight his sickness, Stan chooses an experimental treatment, which you’re led to believe is the cause of his hallucinatory journey.
Phantom Trigger is the kind of game that wants to be difficult. Thankfully, unlike a lot of its forebears, it also offers a mostly plentiful checkpoint system. The only downside is that it literally saves your precise progress to that point, so you often have to redo the same steps over and over again including finding any treasure or skill XP you already found before dying.
After the first hour or so, you’ll have unlocked all three of Stan’s main weapons. His whip, his sword, and his gauntlets. Each one has its own strengths and weaknesses, and they’re color coded – meaning some puzzles are solved with specific weapons. Combat became much more approachable for me when I realized that mixing up the weapons and combos gave me different skills like freezing enemies where they stand. This sort of thing isn’t really taught by the game itself, and it’s left up to the player to discover. Some will this as a good thing, but me? I’d like to be given a bit more clarity in the tools at my disposal.
Graphically and aurally, Phantom Trigger is stunning. Yes, it’s pixelated and not exactly in a way we haven’t seen before, but that doesn’t stop the game from being gorgeous. It’s hand-drawn character vignettes are also beautiful, and the cut scenes and special effects swapping between the real and imagined worlds are done with great aplomb. It’s also got a fantastic soundtrack reminiscent of the trippy melodic audio of Transistor from Supergiant. That’s a good thing.
Sadly, Phantom Trigger is over as soon as it hits its stride. It takes only about 5 hours or so to play through, though this can be extended if you’re set on uncovering every little detail and pick-up. For $15, it’s not a bad deal, but Phantom Trigger is a unique and surreal experience – one I hoped would have lasted a little longer. If you’re a fan of Hyper Light Drifter, Kamiko, and other games of this little RPG sub genre, Phantom Trigger comes recommended.
Note: Our review was done on the Nintendo Switch with a copy provided by PR.