|As I realise my extensive Review might be too cumbersome for some people to digest properly, it is presented here in a highly summarised form complete with applicable percentage ratings. All opinions must be taken in context with the state of computer gaming in late 1995 when Phantasmagoria was released.|
It is quite rare for a cd-rom adventure title involving real actors to include all that much in the way of gameplay, and Phantasmagoria is no exception to this rule. All the player is required to do is click on the left mouse button here and there and let the game itself take care of the rest. No choice over verbal responses to other characters exists. The storyline proceeds in a relatively linear fashion, although the precise details of the less important interactive scenes and the ending will likely differ between each player. Menu options provided are few and simple. Personally, I do not care that the gameplay did not approach the levels of, say, Under a Killing Moon, because Phantasmagoria excelled in all other categories. This objective rating would have been much lower if not for the innovative, surprisingly interactive ending sequence and the inclusion of an internal hint system.
Sound effects are plentiful and appropriate. The standard MIDI tunes during the exploration scenes are masterpieces. Special soundtracks may be initiated depending on player actions. The music scores and Latin choir songs that permeate the cut scenes promote feelings of tension and anxiety within the player. Unfortunately, echoing and static problems arise on some occasions. Deduct fifteen points if you are not using a wave table equipped sound card.
The only reason the visual effects score is less than 100 is owing to the fact that Sierra experienced some trouble integrating the actors with the computer generated sets. Adrienne's height appears to increase or decrease by a foot or two at times and inanimate objects occasionally change their physical attributes. On the other hand, the rich details of the three-dimensional physical environment are outstanding, from the lighting effects to the sumptuous interior of the mansion. The environment is dynamic, meaning that people other than the protagonist move around and manipulate objects. All cut scenes are presented in two-thirds screen size and involve more variety of action and cinematic techniques than all other cd-rom games.
A moderately complex but comprehensible and thrilling melodramatic tale of horror and tragedy, Phantasmagoria contains everything I look for in a work of fiction from intense appeal to the emotions, well-defined characters, a limited but detailed environment, and a heavy dose of the paranormal. Congratulations must also be given for developing an intelligent storyline for mature gamers. Despite these complements, five points have been taken off for minor holes in the plot described on the Unanswered Questions and Bloopers page.
Character depth, not only of the protagonist, but of all other Phantasmagoria personalities to lesser extents, is unequalled in any cd-rom game I have seen. Everyone has distinct motivations and personalities. Although some reviewers do not think much of the acting quality, I believe it to be the finest ever seen in a computer game, and certainly more authentic than many television shows and movies I have watched. It was the role of the actors to convince the target audience that the scene they are watching is real while making it truly entertaining. In this task, they succeed admirably.
If only a few minor technical errors were corrected prior to the commercial release of this title, Phantasmagoria would be faultless!
Title - Introduction - Gameplay - Plot Synopsis - Sound and Visual Effects - Main Characters - Censorship Issues - Miscellanea
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© Anthony Larme 1998