I can define my time as a gamer into two periods: before Phantasmat, and after. Now whenever I start a new game, in the back of my head, I’m comparing it to this one, no matter how unfair I might know that to be.
The story begins in a standard way: you mysteriously crash your car after a mysterious fog envelopes it and forces you off the road into a mysterious forest. You awaken with no idea where you are, but you have to solve the game in order to leave.
However, as you work your way through the forest and along the edge of a reservoir, you notice the spire of a church and the outline of a drowned town dimly visible beneath the water’s surface. This is cleverly revealed as a visual metaphor for the storyline: in order to advance, you must solve the backstory of three former inhabitants of the town, and discover their truths, none of which match up to what they tell you.
It’s clever and delicious.
The art, too, is flat-out gorgeous. It’s moody and detailed, and the town as a whole has been meticulously thought-out, designed on multiple levels (drowned town, remember?) and with the buildings you generally find in the abandoned-town genre. But the attention to detail within each scene is astonishing. The tiny floaty seaweed bits. The peeling paint on the side of the hotel. The dripping water and creeping arthropods in the basement. The mist rising off the dark surface of the water. The costumes on the old woman and the girl.
(You can spend a good 10-15 minutes just staring at the hotel lobby alone: fishtank! desk! coffee table! weird proprietor! Also, you’re really missing out if you don’t play this one in the dark.)
Another thing I really enjoyed is that you can throw your hands up in frustration at the hidden-object scenes and decide to switch, mid-scene, to something called Match-3, which is basically Bejeweled, and just as addictive.
The music is amazing. The creepy dolls are amazing. The old woman is amazing. Even the badges are well done, integrated in a way that makes you get all completionist on them.
What’s not amazing (hence Mr. Missing Half-Star up there) is that the first time I played the game through, it crashed at the very last scene of the bonus chapter, and the second time through, finishing the normal game failed to unlock the bonus chapter.
So I started playing again.
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Time Played: 5-10 hours