Phantasma VR

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Developer / Publisher – The Shady Gentlemen
Price – US $9.99 / EU €9.99 / UK £7.19
Release Date – June 12th, 2017
Input – Tracked Motion Controllers
Play Area – Room-scale
Store – Steam
Reviewed on – HTC Vive

Phantasma is an atmospheric, psychological horror, story-driven puzzle-adventure game. The protagonist’s obsession with uncovering the “truth” about “Flappy Bunny,” a popular kids’ show, has led him to a police interrogation room for reasons unknown to the player. You must solve a sequence of puzzles as reality becomes progressively more distorted.

Phantasma’s gameplay mainly consists of highly challenging puzzles that involve putting cubes in their correct locations. For the most part, these puzzles are very well-designed. While it’s hard to say much without giving away solutions, many puzzles deliberately give you a sense of hopelessness. You aren’t always sure when (or even if) the game will respond to your solutions, but this is made a non-issue by subtle visual and audio cues which point you in the right direction. You can also press a button to receive helpful hints.

“These items are all yours. Can you tell me about them?”

Still, puzzles are very difficult. I put a solid four hours into Phantasma, most of the time being stuck. Speed-running the game, knowing the solutions, takes under 40 minutes. For a puzzle game with a well-written story, this is still an acceptable content value. There are a solid number of puzzles, each with unique solutions. The only issue is that they all use blocks, and while it’s always appropriate, I got tired of throwing cubes around after a while.

As an atmosphere-driven experience, Phantasma’s superb environmental design is its most significant quality. Rather than jump-scares, this game relies on a buildup of atmospheric dread, making you more uncomfortable and confused with each sequence. Some environments are designed as psychedelic twists-of-reality, and successfully instills a trippy theme throughout the game. Although some such environments are intricately and beautifully designed, some others repeated themselves. This led to only three environments reaching their full atmospheric potential.

It’s difficult to describe the story without spoiling anything, but it works as a phenomenal psychological horror narrative. You start without any context, other than a weird obsession with Flappy Bunny. As you progress through the game, you come to numerous horrifying realizations, both about the protagonist and about the society he’s living in. There are also some fourth-wall breaking moments, which didn’t dampen the game and only made it more chilling. The story, fitting with the environment, makes Phantasma a remarkably avante-garde experience.

Phantasma takes clear influence from abstractionist art, a theme that works incredibly

You can find pages scattered throughout the game, with drawings and graphic-novel-style dialogue. Very few of these seemed relevant to the story, but they’re artistically done and I enjoyed reading them all. According to a Youtube comment posted by the game’s developer, these detailed comics were actually doodled two decades ago by his close friend, while he was bored at work during his grad school days. Impressive!

Running off of the Unity engine, Phantasma’s graphics are superb, with incredibly realistic shadow and lighting effects. Textures are sometimes smudgy, but never downright ugly. The game runs at a butter-smooth frame rate with very few hiccups in performance. The only issue was when a cube clipped through a wall and I had to restart the game to complete the puzzle. This was frustrating, but only happened once, and was the only glitch I encountered. There also aren’t any menus- starting the game puts you straight into gameplay, and beating it closes the game. This doesn’t actually hurt the game’s friendly user interface and only adds to the atmosphere.

What would I pay for it?  Phantasma’s story and environment is a work of art, a narrative in its own league. It stayed interesting the whole way through, and its puzzles are varied- though I occasionally got tired of them. The overall experience is one that I’ll be thinking about for long after playing, and unlike many other adventure-horror games for VR. A short, but highly memorable experience, I believe $10 is the perfect price for Phantasma. I would strongly recommend this to any fans of story-driven psychological horror games.

The Shady Gentlemen provided The VR grid with a review code for this game and, regardless of this review, we thank them for that!

 

Good

  • Well-designed, reality-bending psychological horror
  • Excellent and unique story
  • Chellenging but reasonable puzzles

Bad

  • Relatively short
  • Puzzles over-rely on cubes
  • Some animations are stiff
7

Good

27 Comments

  1. This looks great! Thanks for the very balanced and informative review! Based on your comments, this will definitely go on my wishlist (where it’ll probably wait for a sale).

  2. Reading the review, it Looks excellent and right up my street.

  3. I really like the idea, shame about the length though.

  4. It looks like good fun.

  5. I’ll grab a copy as soon as I can 😀 This looks neat!

  6. I really like puzzel games in VR and slowmotion is always fun.

  7. Looks really fun

  8. I need this!!!

  9. It looks fun but I will probably hold off for now based on the amount of content. I have seen the devs reply to the content situation on reddit. So this one is going on the wishlist for now. Thank you for your work on this review and I will be frequenting your site for further reviews.

  10. Sounds like a fun game! Came here from your facebook post.

  11. Looks interesting. Would love to give it a try.

  12. Graphical style is nice, but I’m not sure about the asking price given the length… looks unique enough tho.

  13. Like you say $15 would have been a more reasonable price point. I know they’re rushing to add more content because people are completing it so quickly and wanting more, but with a lower starting price point, they could have done that as DLC. Liking the concept though, looks fun.

  14. Definitely looks like a neat concept! I heard about it a few weeks ago. Would love to give it a try!

  15. excelent!

  16. Looks fun! 🙂

  17. Haha, oh man, this rules!

  18. Want!

  19. Looks like a real fun game will defiantly buy it when I can afford it.

  20. Looks like a great game

  21. Congratulations to the following users Mack, Rev and Max(just Max). I will email you the codes to the addresses you provided. Thank you all for commenting and check back often as I plan on having another steam giveaway soon. Rev, I actually don’t have your email so I’ll try and contact you via twitter.

    • Woop! Looking forward to playing this, nice one. I’ve just updated my profile with my email too, so which ever is easiest.

  22. Nice! I’ll vive ir a try!

  23. Would love for a chance to win a copy of this!

  24. Looks like a fun game! Now can I win a free copy? Lol

    • Sorry man, it closed but come back Monday for another steam vr giveaway… Keep Defending!

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