Real Talk By: Haggy
Reviewed on PC
There has almost been a bizarre influx of games featuring a top-down angle, a focus on what would hopefully be satisfying combat, and the vast majority of these have been not only 2D, but obviously sprite based. Ever since Hotline Miami, we’ve had games like Nuclear Throne, The Escapists, Binding of Isaac, and many more on top of that. However, a game that captures the essence, or at least the attempted goals, of all of these so far has been Hyper Light Drifter from Heart Machine. It featured Tight Controls, smooth, and flowing pixel styles and animations, good sound design, and finally a protagonist that was an allegory for a disease from one of the developers.
Where does that put Phantom Trigger from Bread Team and Tiny Build? Well, it happens to be a 2D, Top Down Action Adventure Title focusing on a hero and said hero’s journey that’s an Allegory for disease. It tries to hit many of the same beats as HLD (To a some times startling degree) as it too is stylized pixel and sprite graphics, tries to have good sound design, and so on. In’s similarities are so prevalent that if it wasn’t for the fact that PT and HLD were made on different engines, I’d be nervous. Similarities aside though, is Phantom Trigger any good?
The first thing the player will notice is a heavy pixel style, with the colors and tones for each dungeon vastly differing from the cut-scenes as we go from reality, to what Stan, the Protagonist, must be going through mentally. The Sprite work and animations are… Adequate. There is no moving animation for the hero going at diagonal directions so moving can at times be clunky, the enemy variety, while present, is bare bones and might as well just be the same enemies over and over again. The Levels are structured in a similar way. The main difference between dungeons is color-scheme and background sound, otherwise most are almost identical.
Style aside, the next thing the player would see is the story, which is definitely serviceable, but it’s so on the nose it can be distracting at times. The player plays Stan, who has come down with an illness, starts to have psychological problems. While being treated and analyzed, will be going from his bleak, sad reality of sickness and treatments, to a mental world where he is ‘The Chosen One’. He is trying to defeat the monsters and enemies of Id. It’s fine enough, but the beats aren’t entirely surprising and whereas there is some heartbreak, it’s unfortunately foreseeable (And short!).
The meat of Phantom Trigger however, is the combat, wherein this game does the most. Your abilities involve a whip that lashes out in a bright, colorful fashion, pulling enemies closer to you. A sword, that swings nicely and is a quick combo. Also ‘knuckles’, which are like massive fits coming out and giving a nice synth bass-y tone with every powerful swing. The player also has a dash that, I kid you not, functions and feels exactly like the dash from HLD, save for the fact the range is sometimes random. It’s a bit clunkier, and more like a teleport than a dash.
With that similarity though, there are some downsides and strange quirks to explain. For example, the sword does not let you pull forward enough to hit all the targets you would like. The whip is hard to aim properly with (and nigh impossible to do so correctly with the keyboard controls) and to top it off the AI are times unpredictable, with some of their attack animations happening immediately after a previous one, leaving no time to counter attack, or happening as they spawn and they sometimes spawn on you, leading to damage that you couldn’t have known about unless you’ve died and are coming back. It short, it sounds and looks good, but it feels bulky, lob-sided, and sometimes even infringing as they almost function as re-skins of a lot of HLD enemies (The main minion even has similar moving patterns and the first ranged minion has the same tell as some of the ranged minions from HLD Not even to mention the strange artistic touches of each attack are eerily similar.)
In Summary, Phantom Trigger is by no means a bad game, it’s not too terrible, if only just clunky, kind of forgetful and a bit familiar and unfair while looking pretty good and sounding pretty good. at $15, it’s not even entirely unfairly priced. If you pick this up, I recommend using a controller.
Phantom Trigger Gets
3 out 5
+Good Sound Design
+Appealing Art Style
+The Combat, When Working, Works Well and Shows Fluidity
-The Game is Often Clunky
-An Alarming Amount of Similarities