I was aware the game existed, but I didn’t really wait for it. Some other people over at the Pub had played a beta and really were rooting for the game, but I wasn’t. When the game came out, I decided to take a look, downloaded the trial from BFG and fell in love with the game. As I’m no longer a game-club member over at BFG, I decided to buy the CE directly from the developers – the same price, but I am getting a setup file which I only need to download once and can reinstall whenever it becomes necessary.
Phantasmat, for one thing, has no real actors (a sore point with me, ever since the development of the CD also led to the development of ‘interactive movies’ that were mostly bad). Instead, it has wonderfully designed, extremely detailed and very creepy hand-drawn scenes and characters that change over time (I’m not going to spoil the story, so I can’t tell you why they change). The search scenes are crisp and clear, the objects not out of proportion (imagine a two-storey candle…). The game also comes with a twist: you can switch between the search scenes (classical IHOG gameplay) and Match 3 scenes (another type of casual game I sometimes indulge myself with). The switch is fast and easy, you can ‘free’ golden eyes that will take one object off the search scene list. This way, you’re saving hints (and it gets easier to get one of the achievements). It’s a novel concept for a HOG or IHOG.
The game also comes with a great story, told well in scenes throughout the game. It begins with you (or rather: your character) having a car accident and landing somewhere in the woods off the highway. You’re just looking for a phone, but a phone call, as it turns out, doesn’t solve your problems. It will take a long time until you actually get away again. You meet three strange characters during the game: the landlord of the Drowned Dead Hotel, his young assistant and an elderly lady living in the hotel. Each of them has a secret and a background story you will discover. And each of them is one reason why you can’t simply walk away.
In addition, the game offers three game modes (casual, normal, expert) with different difficulties, some achievements and, in the Collector’s Edition, some extras such as the usual (wallpapers, music, bonus episode) and free replay of the search scenes and Match 3 games you have already played in the game. The strategy guide that comes with the game actually is helpful (but the puzzles and mini-games are fair, unlike some in 13th Skull) and allows you to check for tasks instead of the usual chapters (which are not helpful, as games usually don’t announce ‘Chapter X starting here’). Even though I didn’t really need it, I took a look at it and liked what I saw.
The game is really good and fun to play. The graphics are gorgeous and the story is interesting and keeps you playing on. This game definitely is on its way to becoming one of my all-time favourites.