There was a lot of mystery with Phantom Trigger. From the cover art alone, one can tell that this game is different and has something unique about it. After playing and completing the game on the Nintendo Switch, developer Bread Team did manage to inject some fantastic moments into this title, but didn’t put as much thought into other components. That’s not to say that Phantom Trigger is a bad game- you just likely won’t be picking it up after you beat the main story (if you manage to get that far).
Phantom Trigger is available now for Nintendo Switch.
The story is easily the part where Phantom Trigger struggles the most. The game opens with a couple talking about breakfast. All of a sudden, Stan (your character), passes out on the ground. After that, you’re taken to the Neon Realm, where you’ll be faced with a manner of demons to fight and challenges to overcome. The story could’ve taken this and made an interesting premise for itself, but unfortunately, Phantom Trigger instead makes things more complicated.
The game tells two different stories: one in the real world with Stan, and one in the Neon Realm with Outsider (where you’ll spend the majority of the game). It attempts to merge these two storylines at some point in the game, but it never completely clicked. I still left the title with more questions than answers. Had tinyBuild just told a simpler story where Outsider had been some special medicine who had to fight diseases, that would’ve been much more welcome.
It’s also worth mentioning that the cutscenes (especially in the real world) aren’t very fun to watch. Like any game stylized after the old days, it brings up face shots of each of the characters when they talk. However, there is no difference in expression when they’re saying different things, which severely breaks the immersion as well as my interest. There was nothing to get me invested in these characters, and it got to the point where I would’ve rathered just skip through the cutscenes.
Phantom Trigger also features a story structure where you decide a lot of the dialogue. These choices then shape how the story ends (there are 4 different endings), but to be honest, it never felt like I was changing the nature of the game, and the ending I got was frustrating, to say the least.
Now that we got a lot of the negativity out of the way, we can get into the meat of Phantom Trigger: the gameplay. From start to finish, this game is an action game. You’ll gain access to three attacks: an ice sword, a fire fist, and a whip. Each attack functions a little bit differently and can be combined with the others to perform special combos that you unlock as you level up each weapon.
These different weapons go a long way to make each encounter feel different. You could get in close to execute a few swipes with your ice blade, or you could pull enemies to you with your whip. It’s all about knowing how each enemy type behaves and how best to handle them.
On the subject of enemy types, Phantom Trigger introduces more as the story moves along, but doesn’t give you enough different encounters to make it feel fresh. The same enemies you fight in the beginning are the same enemies you’ll fight in the end of the game. You’ll see some new faces in each of the five worlds you travel to, but it won’t stop the standard demons from blocking your path.
Furthermore, while you can upgrade your weapons to unlock better combos, it never changes your damage output, meaning each battle can feel a little tedious as you always have to go through the same motions to deal with specific enemies. I would’ve appreciated some stat upgrades in this regard. Also, because you max out your different weapons, you no longer have any incentive to stay and fight the enemies and can just run or teleport past them to progress as quickly as possible.
Something I appreciated in Phantom Trigger is that it doesn’t hold anything back. From the get go, the difficulty is automatically set to Hard. You can change it to Normal at any time, as it doesn’t affect how the game plays or your progression whatsoever. That said, either route you go, this game is tough. You always have to think before rushing into a situation and learn to prioritize which enemies to target first. It requires you to always think on your feet, and that’s simply good game design.
There are five worlds in Phantom Trigger, and each of them presents a different obstacle you must overcome to move to that area’s boss. One world could have you going down different routes to fetch items and another could see you escorting a mine cart to harvest some gold. These little mechanics go a long way to make each world feel unique. Furthermore, the boss battles in each world are excellent. Each one is drastically different from the last and has a different way of defeating them. It’s not a cheap way either- you’ll have to learn to use each of your weapons and teleport effectively in order to overcome them. They’re easily the best part of Phantom Trigger. That said, a lot of the worlds are designed to so confusingly (and the game tells you absolutely nothing about what to do) that I got lost a few times and had to talk to other people who played the game for help on where to go.
Something else that perplexed me was the supporting cast. At the end of each world