History: Sierra published the first Phantasmagoria with Roberta Williams scripting the game and responsible for the design. The game did not chill people deep enough, even though it was quite a stretch for the conservative Sierra. Seven CDs left most people flipping their CDs like in the old days to see the full motion video game. With an almost impossible sequence of timed moves at the end of the first Phantasmagoria that left most people colder than the chills, Sierra will try again with Phantasmagoria II: A Puzzle of Flesh (PG2). Unfortunately, Roberta Williams was not intimately involved with this game.
Plot: We start with a boringly normal guy with everything, cute girl, good job as a technical writer at a Pharmaceutical company, reliable, and quiet confidence named Curtis Craig. Underneath the surface is a lurking psycho. Curtis spent some time in the mental hospital in the recent past. Reality dims, photos bleed, rats speak, computers get vicious, and finally an inhuman entity, named Hecatomb, visits Curtis. Hecatomb digs up terrible childhood memories and fears.
Curtis’ friends start dying. Curtis even starts uncovering the sinister parts of his normal looking employer, WynTech. Within the corridors of the lower level lies a teleporter to another world. The rest of the game is one of discovery and loss.
Interface: Sierra interfaces are pretty standard. Clikcing at the top of the screen gives you the graphic adventure screen where you can save, load, change game options, use the magic map, access the inventory, change the action word for the cursor, and access the hint system.
Gameplay: The gameplay consists of exploring Curtis' world and having conversations with Curtis' friends, coworkers, and others that people Curtis' world. You click on a section of the screen or character and watch the FMV film. Click and watch is pretty much what the game play is like. You can also click on an item in your inventory to show it to a non-player character and then watch the film. Most puzzles in the game are very easy to solve and are no more than clicking on the object when confronted by the puzzle and then you get to watch the film. A less intense mode of play can be installed for the squeamish or those who are unimpressed by typical horror gore and just want to play the game.
Puzzles are illogical and silly. Instead of moving the couch or using a broom handle to get your wallet from under it, you use your pet rat to get the wallet and a granola bar to get the rat out with the wallet. Dumb.
Graphics: The graphics are high resolution full motion video which is very smooth and looks like a movie. The scenes are depicted in full graphic detail with very little left to the imagination.
Anilmation: The full motion video (FMV) in Sierra games is high quality, filmed often on Betacam SP, the highest grade of video film, edited and scripted like a full length feature. This is high quality stuff. The horror is very in-your-face real and since you are often sitting alone late at night in the dark, you can get pretty scared and disgusted by the gore.
Voice and movie actors: A very competent cast does a credible job acting in this film or full motion video game.
Music score: Music is better than average.
Sound effects: The sounds are quite good and also rival those of a feature length film. Sierra has had the sound effects system mastered for years now.
Utilities: The travel map is well thought out and works well, just click on where you want to go on the map and you are there. The map saves you the tedium of retracing your steps and redoing sections of the game for review or clues. You can password protect the game for little ones prying eyes and be sure they will not view the gore or gratuitous sex scenes. Frequent lock ups result when playing disks three and four.
Multi-player: There are no multi-player options in the game.
The future: Phantasmagoria 2 does not seem to have done as well as the original in sales and therefore the future of a Phantasmagoria 3 is uncertain. We will keep you posted.
Journalists: Peter, the real vetran reviewer, likes this better than the other reviewers.
Chris Hudak, www.gamespot.com/previews/phantas2
Cindy Yars, Computer Games Strategy Plus, issue 70, September 1996, pg. 56-57.
Cindy Vanous, Computer Games Strategy Plus, issue 70, September 1996, pg. 57.
Petra Schlunk, Computer Gaming World, issue 152, pg. 86 - 88, 30%.
Julie Gordon, Computer & Net Player, volume 3, number 10, March, 1997, pg. 64, 60%.
Peter Olafson, PC Games, volume 4, number 3, March, 1997, pg. 72, 75%.