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Old 02-05-2007, 05:49 PM   #1155
Join Date: May 2002
Location: Lisbon, Portugal
Posts: 1,589
Rep Power: 18 Reharl is an unknown quantity at this point
Re: Post here when you beat a game. I mean it!

Keeping it rolling...

I've finished Phantasmagoria for the PC this weekend. For those who haven't heard of it, it's a silly 1995 FMV game by Sierra, distributed in several CDs and that marketed itself as a mature and adult effort from the company. As you could expect, it has more in the way of free gore and silly violence than a true serious story to tell but I feel the game is not without its merits.

I found the use of FMV a tad more tasteful than some of these type of games, in the sense that it rarely feels constrictive of your actions. Naturally, as an adventure-type game, Phantasmagoria has you walking around the mansion, examining items, picking up objects and solving sequential puzzles, which is why the dialogue and action sequences in FMV never feel like they are taking away a great deal of your control. It also helps that every single person in the game is a real actor, shot against a blue screen. At the time, this was probably the only way of making life-like and seamless animations, and I have to admit that even in its small resolution, the figures retain a natural fluidity that only benefits the game. None of the acting is worth writing home about, but it's definitelty passable and the cast is spearheaded by a strong female lead.

When it ends, the game feels like a mess though. It's insanely easy for any adventure gamer, very short and has nothing to offer other than gratuitous violence in its last hours of play. I felt this was a great shame after some truly interesting scenes during the initial chapters. There is a moment in Phantasmagoria when you realize the person you're living with, the young man who was so close and loving of you, is nothing but a question mark. Suddenly, all feelings of familiarity and intimacy fade away, and we're left with a true Shining-type horror at what may happen. Unlike Shining, however, the change is abrupt. One day you wake up and he is different, aggressive, frightening. The sense of alienation, particularly after an effective first-chapter where you are introduced to your new home, town and central characters, is the most interesting aspect the game has to offer. The dreams you were sharing, the hopes you were expecting to partake, all gone. There is also an undeniably uncomfortable feeling of guilt in each step you take, due to the fact that your character is forced to do something at the end of the first chapter that unwillingly triggers your significant other's change of behaviour. You're wary of how it's going to end, you don't want to hurt him, he's not really to blame. Yet at the same time, the events unfold into a clear resolution, one you don't want to witness or take part in.

Given this particular achievement, it's too bad the game can't carry it until the end, instead reverting into a senseless gore fest and cliché showcase. Beneath all the layers of cheese and outdated presentation, Phantasmagoria has a universal fear to convey, and it does glitter in some points.

On a sidenote, I'll try the Gabriel Knight series next (the second one uses the exact same FMV technic and is quite loved by its fans). I just need to finish Twilight Princess first, which is, I hate to admit, turning into more of a chore.
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