I love horror video games so I decided I absolutely had to play “Phantasmal”, a new indie survival game from developer Joe Chang. When I say I love horror games, I mean I love them until I actually start playing them. Even then, someone else must be present for moral support. Shawn drew the short straw and was my support person while I stumbled my way through the first ten minutes of “Phantasmal” four times.
I’m not good at video games. That is something I should have mentioned earlier. This is only the second paragraph, but it’s still too late. Buried the lead, I guess.
I rarely play video games and figuring out the linear progression of one (i.e. pull a lever so a door opens and you go through that door) does not come naturally to me. My support person is essentially my tutor of how to play the game. I am just there to experience the scares and laughs. I had forty minutes to play the game and this is how it went down.
I was leading the controls and Shawn sat beside me for friendly banter and to calm me down in moments of terror. The game is played in first person, you start in a room. You don’t know how you got there, but there is conveniently a journal to reboot your memory and weapons for whatever you will face.
Most horror games start like this. You never start in the middle of the ocean on a lifeboat with the knowledge of being in a shipwreck and your first task is to get to shore like that documentary series “I Shouldn’t Be Alive”. It seems like everyone in these games keeps informative-yet-cryptic journals which I can relate to so I feel like I am already on the same page as them (pun intended, sorry Shawn).
I pick up the sweet weapons and walk for a bit. I get to a door and try to open it by smashing it with a wooden plank. Shawn yells at me to stop because the noise is scaring him and less importantly, it’s not working. I like to think I was making progress in breaking down the door. He tells me games don’t work like that but then he can’t figure out how to open the door either. We call Shawn’s younger brother to help us get through a door fourteen seconds into the game and he presses the “interact” button and the door magically opens. Unbelievable.
Some time later, after checking out elevator buttons and light switches, some crazy zombie guy comes out of nowhere. I start screaming and flailing (in game and real life) which makes Shawn start yelling, “HIT HIM IN THE FACE, HIT HIM IN THE FACE. IF THAT DOESN’T WORK JUST KILL HIM WITH FIRE. DO SOMETHING.” Shawn is a rubbish tutor because I saw no fire to use as a weapon. Then again, I couldn’t figure out how to open a door. Maybe I was a dragon?
I hit everything with a wooden plank and I amazingly survive. Then another zombie comes up but I am out of weapons and I don’t know what to do. There’s still no fire, and I realise Shawn comes up with great ideas but cannot follow through with them. (Ed. Well, that’s hurtful.) I die and am respawned back to the start of the game.
Now I know how to get through the door but I hit it with a wooden plank anyway, as seeing Shawn jump at the sound of it was just too funny. Eventually, I get through to the joining corridor again.
It’s important to note that I handle terror by deflecting it with comedy. For example, just last week at Spookers Haunted Attraction when I was being chased by a guy with a chainsaw through the corn field, I yelled behind me as I sprinted away, “I’M JUST NOT READY FOR A RELATIONSHIP”.
So this time while killing zombies I made strained, tearful comments about how they just didn’t look like their Tinder profiles. The game is different every time so I don’t expect it when something attacks me from behind. Confused and terrible at game controls, I don’t even manage to see what is killing me. I die and am respawned back to the start of the game.
I get through to the corridor in record time and even find myself so far into the corridor that A GIANT SPIDER ATTACKS ME AND WHERE IS MY WOODEN PLANK, HOW DID IT BREAK ALREADY, WHAT THE HELL? I die and am respawned back to the start of the game.
Shawn tries to give me a pep talk since I now have my head in my hands and am whining, “I already did this, why do I have to do this part again?”. Shawn kindly tells me it’s because I suck at the game. I encounter a spider again and I kill it with bullets. Then I get distressed because I didn’t really want to kill it and now I feel bad. It would have murdered me though; it was really in self-defence. More zombies come at me but I kill them because I make sure I am always near rogue wooden planks to use as weapons.
Wooden planks are more reliable than the gun which runs out of bullets really quickly – warning shots don’t scare the spiders or zombies off, unfortunately. I do what I can to not murder them but sometimes (read: every time) you have no choice. I go down some stairs and different looking zombies are there! They are quicker and more evil and my wooden plank doesn’t fully connect with their heads and they don’t die but I do. I die and am respawned back to the start of the game.
Forty minutes have gone by and I have made zero progress. Shawn doesn’t look frustrated but he must be. He must be, right?
“What do you think of game play?” he asks.
“Well, I didn’t do it well.”
“Nope,” Shawn shakes his head to indicate two things;
- That he wholeheartedly agrees with me and
- This is not at all what the question meant.
Shawn later told me that he was in utter disbelief that I was so incompetent at the basic functions of a video game. He kept that to himself in fear of me giving up and forcing him to take over.
For a brief period of time (read: twenty seconds while I was flailing and yelling about zombies) Shawn did play. Actually, I survived in ten minutes periods and Shawn survived for less than ten seconds. It is not important to note that he died because I left him with a bullet-less gun and broken wooden planks to not defend himself with. Shame, Shawn. Your fault.
I’m fully aware that we didn’t make it through to the scary parts of the game. Shawn asks me what could have been done better.
“I just wanted to make it past the corridor,” I say.
“You are terrible,” Shawn informs me.
Developer: Eyemobi Ltd.
Publisher: Eyemobi Ltd.
Release Date: Now available on Steam