Well, I’m back for round 2 of digging into Box in a Bundle‘s latest package, which I covered previously in a post about the non-game Dinner Date. This time, I’m most definitely playing a game, and I know that because after two hours I’ve switched between three different playable characters, gained levels, equipped special items, killed ghosts and skeletal rodents and unshapely shades, and died during a particularly tough boss fight. If that doesn’t summarize me playing a game, well…no, that’s it exactly. I mean, I literally did mostly the same thing over the weekend in Ni no Kuni, calling it quits when Moltaan, the Lord of Lava, wiped Oliver and friends off Old Smokey.
So, with that, I’m here to talk about Phantasmaburbia, a long-name game that appears capable of going the distance. To summarize, the year is 201X (twenty-X-teen), and the small modern neighborhood of Owl Creek has suddenly been overrun with ghosts. No one knows exactly why or how just yet. Four local kids, assisted by spirits of their ancestors, will group together on a suburban adventure to save the place they call home.
I’ve only gotten far enough in the game–roughly two hours and change–to have three kids in my party. I named the first boy Todd, the goth girl Rayne, and the gun-wielding, blonde-haired kid Drogo. Screenshots from the developer’s website show that the fourth character is another girl, so feel free to leave name suggestions; otherwise, she will be called something dumb, like Jam.
Anyways, it’s an RPG, with all the things you’d associate with the genre present. Its strongest element is its battle system, which is seemingly based around the active time battle model, with no room for pausing or breathing. Best plan your attacks before you even select them or the enemy, which consists of things like Catdavers and Roadents, might slip in an extra swipe. It makes for lively fights, but alas, many are over too soon, and the battle music takes a few seconds to really kick in and sound amazing. There are some other special elements to battles that involve you clicking dangerous tentacles away or loading bursts of light into a spectral gun, all timing-based.
The graphics are perfunctory, if not elementary. This is not a slam against Phantasmaburbia, as its story and gameplay more than carry the title forward, and graphics never are everything. Am I right, Minecraft? Anyways, there’s quite a bit of dialogue here, and the best is between each kid and their respective spiritual assistant ancestor. Everyone speaks in an Animal Crossing-like fashion, just making noise, but don’t take that as a reason to rush through the dialogue. The ghosts are particularly well-written, showing off their unique personalities.
It seems like most of Phantasmaburbia is spent either outside or underground in weird space/time dimension dungeons. These are where the puzzles are, as each ghost can interact here in a different way. For instance, one ghost can highlight invisible panels to walk on, and another can take over animals to move them onto special tiles. I suspect that once all four kids meet up and are one team, a lot of dungeon levels will involve switching between different ghosts to get everybody from point A to point B.
Oh, and one really small touch that I liked are the garage door motion sensor lights. You go near them, they go on. You walk away, they go off. It’s especially great when you’re nearby and see a wild animal trigger them. I don’t know. It’s the small stuff that can make a world feel big, and despite its rather generic look at times, Phantasmaburbia seems like a fully realized place, one I look forward to exploring more. Though that means I have to figure how to properly use Todd and Drogo to beat the current boss I’m stuck on. But for this sleek and somewhat goofy RPG, trying again is a must.