Tag Archives: Cerebral Bundle

Owl Creek has been invaded by ghosts in Phantasmaburbia


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.

Thoughts on Dinner Date while I wait for my dinner date

Dinner Date impressions

Thankfully, I’ve never been stood up; granted, I’ve only gone out on so many dates in my short time on this planet, and only two of them could really be considered “blind,” with most romantic outings being mutually agreed upon long before it all went down. So I don’t know what that feels like exactly, though I could naturally pull from the emotions I feel over other forms of abandonment and disappointment.

Well, with the latest package from Bundle in a Box, which is called the “Cerebral Bundle,” I now know how it feels to eat a meal for two all alone. Before I get to that, let me list everything you get if you beat the average price, which you totally should:

  • Vampires!
  • Dinner Date
  • Phantasmaburbia
  • Necrotic Drift Deluxe
  • Dédale De Luxe
  • J.U.L.I.A.
  • I Get This Call Every Day
  • Cognition, Ep.1: The Hangman
  • Reversion – The Meeting

Whew. That’s nine games, and before dropping some coin on the bundle, I only ever heard of one thanks to an interesting article over at Giant Bomb. The other eight just look like strange ol’ names to me, and of them, I was initially drawn to try out Dinner Date first. Why? Well, it had the easiest name to digest, one which seemed to summarize itself in a single breath. I do hope to at least give each other game a try, especially J.U.L.I.A.,but knowing me and my awesome skills at multitasking and collecting more games than I know what to do with…well, not in a month of Sundays.

In short, Dinner Date has you exploring the subconsciousness of protagonist Julian Luxemburg as he sits at his dinner table, which is set for two, waiting for his date Meiko to arrive. As the night progresses and Meiko is nowhere to be seen, his thoughts continue to unfold  more frantically, and we learn about the worries that trouble him, many of which are not necessarily related to being stood up. Now, you experience this in a pretty non-traditional manner, slipping into Luxemburg’s mind with some control over his hands and movements. Think Being John Malkovich, but with keyboard button prompts. Via a first-person perspective, you can look at the clock, eat some bread, drink a glass of wine, smoke a cig, tap your fingers, stretch, and so on–all while Luxemburg mumbles and groans about his woes, quietly at first and then ultimately peaking after too much wine loosens his lips. Occasionally, I was unable to hear what he said, but his tone more than made his frustration cleared.

For my time with Dinner Date, I sat mostly mesmerized. A lot of that had to do with the soft, ambient music and just the surprising excitement that came with a new button prompt after X amount of time. Oh man. I can dip the bread in sauce? You mean I can stir my soup before I eat it? Sweetness. I have to wonder if this is what Heavy Rain is like in terms of detailed actions. If so, I’m in. Alas, after the credits rolled, the game crashed, which kind of left me a little confused, as I wasn’t sure if I had played the entire game or just a small slice of it; based on forum postings, I’ve done it all, which means it ends rather as one expects, which is a letdown for Luxemburg, as well as myself. I’d have liked to see how he fared the next day, the next week. Maybe even try again to get Meiko over. Oh well…

Dinner Date is about thirty minutes long in total with limited interactivity despite all the actions I listed that you can do as our leading curmudgeon. You’re basically just passing time until he is ready to move on to the next scene, the first of which covers wine, the second soup, and the third dealing with smoking a cigarette. It’s interesting, for sure, but I’d have liked more game than story in this one, which ultimately leaves it feeling like a fine piece of art, one you can look at and, untraditionally, touch, but can’t control. Still, there’s eight more games for me to check out from Bundle in a Box‘s “Cerebral Bundle.”