Developer: Bread Team
Platforms: PC, Nintendo Switch
Genre: Action Adventure
tinyBuild is a publisher of indie games that gained some notoriety with their self-developed titled called No Time to Explain back in 2015. Since then they have been gaining ground with some notable indie titles like Mr. Shifty, Party Hard, Speedrunners, and many more. Soon to be added to their extended list is Party Hard 2 and a new title called Hello Neighbor which has been said took very promising.
Bread Team is the developer of Phantom Trigger ( no relation to I Am Bread). With the help of tinyBuild they have not only been able to bring Phantom Trigger to Steam, but to the Nintendo Switch as well. Described as a “Neon Slasher,” Phantom Trigger is a journey full of waves of enemies, crazy combos, and a special story. Because of its visuals, it is easily comparable to Hyper Light Drifter, and yet Phantom Trigger has some very unique traits that make it stand on its own.
Phantom Trigger is an action game where players use a sword, whip, and gauntlets to defeat enemies by mixing up button combinations. Players will be facing a variety of fungi-like creatures that are slowly overtaking the land in which the story takes place.
There is no blood or gore to be found here, though there is a tree-like character in the shape of a naked woman. Luckily, this character’s pose covers any possible private parts. One of the non-playable characters can also be seen smoking some kind of cigarette. There is no official ESRB rating, but if one was to be given it would likely be T for those reasons.
When first starting up Phantom Trigger I was very confused. The story opens up with an average white-collar guy named Stan simply living out his life. That is, until he collapses in front of his wife and falls ill with a mysterious sickness. After that it cuts straight to an alternate world in which a mysterious character who is labeled “Outsider” shows up on the shores of an unfamiliar land that is filled with various structures that originate from a mix of technology and nature. The Outsider meets some strange beings, which had me trying to make sense of this strange world until further events helped do that for me.I will not go any further into details of the plot; if I did there would be no reason for someone to go play the game after reading this. There are more two things I can share, however: the journey that these two characters take are interwoven and there are four alternate conclusions to the story. The path that is taken is determined by how a player responds in the many conversations that occur. I found that the story and dialogue are what kept me pressing on to see how it concluded, the same cannot quite be said for the presentation.
The visuals of Phantom Trigger fall into a 16-bit art style, a style that hundreds of other indie projects have adopted these. This doesn’t mean hat the game looks terrible—in fact the visuals are very well done. The problem is that this presentation is very unoriginal; without looking at any gameplay videos, the untrained eye could be fooled into thinking it’s looking at Hyper Light Drifter. The world itself, though, is very unique, and so are the various NPCs. It may look like every other indie game on the surface, but there’s more to it when the game is in motion.
I have sort of a love/hate relationship with Phantom Trigger‘s combat. When I first started playing, I would take a lot of damage and die numerous times. The Outsider has access to a sword, whip, and gauntlets. The sword is meant for quick slashes, the whip pulls enemies into close distance, and the gauntlets are slow but deal damage. What had me dying so much is that all of these actions felt like they had a slight delay to them, making my character feel sluggish at times. On the bright side, these occurrences became less frequent when I began to master the combat.
The biggest lesson I learned during my playthrough is that these enemies are not pushovers—they deal a ton of damage. I had to avoid getting hit at all costs because health pickups are limited. There is a handful of enemy types that appear during the boss battles specifically to ruin a player’s day. My time with Phantom Trigger was frustrating initially, but I eventually mastered the patterns of every enemy type.
As I learned those patterns and learned how each of the weapons worked, I discovered that the game will teach the player new button combinations. These new combos unlock when each weapon is used more often. Included are abilities that slow down enemies with ice attacks and others that deal massive damage with fire attacks. The enemies also became colored coded in red or blue, which told me what type of attack would work best. By the end of my first playthrough, I experienced the flow of combat as might have been intended. Considering the introductory level of difficulty in Phantom Trigger, the feeling of conquering each enemy wave was very satisfying.
Those moments of triumph are another factor that drove me to the completing the game, and the checkpoints were never too far out of reach. All of the trailers and listed features kept advertising “rogue-like elements” and yet I saw no evidence to support that. The experience was as linear as it could possibly be. After completing a mode called “Arena” is unlocked, my impression was that this mode contains solely wave-based combat. Some of those rogue-like elements could likely be found there, but I was perfectly happy with completing the story and being free of the temptation to rage quit.
To sum things up, Phantom Trigger is more than what you see on the surface. It may look like many other indie games we’ve seen before, but its story alone makes it a journey worth taking. The combat is brutal yet satisfying, making players take a deep sigh of relief after every major encounter. It is getting to be that time of year when there are so many other video games you should be playing, but if you have some extra cash I’d recommend pulling the trigger on this purchase.
Review copy kindly provided by tinyBuild
The Bottom Line
Phantom Trigger's visuals and presentation bring nothing unique to the table, and the combat takes almost too much time to master. The true merit of the journey is the storytelling, which kept me invested down to the final moments.. Come for the story, but don't forget your sword and whip