Phantom Trigger is a neon slasher that won’t go gently into the night

I don’t think we talk a lot about death, the great equaliser in the grand scheme of life. It sucks and it’s kind of awful to realise that nobody escapes oblivion, no matter how rich or connected you are. What waits beyond the final frontier? Some say oblivion, others an afterlife. Nobody knows, but here’s one thing that I do personally believe in: I’ll never accept the idea of death until I actually am dead.

It’s a paradoxical statement, but hear me out. I hate the idea of humanising death, of giving it a face. Neil Gaiman be damned, I always loved how Garth “Preacher” Ennis summed up the horrible idea of relenting to the end during his classic run on Hellblazer:

Right, so what does all of this have to do with a video game that is dipped in retro graphics and has more neon than the seediest corners of Las Vegas? What does Phantom Trigger have in common with mortality? Pretty much everything, from the couple of hours that I’ve spent playing it. Phantom Trigger is a game of two narratives, a journey through reality and fantasy.

It bills itself as a “hardcore neon slasher”, but there’s more to it. Yes, you’re running through dungeons and using a combination of swords, whips and mighty fists to survive through to the next segment. Yes, you’re vanquishing monsters by the skin of your teeth while back in the real world a married couple have to make hard decisions after a mystery illness strikes. There’s something wrong with Stan, and time is running out while you dodge walking TV sets that have lasers with your name on them.

That being said, the realm of the dead is fantastic.Phantom Trigger requires the kind of thumb dexterity that you’d find in classic titles of yesteryear. It’s simple, but layered enough to be constantly challenging with its trippy visuals and bastard bosses. The colour palette may be limited, but it’s the application of those neon greens and reds that provides a striking appearance to Phantom Trigger.

So far, Phantom Trigger can also be summed up with one word: Satisfying. There’s an odd feeling of accomplishment for dealing with even the smallest foes or the largest nemesis in the dungeon, while it’s story plays out. I’m still far from even scratching the surface of this game and maybe I’m reading far too much into its themes of mortality. Maybe.

Even if I’m wrong, it’s not often that a video game reminds you that life is fleeting and finite. You may be immortal thanks to denial, but reality sets in soon enough. Fortunately, Phantom Trigger is a thrilling reminder that death is inevitable, but also worth fighting until the very end.

Last Updated: August 7, 2017

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