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Phantom Trigger (Alpha) Review: A Hyper Light Drifter Clone or Something Different?

Recently, Tiny Build opened up the Alpha for anyone to download and play the Phantom Trigger Demo. It goes without saying, this is just the alpha so it is full of bugs and hopefully will be better when it releases later this year. Team Bread, creator of Divide by Sheep, is the developer of Phantom Trigger, while Tiny Build Games are publishing it. I thought I should clarify since I made the mistake assuming Tiny Build and Team Bread are co developing. Team Bread is less known than Tiny Build, but shows promise with this top down, retro, slasher, action RPG of a game. Here’s a link to the Alpha if you want to check it out: 

Let’s just go right into it! At first glance, this game looks like Hyper Light Drifter with the slashing and dashing gameplay. The top down perspective is similar, but the aesthetic is completely different. When I saw a trailer for the game, I thought it looked like a Hyper Light Drifter clone, so to answer the question above, it is something a whole lot different. The similarities stop at the ability to dash through obstacles without getting hurt. Both games have retro looking bit graphics, but they look pretty different on closer inspection. Point is, the games look different from each other. So this game is a lot more interesting than I was expecting, so to start off with some positives, the story. The story is told a lot differently than Hyper Light Drifter, where there is actual text and dialogue along with flashbacks. If you have never played Hyper Light Drifter, I highly recommend it, it is one of my favorite games from last year. The story telling in Hyper Light used pictures and there was no text at all, which is just an interesting and different way of telling a story. Anyway, Phantom Trigger tells a story with dialogue with other characters, as well as some flashbacks at certain parts. The flashbacks did pique my interest, and I’m pretty excited to see where the story actually leads in the actual game. It’s just unexpected, I won’t mention specifics in case, people want to check out the Alpha which I recommend, but with a controller. Definitely a controller. Don’t play with Keyboard and mouse it’s awful!

With that said, the gameplay is pretty sweet and the controls seem alright, but again, on a controller, I cannot stress that enough. I saw it mentioned somewhere xbox gamepad recommended. I’m here to enforce that because I couldn’t find a controller and now my hands hurt, I died a lot, and there was a lot of anger. I will never get the happy moments, before I played this game on keyboard and mouse, back. Unless, you just want the challenge of beating the game on difficult controls which by all means, but I recommend a controller. Alright, my mini tangent is over. So moving onto gameplay in specifics. The only con I really have is that there were a lot of times I could not hit enemies with my sword when I was clearly hitting them. I died pretty fast, as well, by things I couldn’t see. So yeah, this game is pretty hard, but I’m betting money on that it’s easier with a controller. The gameplay is interesting and has a lot of differences from Hyper Light besides the dashing ability. So you dash through whipping, slashing, and smashing enemies. The character has three weapons which I assume the arsenal only grows more in the actual game. The sword is quicker, but has less damage, and includes the ability to freeze enemies making them slower and not completely frozen. The other big weapon includes these giant levitating fists that you can smash through enemies with. It reminds me of Psychonauts with hands appearing from thin air to punch enemies. The whip isn’t necessarily a weapon but can pull enemies towards you as well as throw objects at enemies. Each time these weapons are used, they gain exp and level up when filled up. It’s not a new mechanic but it does work in this game, encouraging the play to use all weapons to gain more exp and gain more combos. By the way, the elements are pretty cool here, no pun intended. The fists have the ability to burn enemies overtime inflicting damage over time. The previously mentioned ice ability is used the same way as the fire ability with dashing after the second attack in the combo. It’s only after the weapon is leveled up, does it gain an element such as fire or ice.

One last comparison to Hyper Light Drifter. Here’s another con which I’m thinking won’t be fixed in the actual game but I don’t know. Basically, in Hyper Light, the ability to dash through enemies without getting hurt (almost teleporting) is limited. There’s a meter where you have to strategically use it to avoid being trapped somewhere waiting for it to reload while enemies butcher you. It adds some strategy and challenge. Phantom Trigger does not have this meter so you can continually dash through everything. I did find this game more challenging than Hyper Light so it’s probably good the dashing meter isn’t there. I mean the health meter goes down fast and there aren’t as many health packs around, sometimes you gain health from killing enemies (only sometimes though). Hyper Light also included carrying around health packs to heal when close to death. I still like Phantom Trigger and I’m looking forward to it when it comes out officially later this year. The only thing I actually want fixed is attacks actually landing on targets. I wish the weapons had a little more range to them but oh well they’ll hopefully fix that.

So overall, interesting story so far with interesting characters here and there. The gameplay with a leveling up system works and sets the game apart from Hyper Light. The graphics look like an old Super Nintendo Game which is always a plus. A lot of Indie Developers go the retro route which I’m completely okay with. The game is also set to release on Nintendo Switch as well as PC later this year.