Phantasmagoria: A Puzzle of Flesh

aka: Phantasmagoria 2, Phantasmagoria 2: A Puzzle of Flesh, Phantasmagoria : Obsessions fatales, Phantasmagoria: Labor des Grauens, Phantasmagoria: Um Enigma de Sangue
Moby ID: 1216
Windows Specs
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$5.99 new on Steam
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Description official descriptions

Curtis Craig is a thirty-year-old man whose distorted childhood is filled with horrors. His father was involved in an illegal, top-secret experiment for a company called WynTech Industries. Nearly nothing is known about the true nature of this experiment; but something in it affected the sanity of Curtis' mother, eventually driving her to suicide. Curtis' father was later shot, leaving the poor little boy with serious behavioural disturbances, and eventually in therapy.

Now, a year after having been released from the mental institution, Curtis is employed at WynTech Industries, whose manager, Paul Warner, has seemingly taken it upon himself to take care of Curtis. He tries to find the cause of his psychotic episodes and the mysterious murders that break out all around him, all the while discovering more and more about his past life and his father's fate.

Phantasmagoria: A Puzzle of Flesh is not an actual sequel to the original Phantasmagoria, but rather a follow-up that has similar themes and visual concept. The game is more heavy on puzzles and traditional adventure gameplay than its predecessor. The gameplay involves standard activities found in adventure games, including extended conversations with the characters featuring selectable dialogue topics, collecting and manipulating inventory items with the environment, etc. It is possible (and often necessary) to call characters on the phone, as well as check and answer e-mails accessed by Curtis' computer at his workplace.

Like its predecessor, the game has a simple point-and-click interface and employs video sequences with live actors as cutscenes. Short movies are usually shown after each action performed by the protagonist.

Spellings

  • 幽魂 2 - Taiwanese spelling

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Credits (DOS version)

164 People (105 developers, 59 thanks) · View all

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[ full credits ]

Reviews

Critics

Average score: 65% (based on 27 ratings)

Players

Average score: 3.8 out of 5 (based on 78 ratings with 10 reviews)

Worth a playthrough, if your expectations aren't too high

The Good
A Puzzle of Flesh surpassed my expectations. Sierra delivers an enticing sci-fi/horror concept with intense and gritty scenes, some fun moments, and at times Hollywood-esque slasher suspense.

Stepping in for Roberta Williams, writer Lorelei Shannon approaches the Phantasmagoria concept with unprecedented (and arguably unsurpassed) maturity. The game's subplots and secondary subject matter are nary seen in today's grittiest movies. Unlike the first game, Shannon doesn't approach the "Mature" rating like a novelty or a crude standard to be pushed for pushing's sake, but rather uses it as license to create dynamic characters who face real problems.

The characters are portrayed in a remarkably lifelike fashion for the FMV subgenre, a style typically plagued by painful F-list performances and zero interactivity. The characters themselves are people you know in real life, not video game caricatures. The interface and puzzles are, by and large, simple and logical, and the game focuses more on main character Curtis Craig's internal problems rather than on exploration and puzzle solving.

The Bad
That said, the puzzles are either brain-numbingly simple or absurdly illogical. The TRUE puzzles, as opposed to other random clicking that results in a cinematic, are few and far between, and about half of them are guessing computer passwords.

For a movie-based game, the locales are visually uninteresting and markedly unatmospheric. While the game's environment is a huge step up from the cheesy computer generated backdrops of the first entry, it doesn't make up for the fact that most of the scenery is recognizable as the hallways and storage closets of a cheap motel. Moreover, there are only about a half dozen locations in the game. This means virtually no exploration and lots of backtracking.

While the characters are pretty intricate, the plot doesn't really unfold; rather, it's revealed through lots of reading of password-protected emails, which really takes the bite out of cinematic reveal.

Just as well, the plot itself is pretty weak. You assume the role of an Average Joe with a troubled past working for a omnitechnoconglomerate that's, surprise surprise, covering up secret and illegal experimentation. A couple people get murdered, and just when a legitimate twist pops up involving the character's self-doubt about his own involvement, he unveils a half-baked paranormal plotline that's not worthy of the 2:00 PM Sci Fi Channel timeslot. Sufficed to say, without spoiling anything, it gets incredibly ludicrous toward the end (or ends, in this case -- you get a choice between two equally unsatisfying story conclusions).

The Bottom Line
A Puzzle of Flesh is a great concept delivered with above-par acting for the genre and gritty maturity. If the main plot were more intricate, the puzzles more involved, and the scenery more visually interesting, Phantasmagoria 2 could have had a place in gaming history as the one that broke the mold and pushed the envelope for content maturity. As it is, it remains a playable made-for-TV movie. Hopefully someone will try to do this again with greater success, but for now A Puzzle of Flesh is a decent adventure game worth a playthrough for fans of the genre. Just don't expect too much.

Windows · by jTrippy (58) · 2008

An Adult Adventure Game

The Good
For those people to young to remember, it was not too long ago that computer games were made on floppy disks and video games were made on cartridges.

The CD-ROM revolution slowly, and with plenty of goofs and pitfalls, forever changed both industries because CDs and DVDs can store much more programming then a disk or cartridge and still be profitable for the software developer or published.

One of the first major differences was that CD based games could now have full motion video or even CGI animated sequences.

It did not take long before a slew of games attempted to bring the, mostly, computer world of adventure gaming into this new age.
Characters would be brought to life with voice actors, in environments that reflected the CD storage capacity.

Phantasmagoria: A Puzzle of the Flesh was one of the more daring and ambitious projects to combine full video and CGI graphics with the traditional 'point n' click' graphic adventure games. Technically, the game is a masterpiece with the game environment brought to life with B-minus actors, full motion video, digital images and even some CGI animation.

The story itself is also groundbreaking for a computer game. It beautifully weaves together dark horror and science fiction elements with something taken out of “The Office” and tosses in a soap opera love triangle, kinky S&M nightlife and an identity crisis to boot.



The Bad
Yup, this computer game was taking us to a more ‘adult’ and ‘realistic’ environment then had been possible prior to the CD-ROM revolution. However, it was not without its minor and rather huge faults.

The difficulty level involved with the puzzles was uneven. Most were pretty easy except for illogical limitations, i.e. you can only open mail in your apartment’s living room. Other puzzles were nothing more engaging in a series of conversations with your co-workers.

Yes, the co-workers are certainly an interesting bunch of people. You have your two girl friends, the overweight office bully, the gay best friend, the friendly supervisor and the totally insane and corrupt boss. There are plenty more characters to interact with, but it can get a bit tedious talking to the same people all over and over just to get little bits of information or to help move the story along.

On the flip side, some of the puzzles are too hard. I am thinking of two in particular; one involving a seemingly simply tool chest and the other, near the end of the game, can only be solved by sheer dumb luck or reading a walkthrough online.


The Bottom Line
Phantasmagoria: A Puzzle of Flesh demonstrates a tremendous amount of ambition and it shows.

The graphics and sound are amazing, the storyline is, for the most part, engaging and the game shows a real desire to appeal to an older demographic with its graphic violence, blood and gore, workplace puzzles, soap opera love affairs, mental illness, gender identity, gay best friends and a wild techno S&M nightclub.

It would have been nicer if some of the puzzles were a better developed, if some of the lines were a bit less corny and if their was more exploration possible.

DOS · by ETJB (428) · 2010

Average horror game? This one is for you.

The Good
Phantamsagoria 2 is a sequel to one of Sierra's most popular game Phantasmagoria. In several places it is better, well, in others it is far less fun. Comparing to its prequel, Phantasmagoria 2 looks better. No more artificial 3d rooms, no more poor graphics. The quality of videos here is higher (which doesn't actually mean that it is good).

Storyline has never been the strongest part in horror games such as Phantasmagoria or Harvester, exactly the same as here. But at least we can find some advanced plot, not really of quality compared to Deus Ex but at some point you could get lost.

In horror games (especially in FMVs) have to make the player be afraid. But there are at least two ways to do that. One is through hectoliters of blood and violence, another is through detailed plot and mysterious atmosphere. Phantasmagoria 2 has neither of them but uses some things from both. In uncensored mode some violent scenes appear but for me, even though I'm definitely not a fan of poor horror films, they can be accepted. They are ugly, yes, but they are not sick. I wouldn't recommend it to players below 16 years old, but if you are above that, you can play without that much stress (just don't forget that doesn't mean that all scenes aren't violent, on some of them you will really want to turn your head and look at people walking outside). Music in some part (for example on map of the city) makes the atmosphere even better and not every scene is violent, some will of course scare you without showing anything red on the screen.

The Bad
Phantasmagoria 2 will always be compared to the first part. And in some cases the latter definitely wins. Adrianne in Phantasmagoria 1 was a normal girl, nothing strange. The game consisted of 7 chapters and the atmosphere was heavier every day. The first day is just a "talk to everyone, see everything, do anything" part (maybe apart form the end). Adrianne's husband, possessed by the demon becomes more and more mean and dangerous but real violence is shown in fourth chapter. In Phantasmagoria 2 real violence (and one of the most violent scene in the whole game to say the truth) is shown in the beginning of second chapter out of five. So here you're just thrown into the game and ugly scenes begin very soon.

Also, Phantasmagoria 1 had, to me at least, better storyline. Curtis Craig is living in a big city, working with computers, vising clubs of doubtful reputation etc etc. Adrianne was living in a haunted villa, sometimes visiting a small city close to her residence. More classical to me.

The Bottom Line
Both parts of Phantasmagoria are quite difficult to get today (at least in some parts of the world), you should choose the second part if you like more technical and futuristic story (not that it is a science fiction game). But be aware that, although better than in the first part, the graphics is still quite bad.

Windows · by Ajan (262) · 2005

[ View all 10 player reviews ]

Trivia

Australian version

The Australian version of Phantasmagoria: A Puzzle of Flesh suffered the same fate as Duke Nukem 3D: The censorship feature is turned on permanently.

German index

On March 31, 1998, Phantasmagoria: A Puzzle of Flesh was put on the infamous German index by the BPjS. For more information about what this means and to see a list of games sharing the same fate, take a look here: BPjS/BPjM indexed games.

German version

In the German version, one video with Therese at the water tank is missing. The game shows the scene in which Curtis drinks water twice instead. There is also a slight difference during another scene in Therese's cubicle.

Phantasmagoria

The only connection between Phantasmagoria and this game is that at the beginning of Act 3, Curtis receives a letter about a book signing by Adrienne Delaney, the main character in Phantasmagoria. It is impossible to meet Adrienne, however.

UK version

In the UK version, the videos of Bob's and Therese's deaths are based on the "low violence" game setting by default. They are also some additional cuts during the scenes.

Video

The Windows version of Phantasmagoria: A Puzzle of Flesh displays 16-bit videos, while the DOS-edition can show only 256-colors.

Sexual content

If you are able to play an uncensored edition of the game, be prepared for a fair share of sexual content, which, at least at the time, was pretty taboo for the gaming industry:

Curtis has sex with both of his female coworkers, one of which is into S&M and invites Curtis to a S&M techno-nightclub. In therapy, Curtis confronts his gender identity issues, his mother forcing him to wear a dress, and his romantic feelings for his gay best friend.

Information also contributed by Ajan, B14ck W01f, Virgil and Xoleras

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Contributors to this Entry

Game added by Derrick 'Knight' Steele.

DOS added by MAT.

Additional contributors: Tomer Gabel, MAT, Jeanne, chirinea, Daniel Albu, Sciere, Xoleras, Paulus18950, ETJB, Patrick Bregger, Maner76, Shamal Jifan.

Game added March 28, 2000. Last modified April 3, 2024.