Written by  :  xroox (3970)
Written on  :  May 08, 2001
Platform  :  DOS
Rating  :  2.25 Stars2.25 Stars2.25 Stars2.25 Stars2.25 Stars

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Have you ever played a game that you really, really want to like, but it's just not as good as you want it to be?

The Good

Eco Phantoms is a game that I really want to love. It's got great graphics, lots of atmosphere, a unique interface and 'feel' to the alien ship you're piloting, and the designers have obviously tried to create something really special. But...

The Bad

...But, when it comes down to it, the game just doesn't play that well. Or, at least, I don't think so. It's too difficult, too fiddly and just not rewarding enough. Most of the time, you're flying along gulleys in a traditional Eye Of The Beholder style, flick-screen way (albeit quite nicely done). Mapping out the maze on graph paper is pretty much essential. Every so often, you'll encounter something... an enemy scout ship that you must give the appropriate clearance code to, in order to pass (This involves the code creator, an often-used device in the game, and one that I don't particularly like), or a bunch of ships that attack you for no particular reason, swooping down quickly and blasting at you (an irritating, and too difficult, action sequence). Progress involves going to various buildings. Each building has a computer inside that will give you the code to enter the next building. Go through enough buildings and you get to the next level. The section inside buildings is a rather poor arcade game, with you controlling a small robot, blasting enemy spheres before they touch you, going around, picking up supplies, and trying to locate the code computer, then setting explosives (when you find the right place to put them), and getting out of there. After all that, there's another annoying action sequence where you have to blast away at the outside of the building, while it's shooting back at you, and try to locate its 'weak spot'. I found most action-based parts of the game to be lacking in enjoyment, and generally too difficult. The rest of the game involves exploring, trying to find 'data spheres', that are hidden around (You need a complete set, to complete the game) and managing your ship's resources (giving food and water to crew, keeping the engine oiled...that kind of thing). But I can't help feeling that this game is complex for the sake of it...Most of the different gameplay elements have a 'bolted-on' kind of feeling, and tasks that should be quite simple are complicated by over-fiddly procedures. Lots of things you have to do don't really add to the game, they just act as minor irritations. Add to this the fact the manual (while generally quite in-depth) just glosses over some things, leaving you confused about exactly why or how you should be doing something...

The Bottom Line

I really like what the designers were trying to do, and the graphical style is great, but the bottom line is: I didn't find this game particularly fun, or interesting. It's a real shame, because I think, with some different design decisions, this could've been a classic. But hey, this is just my opinion! If you (like me) are intrigued by this title, and can ever lay your hands on a copy, then try it for yourself...Who knows? It might work for you. At the very least, congratulations to Splinter Vision for making something different.