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SummaryFMV meets Survival Horror
The GoodAdrienne Delaney and her husband Donald have justed moved into a large mansion. Adrienne hopes that the gothic setting will help her to write a novel, while Donald is hoping to test his skills as a photographer. Alas, supernatural forces get in the way.
If you played an adventure game before, then you should have no trouble picking up this game's basic mechanics. The player takes control of Adrienne as she interacts with various Nonplayable Characters (NPC) and picks up just about everything that is not nailed down, in order to solve various puzzles.
Gameplay mechanics are simple and user-friendly. The game also looks great. Phantasmagoria takes advantage of the CD-ROM medium to offer up extensive Full Motion Video.
Thanks to Blue Screen technology and CGI, the game's characters and locations are certainly more realistic then adventure games designed with traditional, cartoon-style graphics. What about the atmosphere and the overall story?
Well, you will certainly feel alone in the mansion. The loneliness is helped by the fact that Donald is noticeably absent, only to become steadily more erratic and violent as the game progresses.
As the story unfolds, you learn that the mansion is indeed haunted, with the past lives of its former residents weaving a tangled web of jealousy, betrayal, murder and demonic meddling.
This game is certainly not for children or people who get offended easily. By the time you complete the game, you will have seen quite a bit of blood, gore and what can only be described as extreme domestic abuse.
This last point is one reason why the game is controversial. The main antagonist had a nasty habit of abusing and eventually murdering his wives.
The heroine in the game becomes the victim of domestic abuse herself through her husband. The most infamous scene is where the heroine is essentially raped by her husband.
I think that the intention was to deal with the problem of domestic abuse without being exploitative. It succeeds in doing so, mostly.
The BadPhantasmagoria is a game that has not aged particularly well. The graphics will not impress modern gamers, and, even by the standards of 1996, the quality of the Full Motion Video is sometimes medicore.
One of the NPCs in the game is developmentally disabled, and it's cringy to watch. Even though I suspect the designers felt that they were being progressive for featuring a disabled character.
Domestic abuse is a serious social problem and while I commend the designers of the game for wanting to deal with real-life problems, it's cringy to watch.
Especially when you consider the fact that after the heroine is raped by her own husband, she does not respond like a person that was abused in such a manner.
She does not call the police and she seems more annoyed and shocked about the rape than anything else.
Last, but not least, is one of those adventure games where it is possible to make the game unwinnable. In the last chapter of the game, if you fail to collect one of two religious artifacts, you will not be able to defeat the final boss.
This can be frustrating because the game does not make it clear that you need one of these artifacts and, near the end of the game you cannot go back and pick up one of these items. So, after playing the game for several hours, you may find yourself unable to complete the game because you are missing one item.
If you do beat the game, you are treated to a fairly short ending. Frankly, I was really expecting a better ending. It ends up a rather depressing note too.