Phantasmagoria: A Puzzle of Flesh
Okay, Okay. You've Guessed, It's Phantasmagoria 2. Except Sierra don't put numbers on their game titles anymore. Hence Gabriel Knight: The Beast Within, Leisure Suit Larry: Love For Sail, etc... and now, A Puzzle Of flesh. This new system has presumably been devised to hide the fact that the Larry and King's Quest series are now in their sixth, seventh and eighth incarnations. Phantasmagoria is a relative newcomer to the Sierra moneyspinning adventure stable, so you may well think there's plenty of life in it yet. Sadly, this sequel has a heavy weight on its shoulders, due to the fact that the original game was, erm, a bit crap.
Been there, seen it, done it
I was in two minds whether to take this review on or not. I hated the first game with its crappy puzzles, unforgivably dire acting and CD access times from hell. Yet, strangely, I could see myself liking it under different circumstances. For example, if it had taxing puzzles to match its lavish production values, I could have warmed to it considerably. You can see, then, what my hopes were for the sequel: more complex puzzles, a more convincing performance from the Ccast' and, hey ho, you've got yourself an entertaining and scary adventure game with the sort of gripping plot that Sierra have become famous for. Which is why I decided to give the game a second chance and plunge into the sequel with hopes raised high, lights turned low and stereo at full blast.
Unfortunately, Puzzle Of Flesh didn't exactly get off to a flying start. After about four hours of gameplay I was halfway through cd three (there are only five in total) so I thought I'd finish the thing on my first day of play. This is exactly what happened when I played the first Phantasmagoria. Except this time I got stuck. Badly stuck. Stuck to the point of being an incredibly stuck thing in a big pot of glue. But hold your horses. I'm not saying that I got stuck because the game is so challenging and taxing that no matter how much I racked my brains and pulled my hair I couldn't work out what to do - it was purely because the answer was so simple that I just couldn't believe it could in any way, shape or form be construed as a Cpuzzle'. Let me explain.
You play the role of Curtis Craig, a very mixed-up individual who has lots of hang-ups due to being mistreated as a child. You experience disturbing flashbacks (these make up the bulk of the horror scenes). You work for Wyntech, a company that concocts all sorts of miracle cures for difficult health problems. You spend a lot of time on your computer. You get bored shitless with spending time on your computer. You get hopelessly bloody stuck in the game because you forgot to send a ferking e-mail off to some twat who has nothing to do with the plot whatsoever. This is how I got Cstuck'. I forgot to carry out the most mundane of tasks and so the game decided to punish me by pretending that the various anagrams and puzzles on my computer were the real reason I couldn't progress any further. Would I say that this was the most fundamental of flaws in the game's design? Would I say that this was, in fact, unforgivable? Indeed I would say both of these things and a lot more besides, many of which would be too colourful to print on the pages of this magazine.
To make things even worse, I was unfortunate enough to encounter this particular problem not just once in the game, but twice. Luckily, the second time around I was a little bit wiser to the game's playful frustration tactics and simply went round just Cdoing' things until something happened. Despite these problems, I persevered with it anyway and completed it without any further hiccups.
Did I enjoy it? Well, to be honest, it's not too bad. It's definitely an improvement on the first Phantasmagoria, but as Jeremy correctly points out, that's not actually saying a hell of a lot. Still, the acting is better this time round and the plot's marginally more interesting (all Curtis' colleagues get murdered one by one and you have to find out who's doing it), but some of the problems that plagued the original are still there. You still feel as though you're being led through the game without having to do a lot to make things happen. This is the biggest problem I had with the first game, and the sequel doesn't do a lot to put things right. However, if you liked the first game (and judging by how it sold in the UK, there's a lot of you who did) you can rest easy in the knowledge that you'll like the sequel just as much. Personally. I'm going to stick with The Pandora Directive and The Dig (adventure games pour hommes. don't you know),
Sex, gore and more sex
Actually, that's not entirely true. There's only one sex scene that could be considered to be in any way explicit, and even that's nothing you wouldn't see on TV after 8pm. The gore content, while plentiful, is not as shocking as it was in the original game either. That's not to say that there isn't lots of blood in it (it spurts out all over the shop every five minutes), there just isn't anything to compare with the scene in the first game in which some poor woman got it in the face with a garden shovel. Have Sierra lost their bottle and given in to the censorship bloodhounds? On this evidence, it would seem they have.
Processor: PC compatible,
OS: Windows 9x, Windows 2000 Windows XP, Vista, Win 7, Win 8, Win 10.
Game Features:Single game mode