It was the kind of day that made you want to stop exactly what you were doing, tilt your head skywards, feel the warmth of the shining sun on your forehead and let out a big sigh.
Julian was aroused from his sun-induced fervour by something rather wet and sticky touching his hand. Sensing that it might be George playing some stupid prank, he flicked his wrist and caught the offender in the chops. Timmy let out a yelp and ran off into some nearby foliage to lick his wounds.
Anne immediately ran over to comfort him and lost her hair-band in a nearby crop of stinging nettles. Letting out a short cry, she too disappeared up to her neck in the forbidding foliage. "Crikey!" yelled Dick, "where's Anne disappeared to now?" flicking his hair in preparation for a heroic rescue. Without so much as a word, someone swept past him, the familiar, pungent smell of cigarillo smoke immediately told him it was George.
Rolling up the sleeves of her over-sized donkey jacket she jumped headfirst into the greenery and disappeared without a trace. Julian and Dick shot each other a knowing look and leapt in after her. It looked as though they were going to have yet another adventure - Hoorah!
An Awfully Big Adventure
"Have we fallen into a parallel universe?" enquired Anne, politely. "I don't think so." retorted Julian. "I think we've just jumped through a hedge into what looks like a car park." "Look! There's Timmy over there, going into that warehouse. Let's follow him!" yelled Dick.
"Let me go first, I'm the oldest," ordered Julian, pushing to the front, as the group disappeared through the gaping doorway.
A Seedy Adventure
The young band of intrepid adventurers crept quietly into the dimly lit warehouse just in time to see Timmy cocking his leg against a large pile of cardboard boxes. Sensing this might lead to a spot of bother with the owners of the building, George immediately rushed over and performed a perfect sliding tackle on the surprised mutt's hind legs, bringing him crashing to the ground. Caught in mid pee, Timmy gave a surprised yelp and legged it to the other side of the warehouse. "Bravo!" yelled Anne. "Good feet!" exclaimed Dick, impres cd bv George's impression of Roy Keane.
Whilst Dick and Anne helped George up Julian made his way over to the pile of the (now soiled) boxes to inspect the damage. "I think we must have stumbled into one c Ford's warehouse," he remarked. "You see, eveiy box in this room has the word 'Sieni stamped on it. The boxes arc obviously full of car parts." The rest of the group wombled over to examine the boxes in further detail. "But the return address on this box is American," remarked Anne, softly. "I didn't thin they manufactured European specif icatiol Sierra car parts in the Oakland, California. "I knew that!" snapped Julian, "I was just testing you."
So what is in them?" asked Dick. Let's open 'em up and find out,"Offered George, and before anyone could attempt to 'op her. she whipped out her Navy Seals in bat Knife and attacked the nearest ) box. The razor-sharp serrated edge bit eplyinto the soft cardboard, and there soon a large, gaping hole revealing htly coloured packages inside. That's not car parts," retorted George igly, pulling one of the boxes free, an immediately snatched it away from and started to examine it closely, age grimaced and suppressed the urge ab him. as he let out a cry of mock .loin. "Oh, I know what this is!" he mod, "it's Phantasmagoria-, that new cd mure game from Roberta Williams -on of game developers extraordinaire." Ooooh, lovely - I like a bit of smut now then!" gushed Anne. "Let's have a look!" No!" replied Julian sternly, pulling him-away. "Not 'seedy', but 'cd' as in cd-ROM.
So what's it all about then?" enquired me, desperately trying to prize the box n Julian's manicured fingers. "Well, it's not like her usual stuff," Julian it on, "There won't be any cutsey, fluffy mies or fairies in this game. It's a psychological thriller, you sec. You play the t of this rather sporty heroine who's cd into a house of horrors and chased by nutty gardeners and a wicked lan known as Carno. It's coming out seven CD's, features years of fmw, "movie style" special effects, spine-tingling music and a large dump of blood and gore." I'm not sure I'm going to like it then," Anne, genuinely frightened. Don't worry, stupid!" mocked Julian, "they've built in a kind of gore button that different edit points so you can just just the lgvel of violence to suit your audience."
Maybe it's just me. Maybe I've got a masochistic streak a mile wide. Who knows? Anyway, whatever the case, I hereby admit that yes, in the past I was the type of person to rent dodgy horror movies from the local video shop, only to find that although they sounded really good from the blurb on the box, they nearly always turned out to be little more than an excuse for one gory blood-drenched scene after another, with scant regard for plot or storyline.
I'm sure you know the ones I mean, or perhaps you don't. Maybe you saw a couple of them and sensibly gave up after that. Not so for me; I kept coming across a half decent title, which then meant 1 would go through yet another week of misery kidding myself I'd find another one. I'm sure it's probably all Stephen King's fault, or maybe Edgar Allen Poe, seeing as it was bastards like them that got me hooked on all this macabre grotesquery in the first place.
Unfortunately for me, my penchant for masochistic activity now seems to extend to interactive movies on the pc. Okay, so I have played a few (if played is the right word) that turned out to be pretty good - Under A Killing Moon and Lost Eden spring to mind. However, for every one I've seen that's passable, there seem to be bloody tons more that are absolutely awful. So why exactly should this be so? Well, it's actually quite obvious. Without exception, all the software houses that have attempted to create a playable interactive movie and failed have made the same mistake: they've spent so much time on the presentation of the product that they've neglected to include any noticeable interaction with the player.
Sad to say, Sierra is guilty of the same failing with Phantasmagoria. It looks beautiful and the acting, while not particularly impressive, can reasonably be described as passable, plus it has something you could safely call a plot. The major problem, as always with products of this nature, is that there's nothing much for the player to do from start to finish, other than click the mouse now and again to help the storyline along. I'm really quite amazed to see Sierra release a product like this, as its previous adventures positively brim over with gameplay - its last attempt at producing an adventure with horrific overtones, namely Gabriel Knight, is still one of the finest adventure games to be found on the pc. I have to admit I'm more than a little concerned that for Gabriel Knight 2, Sierra is threatening to dispense with the beautiful hand-painted backgrounds seen in the first game in favour of photo-realistic graphics, so there's a real danger the sequel could turn into a total non-interactive disaster, not entirely dissimilar to the one we have on our hands here.
I Let's just say that as a game Phantasmagoria is rather like watching an extremely average X-rated horror movie, but with the added annoyance of having to help the thing along by solving a few embarrassingly easy puzzles.
The unconvincing storyline revolves around Don and Adrienne, a married couple who have just 'moved into a dodgy old mansion, only to discover the house used to belong to a mad magician who went potty and did horrible things to lots of people.
Adrienne inadvertently opens an old box, which frees the spirit of the house's former occupant; the magician's spirit then takes up residence in the body of Don, who proceeds to do nasty things to everyone he meets. For the purpose of the game, you play Adrienne and control all her movements as she attempts to find a way of freeing Don from the spirit of the crazed magician.
I What went wrong?
The concept of Phantasmagoria must have looked good on paper; Sierra must surely have been confident that Roberta Williams (creator of the excellent King's Quest series) would produce yet another winner, but unfortunately she seems to have contracted a rather bad case of 'interactive movie-itis'; as a result she has fallen into the old trap of relying heavily on pretty graphics and whatever interest the plot might generate for players, as opposed to good old-fashioned gameplay. The storyline just isn't up to Roberta Williams' usual high standard -it is a real shame to see such a talented and successful writer abandoning her highly entertaining style.
The upshot of the poor storyline, without doubt the greatest crime of all, is that you never really feel as though you're doing anything in the game, you just sort of prompt it now I and again and watch the resulting video clips. Okay, so from a purely aesthetic point of view Phantasmagoria looks very impressive (er, as does Adrienne - in fact Dep Ed Jeremy has fallen passionately in love with her), but there are too many problems that we just can't forgive. Instead of being challenging the puzzles are insultingly easy to solve; and the way Adrienne moves as she walks from one place to another is unrealistic (she strolls off the screen and reappears at a very unusual angle).
To make matters worse, I managed to complete it in less than a day, despite the fact it comes on seven cds. Frankly, considering the hype prior to its release, I expected a lot more than this. Let's just put it down to experience and hope Gabriel Knight 2 sees a return to Sierra's previous form in the adventure game genre.
The gory details
Yes, it really is very gory. Some of the scenes shocked even us, which is a little bit weird considering what a hardened lot we normally are. There are scenes where people get decapitated, end up with knives stuck in the middle of their heads, and disgusting things like that. There's also a rape scene, in which Don somehow manages to have his wicked way with Adrienne without actually taking his clothes off! (This particular number prompted Beattie's to refuse to sell it.) So, if you're interested in Phantasmagoria for the shock factor, you probably won't be disappointed. Don't expect a game as well though.
PC compatible, P-100
Systems: Windows 9x, Windows 2000 Windows XP, Vista, Win 7, Win 8, Win 10.
Game features:Single game mode