Return of the Phantom
Everyone knows about the Phantom of the Opera, right? Everyone knows Andrew Lloyd Webber wrote it. Everyone knows that he put his (then) wife Sarah Brightman in a starring role, and that she used to be a foxy chick in fab 70s dance troupe, Pans People. Everyone knows that the Phantom is Michael Crawford. Well this is all wrong. Lloyd Webber didnt write it - a geezer called Gaston Leroux did way back in 1911. Sarah Brightman was never a foxy chick in Pans People but rather the weasel faced one in the tacky Hot Gossip. And the Phantoms real name is not Michael - its Erik. Also, just to get things straight, he isnt a slightly deformed character who has had a bad deal from life and is worthy of our sympathy; the real Phantom is a hideously deformed, sadistic lunatic who enjoys murdering and torturing people when hes bored. This is the stuff of Lerouxs classic novel, and MicroProse, adding to the current spate of excellent graphic adventures based in Victorian settings, has gone back to the original text to script the story for Return of the Phantom.
Return of the Phantom is MicroProses second outing into the world of the graphic adventure and the game engine and interface is similar to its first, Rex Nebular, although much improved. This time MicroProse is appealing to the novice player with a compact, and frankly very easy, game. Those that tremble at the knees at the thought of a hulking rpg, and are a tad scared of the in depth puzzle solving of the classic graphic adventures like Monkey Island, should sail through Phantom of the Opera blissfully. All of the programmers efforts have gone into creating a beautifully painted setting and slick animation that allows the story to unfold without too many hiccups; i.e., without getting stuck.
Unlike many famous masked people - Batman, Zorro, The Lone Ranger, the Scarlet Pimpernel the Phantom is not a dashing good guy who dons a facial covering to shroud himself in mystery. Oh no. The Phantom is, by all accounts, a very bad guy who covers his face because he is hideously ugly. Because he is hideously ugly, he is shunned by his peers. Because he is shunned by his peers (and because he cant get a rlfriend) he has become a complete nutter. PC tracked down the file notes on the Phantom to see how all his problems came about. Erik had a traumatic childhood. Neglected by his parents because of an irregular facial disorder, he ran away to the circus and started up a one-man freak show as the singing living corpse. Just as things were starting to take off in his freak show career, Erik was kidnapped by some mad Persians and became a hitman-n torturer-cum-architect (an obvious career path really) for the Sultan. Erik furthered his architectural skills building palaces in Constantinople, but his warped mind forced him to fill his buildings with hideous traps, mazes and the like. Owing to his problems in finding a girlfriend in the Middle East, Erik migrated to Paris, rustled up a new CV and picked up a job as an architect on the Paris Opera House. Unfortunately Parisian women were also decidedly uninterested in going out for a drink with a man known as the living corpse, and Erik steadily became more and more distraught, finally deciding to hide himself away in the catacombs (which he had fiendishly built) under the Opera House.
With his hormones going wild, Erik could not hold out for long and decided to alleviate his surmounting sex drive by terrorising Opera-going lovies. But one day, in a brief venture out of the sewers, Erik was struck by the beauty of a young singer, Christine Daae. Lets just say that Christine is none too bright and falls for Eriks chat-up line about him being an Angel of Music sent from the heavens to give her singing lessons. Erik thinks its true love and pretty soon he starts throwing his weight around, bullying the manager of the Opera House to let his girl have a starring role in one of the shows. Alas poor Erik finds out that Christine is in fact knocking off a charming fellow (Raoul) who is a darn sight better looking than him. Unrequited love is a terrible thing so Erik kidnaps Christine and tries to force her to marry him. When he realises that Christine will never snog a man that looks like Davros, he decides to kill her. Luckily, Christine gets the first bright idea of her life, puckers up and kisses him on a gooey bit of his face. This makes Erik go all poncey and nice and he finally lets her and Raoul go. Erik then spends the rest of his miserable life happy in the thought that he is no longer a virgin.
Nice and easy
Make no mistake. Phantom of the Opera is easy for anyone with experience of this type of adventure. The game map is not big, there are not many characters to meet, and there are only a few, mainly simple, puzzles to solve (although the catacombs maze is a particularly difficult rarity). The game can be played in novice or challenging mode, but give or take a few puzzles theres not much difference between them. But then, as it says on the box, this is an introduction to graphic adventures. For the novice player this is a godsend. The chance to get through a game - without having to worry that you didnt ask the correct question to the character in screen one and have consequently been running around your own backside for the past 14 hours - is all the inspiration you need to get the bug. Theres no danger of anal circling in Phantom of the Opera as most characters will not allow you to lead them away from blurting out all the information you need to complete the game. Once youre hooked you get fed with a little more complexity, and keep going back for more and more puzzles in the belief that you can give it up whenever you want; you have to upgrade your hardware as your habit increases, you lose your job, family, friends, self esteem and eventually you end up on a ropey park bench with a can of Special Brew shouting garbled sentences about expanded memory and CONFIG.SYS at passers by. Ahh, pc games can really screw you up.
A wee bit about the plot
Despite its name. Return of the Phantom is not a sequel. The title implies that the Phantom has returned from the past to relive past glories (like murdering opera-goers) in his old haunting ground. Like any good book, film or, dare I say it, top West End musical it is difficult to say too much about the plot without spoiling it, so all Ill tell you is that it kicks off in 1993 at the Paris Opera House. You are Raoul Montaud, top boy at the Surete, and are weeping your way through a performance of Don Juan Triumphant (an opera written by Erik, the Phantom no less) when mid way into it a bloody great chandelier falls down on the audience killing loads of levies. Being a fictional detective you are used to this sort of thing happening every time you go out and dont mind snooping around the theatre a bit to investigate the unfortunate accident. In snooping mode, you uncover vital clues that lead you to believe the chandelier carnage was no accident at all. Could it be the ghastly Phantom who terrorised the Opera House over a hundred years earlier? Surely not? The Phantoms bones were found long ago. Just when you are truly flummoxed, screams ring out around the theatre and suddenly youre not quite the man you thought you were literally. You get a terrible sense of deja vu and realise that sometimes in life you have to go backwards before you can go forwards. Im sorry if thats too vague, but the plot is the game in this case and I cant go giving it away.
The Opera House is a beautiful place, but unfortunately not a big place, so could have done with just a few more locations to explore. I know the game is meant for beginners to this format, but even the rooms there are just dont have enough in them by way of things that you can pick up and use. Yes, there are a lot of things around that you can investigate and click on to get a description (a great deal of time has gone into finding out what would typically be in an opera house and explaining the objects and what they are used for) but a few more things to use, throw, put, push, pull would have justified the price a little more.
As Ive already said, the aim of this game is to tell a hearty horror/mystery story in an atmospheric setting and this is achieved with the use of superb graphics, excellent music and sound effects. The rooms are immaculately detailed and created with an oil painting effect, which is eerie and lends a sense of the grandeur to the surroundings. The sprites move smoothly and are scaled so you disappear to a dot in the background and become a big geezer in the foreground. There are lots of little details in the animation - like your characters Jimmy Hill chinny reckon movement when inactive (a la Sonic) and the way he always bends round to look up the stairs before he goes up just to check nobody is up there - that make Phantom of the Opera more like an interactive cartoon.
Sing a song
Set in an Opera House obviously youd expect some good tunes to accompany your adventure. The musos in the MicroProse back rooms have keyed in some catchy numbers that change often enough to prevent you from bringing up game options and turning the music off after ten sec onds. These keep the game trundling along merrily until the digitised screams, deep throated East European Ha, ha, has, and Psycho-style high-pitched chords come in at critical points, to wrap you up in the suspense of it all.
Each according to his needs
MicroProse set out to produce an eerie tale which would keep you enthralled with smooth scrolling graphics and good music, and which wouldnt let boring old puzzles get in the way of the flow: they have done this marvellously. This game is a perfect introduction if you havent played graphic adventure games before, especially if you want to get a feel for the state-of-the-art graphics and atmospheric settings - which these games are best at - but dont want to get caught up in a minefield of logical (and often illogical) puzzles. If you are experienced at these games, force a friend to buy it, go over to their house, check the graphics out, get lost in the story for an evening, complete it, go home, lie down and keep your $50 for something a bit more challenging tomorrow.
Talk to Monsieur Brie and complete the entire conversation. Go to the trap room, climb the prompters stand and go through the prompters box. Raoul will sit himself down and look through the box. He will see the Phantom walk across the stage. Push the button on the wall to open the trap door. Push the stand beneath the trap door and go through it. Go stage left and talk thoroughly to Charles (the stage manager). Pick up the yellow colour frame stage right and then go backstage. Try to go down the spiral staircase and survive a close encounter with a sandbag. Pick up the sandbag and continue down the stairs to the stairwell. Pick up the red colour frame (push the thunder machine if you want). Head back up the stairway and exit stage right. Go up to the Dressing Room Corridor. Enter Julie Girys dressing room and talk to her. Go up to the second Dressing Room Corridor and slip into Christine Florents room. Talk to her and read the note from her dressing gown.
Go back backstage and head uppies to the fly loft. Walk along the catwalk to the Alcove Above Chandelier. Take the large note and read it. Pick up the blue colour frame on catwalk A and the green colour frame from catwalk B (in easy mode). Head for the library and find the book written by Madame Giry. Read it. Note that the glass case is broken and some choice items are missing. Go to the managers office and talk to Monsieur Brie again. Take the parchment and read it. Go to Florents room when you hear Giry scream. Find Florent dead as a doughnut. Go to the fly loft to chase the killer. Be, er, pushed off the loft.
Wake up on stage. Talk to Christine Daac and Monsieur Richard. Pick up the yellow colour frame from stage right. Go backstage and pick up the cable hook. Go down the staircase to the stairwell and pick up the red colour frame and the lantern. Carry on down to the cellar and grab the rope. Go up to the trap room. Talk to Jacques. Note which Bach fugue Jacques claims to hear through the walls. Go to the Grand Foyer and talk to Degas. Go to the managers office and chat to Richard. Find the letter and note and read Ik them. Now, zip to the Loge corridor and talk to Madame Giry. Go back to the fly loft and pick up the blue colour frame and the green colour frame (in easy mode). Go back to the I loge corridor with all three (or four) colour frames. She will unlock box five. Enter box five. Look at the column and realise intuitively that it is hollow. Find the crumpled note and read it. Go to the dressing room that was Florents in 1993 and find Daac there. Talk to her and leave the room when she asks you to. Overhear the Phantom talking to her. Take the fire axe. Walker will chop the door down. Enter the dressing room and find Christine... gone!
Talk to Monsieur Richard and wait as Christine arrives and departs. Go to the box office and talk to the ticket seller. Get the envelope, open it and read the paper inside. Go to the loge corridor, give the ticket to Giry and she will open box nine. Enter box nine, watch the opera and Christine being kidnapped on stage.
Talk to Monsieur Richard and then go to the trap room. Find the dead Jacque. Search for and take the skeleton key. Go to box five. Unlock the hollow column with the skeleton key. Enter the passage and follow it down to the junction. Turn on the lantern and enter the maze. In Easy Mode the solution is: e, n, e, n, e, e. e, n. w, w, n. e, e, e, e, n and into the puzzle room (go north after the puzzle room). In Challenging Mode try: e, n, e, n, n, e, e, e, e, w, w. n, n, w, n, w, n, e, e, s, e, e, e, e, n and into the puzzle room (go n, n, w, w, w, n, e afterwards). In the puzzle room find the dead adventurer and take the sword. Solve the puzzle by imagining an alphabet superimposed over the switches. Push the ones corresponding to e, r, i, and K. Enter the Phantoms Lair where youll be trapped in Puzzle Room 2. Push the panels on the wall until you have constructed a picture of the Phantoms mask. The trap door in the ceiling will open. Attach the cable hook to the rope. Grapple the rope with the hook. Climb the rope up through the trap door. In the living room talk to Christine through the door. Play the organ. When asked, play the fugue Jacque mentioned earlier.
In the bedroom, unlock the sarcophagus with the skeleton key. Push the third skull from the left to open it. Christine will emerge. Talk to her and she will give you a wedding ring. Go back to the living room and ready yourself for a fight with the Phantom. Attack him with the sword. Once hes disappeared, take the music score from the organ. Leave with Christine. Take the oar from the secret passage and then get in the gondola. Christine will follow you as you cross the lake. At the junction enter the column passage and go up to box five. The Phantom will reappear in box five and abduct Christine. Get back into the passage and go up to the catwalk level. Go to the alcove above the chandelier and climb down the rope onto the chandelier. Attack the Phantom with the sword and when he has you pinned, push the cane. When you have the Phantom pinned, grab his mask... and... and... The games finished.
Processor: PC compatible, P-100
OS: Windows 9x, Windows 2000 Windows XP, Vista, Win 7, Win 8, Win 10.
Game Features:Single game mode