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The story of this seven CD games is based on a script of over 400 pages written by Roberta Williams, author of the King's Quest series. This time, at the opposite of what Roberta wrote in the past, horror and fear are the key elements of this adventure game. The player plays the role of Adrienne, a novellist who bought with her husband Don, the Carnavash estate. The old mansion belonged to a famous illusionnist of the end of the 19th century named Carno, and according inhabitants of the nearby village, the house would be haunted.
The introduction shows how the young woman is awaken in the middle of the night by a horrible nightmare. The gruesome visions scared Adrienne who looked for some reconfort in Don's arms. Then, what follows can be censored from the beginning of the game through a menu. This option allows adult players to choose a password to avoid children playing the game with scenes that are not suitable for their age. These passages features sexual matter and particularly, scenes containing violence. I personally think that Sierra did everything that was possible to do to prevent people of extreme sensibility to be shocked. However, it was apparently not enough for the COMPUSA chain stores who refused to sell the game. Whether it was wise or not is not my concern but it is well known that when anything is prohibited or creates a scandale, it makes the sales going even larger!
Now, let's go back to the game and its interface. Like King's Quest VII, Phantasmagoria can be played using DOS, Windows 3.1 and Windows 95 environment. However when playing using DOS, I noticed that my sound card was not supported and I had to go back to Windows to play with sounds. The video animations were choppy and sometimes even the audio was breaking up although I was using a Pentium 60 equipped with a 64-bit PCI video graphic card and a double speed CD-ROM drive. I can only hope to find in the future some patch for my sound card to be able playing under DOS and avoid the Windows environment that slows everything.
The interface of Phantasmagoria is easy-to-use and won't require any time consuming learning process. As you explore the screen with the icon, this one will turn red when there is something of interest. This way, you can talk to the characters you will encounter, or examine objects you will discover in the house for example. Whenever you find an item that can be useful later in the game, it will be automatically put in your inventory. To simplify the difficulty, the inventory can only hold 8 items which has for effect to limit your choice of actions. When you picked up an object, you can watch it closely by dragging it over the closed eye which is at the lower right corner of the screen. A small window will pop up on the screen with a 3D image representing the piece of inventory and you have the possibility to see it around different views as you can rotate it. If you notice something that arouses your curiosity you can use the icon on the object to see if you might find anything special. When you think that one of the object you are holding can be used with something on the screen, get the object and place it where it may be used.
Another element of the interface is the hint keeper symbolized by a skeleton head in the lower left corner of the screen. If you click on it, a voice will give you a hint but don't use it too often if not as will say the hint keeper, "too many hints will spoil the game!". However, if you are stuck and you want to use the hintkeeper without spoiling the game, you can save your game before having the hint and restore it once you got the answer. But it's called cheating!
Phantasmagoria's graphics are fabulous. All the rooms have been modeled and rendered on Silicon Graphics with an extraordinary worry for details. As the 7th Guest, rooms have paintings, carpets, curtains, wall papers, furnitures and other decoration pieces that make the whole house incredibly realistic! When you go outside, you will discover the same beauty around the house. There are over 800 rooms included in Phantasmagoria which includes all the static scenes of the game. What I mean is for example that one room of the house can be viewed from different places as you move inside, and each view has been counted as a a room.
A cast of 25 actors has been hired for the characters of the game. They were filmed using blue screen walls at the new Sierra Studios at Oakhurst, CA then added nearly seamlessly to the computer rendered backgrounds. With the seven CD's, Phantasmagoria features many hours of live action directed by Hollywood veteran Peter Maris. Many scenes have been enhanced with special effects to plunge the players in the same kind of experience than what the heroine encounters in her journey into the world of spirits and demons.
The soundtrack composed by Mark Seibert, reinforces the dark atmosphere of the game in which the evil presence inspires fear and anguish. One of the chant of Phantasmagoria has been performed by a 135-voice choir and has the same beauty than Carl Orff's masterpiece, Carmina Burana. Maybe one day, Sierra will release an audio CD with the complete soundtrack of Phantasmagoria!
Phantasmagoria's story is divided in seven chapters, each CD representing one specific chapter. At the beginning of the game, you are offered the choice to start where you want. It is of course better to start from the beginning but if you want to go faster and finish the game within one hour, start by chapter seven! If you select a chapter other than the first, the necessary inventory items will be provided. As you play with the game, a progress bar shows how far along you are in the adventure. At the end of each chapter, you must change the CD to continue into the next chapter. Now, you won't have to watch every single animation the game contains to reach the end of the game. Once all necessary actions have been taken, you will advance in the story. This way, you can replay the game and discover scenes that you may have missed the first time. This certainly adds to the replay value.
Although the game won't offer a real challenge to the experienced player, Phantasmagoria is still an excellent adventure game. It can be completed in a day or so, even less if you are a skilled player, but the story is so captivating that you will be irresistibly attracted in the frightening world of Phantasmagoria.
486 DX-33 MHz or higher,
Min 8Mb memory,
MS-DOS 5.0 or later,
Hard drive required,
Double speed CD-ROM drive or faster,
SVGA video graphic card,
Microsoft mouse and 100% compatibles.
Creative Labs Sound Blaster, Pro, 16 & AWE32; Adlib; Windows compatible
sound cards supported.
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