Desperate for recovery from a strange illness, Stan agrees to a unusual test that has him exploring a surreal, neon world. Phantom Trigger is a new project being published by Tiny Build and is being developed by the two man team, Bread Team. Players will control Stan as he hacks and slashes his way through pixelated enemies in a weird environment, meeting quirky characters and exploring his psyche along the way. Tiny Build recently put out a free to download Alpha build for anyone to play, which has led me to giving it a try.
Immediately, its made evident that there’s something more going on in the background of the fantasy being played. We get to meet Stan and his wife as they live out a typical life, conversing in the kitchen. Suddenly, Stan collapses, and the player is thrust into a glowing world, a stark antithesis to reality. Our hero rides in on an elegant boat, making allusions to the River Styx of Greek Mythology. From here, Stan finds that he now carries a whip and is asked to explore the inside of a portal, but not without gaining an ice sword from a talking tree, similar to many Zelda games.
From here on out, Stan will have to face strange monsters using the weapons he collects along the way. Combat is actually more akin to God of War than Zelda, as there is a huge focus on combos leading to special attacks. Chaining together each weapon is pretty intuitive and can feel awesome when adding in the teleportation move. Zipping in and out of combat looks awesome, but its a system that’s easy to understand and a whole different beast to master.
I found the combat in Phantom Trigger to be fun and responsive, but challenging. Enemies can quickly chain attacks on Stan, reducing him to rubble in a matter of seconds. Sure, there are plenty of checkpoints in a level, but I found myself repeatedly throwing my character at enemies, with little traction. Truly, Phantom Trigger is a hardcore action game like Bayonetta, but disguised as a simpler adventure.
Visually, Phantom Trigger is a treat with deep shades of color, interesting lighting, and colorful characters. Each character I approached felt like there was more to them, more than just their function as non-player characters and shop owners. This is coupled with a surreal-feeling synthesizer soundscape that adds to the mystery of Stan’s situation and the weird world he is in.
Honestly, I didn’t make it too far with Phantom Trigger, not even reaching the first boss. However, I spent a lot of time just exploring the areas available and trying to work out the combat with trial and error. I will add that when the final game releases, speedruns will be incredible to watch as there is a ton of skill involved. I also recommend playing with a controller, as it feels more right than the mouse and keyboard, although that’s setup pretty solidly.
Gratefully, Tiny Build has given the Alpha Build of the game away to anyone willing to download it. Anyone who’s interested can play it and provide feedback. Personally, I think there is some balancing to be done in the combat, but the style is so interesting that is makes me want to learn the current system to get further. I’m also interested in seeing where the narrative takes its players; Stan’s story and hardships are relatable, but what exactly is happening in the solution. Is this some sort of Assassin’s Creed style dive into a virtual psyche? What sort of tech would be involved? Or is this a hallucination brought on by Stan’s illness or treatment?
Included in the Alpha Build is one of the five worlds and close to finished combat. There is a taste of the narrative at work in this build, but the final one will have a full story with multiple endings. The game is also coming to Switch later this summer alongside its Steam release.
For more information about Phantom Trigger, check out the official site. This is also where the Alpha download is available for free. The game also has a listing on Steam.