Phantom Trigger—from publisher tinyBuild and developers Victor Solodilov and Denis Novikov—is a roguelike “hardcore neon slasher” where you play as Stan, a married man with a mysterious and deadly disease. As you play, you’ll learn more about Stan’s disease through brief cut scenes spliced into the gameplay, and it gradually becomes clear that Stan has undergone (or is undergoing?) an experimental treatment that has apparently landed him in the strange neon world of Phantom Trigger, where he must fight for his life using four primary moves/weapons:
- The green whip, which brings enemies closer
- The blue ice sword, which slashes enemies
- The red fists, which bash enemies
Each of these moves/weapons is assigned one button, and getting used to the controls can be pretty tough—but once you’ve mastered them, you’ll be ready to take on anything. (Also, it’s important to note that there are no tutorials in Phantom Trigger, so you’ll have to figure out how to use these moves and weapons on your own.) As you play, you’ll level up your whip, sword, and fists, and you’ll also unlock new combos and abilities. For instance, one ability lets you freeze your enemies, and another allows you to burn your enemies when you dash into them.
Phantom Trigger is structured around defeating enemies with your moves/weapons and solving a variety of challenging puzzles. Along the way, you’ll find many checkpoints, which refill your life meter and are extremely helpful for players who die often and/or take a good deal of damage. You’ll also encounter a number of bosses, who force you to use your weapons in interesting and unique ways. While the boss battles can be frustrating and hard to figure out, they are quite rewarding once you’ve emerged victorious!
While Phantom Trigger automatically starts you off on hard mode, you can easily change this to regular mode in the Options menu on the main screen. Hard mode features far more enemies, so there’s much less room for mistakes; if you want to beat this game in hard mode, you’ll need to hone your evasion skills and attack as smart as you can. But even if you choose to play in regular mode, you’re still in for a challenging experience. In Phantom Trigger, patience is key: you need to take time to learn the combos and dash efficiently in order to make real progress.
Phantom Trigger provides an amazing aesthetic experience: the colors are breathtaking in the right combinations, and the sound effects are quite immersive. In addition to the game’s soundtrack, each of Stan’s moves/weapons gives off a particular sound when used, so as you punch, whip, slice, and dash your way around this colorful world, you’ll be making a music of sorts—and it’s a music that’s constantly changing, since you won’t be using the same exact combination of moves all the time.
However, Phantom Trigger does have its aesthetic drawbacks. For instance, the game’s main Arial-esque font (featured on all the menu screens) doesn’t fit the game’s retro visual landscape as well as it could. This font seems like it belongs in a PC game—which makes sense, since Phantom Trigger started out as a PC title and was only recently released for Switch. Perhaps the developers should have tweaked this font for the game’s Switch release, but it’s very possible that some (or most) players won’t notice the font or be bothered by it.
The more pertinent aesthetic drawback is the game’s loading screen. When you first launch Phantom Trigger, you may worry (like we did) that the game is not actually loading, since the loading screen is completely still. Usually, games will have some kind of animation on their loading screens to let you know that the game isn’t frozen, but this feature is completely absent in Phantom Trigger’s loading screen, which will likely frustrate some players.
Phantom Trigger’s vibrant environment, unique gameplay, and awesome sound effects make for a super-fun slasher game. Plus, the game’s replay value is bolstered by an optional co-op mode as well as four possible endings. Phantom Trigger’s drawbacks are mostly aesthetic and quite minor, but they might be rather irritating for some players. Overall, we aren’t sure that Phantom Trigger is the best game you could purchase for $14.99, but we can definitely see how it would be worth this price for a player who is very into hardcore slashers like this one. If you’re up for a challenge, head to the Nintendo eShop and download Phantom Trigger for Switch today!
Nick and Sarah are the ultimate gaming couple. Nick is a Super Mario Maker 2 enthusiast, but working with Nintendeal has fostered a love for tough-as-nails indies such as Enter the Gungeon, Celeste, and Cuphead. Sarah prefers sim games like Animal Crossing, Don’t Starve, and Stardew Valley, but she challenges herself by grinding Slay the Spire from time to time.