Phantom Abyss, the proven game between Spelunky and Mirror's Edge

Phantom Abyss, the proven game between Spelunky and Mirror's Edge

Phantom Abyss

With the scorching heat of summer knocking on the windows, imagining yourself in Mexico looking for some Aztec treasure isn't all that difficult. Waves of heat rise from the asphalt and distant mirages offer the vision of mystical pools of water, while the scooters whiz past us imitating the cry of colorful parrots. With our leather jacket and whip in the sheath we decide to sit comfortably at our station and start something that justifies the surreal climate of these days, finding in our hands a curious roguelike able to make us feel the strong vibrations of an Indian Improvised Jones.

We had the opportunity to try Phantom Abyss and the hours spent in company with the Devolver Digital production have left an aftertaste of extreme satisfaction, even though the game is still in a preliminary phase of Early Access and showing evident gaps both since point of view of the gameplay and of the variety of situations. But let's go in order and let's discover all its strengths together.

Spelunky, but firsthand

The platform phases are only the first difficulties to overcome The easiest way to frame Phantom Abyss and to think of the very famous Spelunky and imagine it in the first person. In this way you will have already understood the core of the game, with our virtual alter ego destined to dodge death traps at three hundred and sixty degrees and groped to reach the end of a dungeon with all the bones in place. Having said that, the task seems quite simple and repetitive but we assure you that the findings introduced by the developers to surprise the player are not lacking and the roguelike component adds that bit of extra replayability essential to give you reason to return again and again to tread the ancient pyramids.

Your gaze will initially rest on the cartoon colors of the settings, a playful but at the same time dark style, a middle ground sufficient to keep the tension high, making you perceive the danger of the various mortal rooms without however bypassing that thin line which would transform the various stages into something exaggeratedly bleak and scary. The light, always sufficient to make you glimpse the correct path, will guide you to your final destination, with the desire to make traps and pitfalls always clearly visible on your path, with a system whereby the injuries you are going to suffer will be caused exclusively by errors of evaluation or wrong timing instead of simple carelessness.

So it will never happen to you to end up repeatedly on an inconspicuous trap, but rather to hurry up and get skewered or wait too long and find yourself virtually beheaded and having to start over from the beginning. Let's say virtually since the game hides any minimum form of explicit violence and categorically excludes grim animations or heinous scenes, leaving it to be a simple and softer game over to accompany you to the entrance once all the available lives are exhausted.

Die and repeat

The guardians are ready to put even more pressure on you. Continuing inside the pyramids trying to reach their depths and obtaining the relics hidden there is an extremely complex task even for the most skilled players, with bosses and immortal opponents determined to put you even more in a hurry and mechanics eager to make you waste time and focus towards your final goal. On your path, usually placed in alternative rooms or hidden behind dead ends, you will find chests containing precious coins that can then be used on the altars to get bonuses and perks to simplify the descent. You will thus be able to restore part of the lost lives, get an extra jump, more money from the chests and so on for a fairly varied selection, even if not very original, of various upgrades.

A whip is your trusted companion, essential for breaking urns from a distance and avoiding being poisoned by toxic clouds but also essential for hooking onto ledges. If on paper the mechanics described above seem fundamental in its operation, the difficulty in calculating the correct depth of the jumps and the slowness with which the whip is unrolled could lead less experienced players to make a bad end in the deepest abysses. The movement in general, however, is well done, fluid and in precise moments, after having refined the use of the controls, one can do his utmost in spectacular parkour actions, albeit limited by a set of moves that are not exactly amazing and by a roll in first person, terrible both for those suffering from sickness and for the disorientation it causes at the end of the animation.

Forget about becoming a new Faith or the new Princes of Persia, especially since Phantom Abyss rests on more realistic bases where mega jumps and runs on the walls are not contemplated. Everything is therefore reduced to more linear movements, a situation that often deprives the player of the necessary momentum to continue running wildly without ever stopping, greatly reducing the spectacle. The last gem of the title, waiting for more content at the moment fundamental, is represented by the possibility of playing asynchronously with the ghosts of deceased players in the same pyramids you are facing, thus giving you an additional stimulus to improve timing and speed of execution. . A little too little perhaps to trigger that unstoppable title spark that we would have expected.

The Early Access version of Phantom Abyss shows good basic ideas and a concept that, while not particularly original in its essence, it still manages to entertain and show something fresh in the landscape. Now all that remains is to wait for more content, different refinements and balances and a sensible structure that gives the player that "one more game and then detachment" feeling that we have not found at the moment, while recognizing its impeccable merits. Good graphic style and beautiful atmospheres, for a title definitely to be kept under close observation for the near future.


Interesting visual impact Well-structured basic idea Intriguing asynchronous multiplayer DOUBTS Little variety in the obstacles Some clear imbalances Lack of fluidity in the concatenation of movements Have you noticed any errors?

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