Our next feature from the Cerebral Bundle is Phantasmaburbia by Greg Lobanov. Standard price for it is $15, so getting it as part of the bundle could be a pretty hefty discount.
This is probably the only game in the bundle that I can safely say I am fully within my element while playing. The vast majority of my gaming collection is comprised of RPGs, both good and bad, so I’m fairly confident in my judgement of whether or not one is good.
First thing’s first, however, let’s talk about the story. The game opens with a character being awakened by strange sounds, so he gets a weapon and fights a ghost with the hlp of another ghost. The ghost that helped him tells him that he needs help defeating a very powerful ghost, so you go off to fight it.
Rinse and repeat the same thing except slightly different each time for another four characters. It turns out that the ghost was hiding in one of the characters’ unborn baby brother, possessing him and breaking out of his mother’s womb, which presumably kills her. The house is then destroyed completely, which is where I stopped playing.
That opening hour and a half was a bit excessive, forcing you to level each of the characters up from level 1 and go through a small area with each before they finally join up with each other. That can be considered a big weakness for the beginning of the game, as I am of the opinion that you need multiple characters in your party for an RPG to generally be good. You can have one character, but that’s far less fun and needs something else to make up for it.
In this particular case, the game’s gameplay did not make up for it at all. The battle system follows the same formula used in early Final Fantasy games, without the option to pause enemy moves while you’re in the menus (which were added to said early games in updated ports), but with added mouse-driven quick-time events, which were simply annoying and lacked any explanation. Aside from the quick-time events, however, the battle system is still competent and if they were gonna rip off a game’s battle system, why not rip off a good one, right?
Of course, the ghosts also allow for some puzzles in the overworld, but all I seen while playing involved moving things to hold down switches, removing things in your path, and making paths appear out of thin air, not exactly the sort of puzzle that makes you think, more the type that’s just time-consuming.
Speaking of the overworld, that is also entirely mouse-driven, like everything else in the game, which was rather annoying, as the game could have been a lot more enjoyable if it was playable with a controller. In this case, though, movement was just plain incompetent, as you need to clock on places to move, but you don’t try to make your way to that spot in particular, you simply try to move in that general direction until you either reach the place or, more likely, run into part of the scenery and can’t get any farther. The game makes no attempt to do proper pathfinding.
If they were going to do it that way, it would have made more sense to allow movement with WASD or the arrow keys instead. I’d understand the problem if the game was developed for phones, but it’s only for Windows (and, soon, Mac).
For all these shortcomings, however, the game itself is fairly enjoyable. Just not $15 enjoyable, precisely because of these issues. I want to play more, but I’m currently half-and-half as to whether or not it’s worth it to be fighting the terrible mouse-driven controls and annoying quick-time events to get to the end. If you’re going to get it at all, I recommend that it be as part of the Cerebral Bundle so you don’t have to pay full price for it. I’m begrudgingly giving this one a thumbs up, but do note the problems before deciding if you want it.