First game to use live action video as player avatar
Earliest Magazine review- (DOS) Pelit (1995)
"Parin läpipeluukerran jälkeen Phantasmagoria tuntuu valtavalta pettymykseltä. Pelin Dos- ja Windows-versiot pyörivät hyvin, mutta itse pelissä ei ole sisältöä. Tarina on heikko ja hahmot mielikuvituksettomia, eikä seikkailuun ole mahtunut sitä itseään: seikkailua. Peli on liian helppo, lyhyt ja sanalla sanoen tylsä. Ilman näyttävää loppua pisteet putoaisivat vielä roimasti, sillä nyt pelistä jää sentään kohtuullinen jälkimaku. Mitä tapahtui, Sierra?"
Earliest Magazine review- (Windows) - PC Multimedia & Entertainment (1995)
"Phantasmagoria is the latest offering from adventure-gaming giant Sierra On-Line. In an interesting personality twist, Roberta Williams, creator of the hugely successful Kings Quest series has strayed from her fantasy worlds and created Phantasmagoria, an interactive horror movie/adventure game.
In Phantasmagoria, you assume the role of Adrienne Delaney. She, a novellist, lives in Boston with her husband Donald Gordon, a successful photographer. While scouting the New England coastline for some photogenic material, he runs accross a bizarre 19th century mansion which he impulsively buys. The game begins after he convinces Adrienne to move there since it is in a quiet, rural community and would be "better for their creative energies". It seems the mansion used to belong to an illusionist back in the late 1800's who's child and two wives met a mysterious death (along with himself). The house is haunted by an evil spirit that possesses her husband, leading to some extremely disturbing personality changes. Adrienne must try to get to the bottom of all this and do her best to stay alive.
GAMEPLAY This is by far the largest game ever created, in terms of disk space that is. Phantasmagoria spans 7 CD-ROMS, and contains over 5 hours of video. When I saw the 7 CD's, I assumed this would be just another one of those so- called 'Interactive Movies' with lots of bad acting on cheesy blue-screen sets and no gameplay to speak of. Well, Phantasmagoria is somewhat more than that.
The game is played in much the same manner as any other Sierra or Lucasfilm adventure. The character stands on the screen doing absolutely nothing, until you click on a place for it to go, a thing for it to inspect, or an object to grab and put into it's inventory. The nice thing about this however, is that the character is always a video image as opposed to a drawing. This adds an extra level of realism to the game and makes it feel a lot more like a movie without losing all playability.
Unfortunately, Phantasmagoria does have it's share of problems in the gameplay department. The interface is oversimplified in my opinion. Players interact with the game's environment using a single mouse cursor that changes color when it is placed over an object that can be manipulated. This makes for an easier game, as it is difficult to miss any objects on a screen. Simply moving the mouse around the screen and clicking when the cursor turns red will get you through the bulk of the game. There are a few puzzles that might keep you guessing for a while, but most of them are fairly simple and have been used before.
GRAPHICS The scenery is beautifully drawn and projected onto a blue screen. The blue- screen method has worked quite well here, making the characters seem quite involved in their environment. Sometimes, a thin blueish outline can be seen around some of the actors and Adriennes hair occasionally takes on an unearthly tint of blue, but it's not especially noticable. Most of the acting is quite good. Definitely the best I have seen in a computer game to date, although Don's character tends to overact in some of the more extreme stages of his 'insanity'. Adrienne has an annoying habit of standing around and fixing her hair ALL the time, but I assume the script is responsible for that.
The gory special effects (head splitting, stabbing etc.) are quite good. I'm not a great fan of slasher flicks, so I can't really comment on their quality of them, but they sure turned my stomach. They, and a rape scene contribute to the '17 Years Mature' symbol adorning the box.
SOUND The music is very atmospheric and perfect for this game, unfortunately all voice effects sound like they were recorded on a sound stage. This isn't too bad in some of the large halls of the house, but when a voice has a slight echo in a tiny bathroom, you know there's something wrong.
SUMMARY Overall, Phantasmagoria makes for an enjoyable gaming experience, but would likely be more appropriate for novice adventurers, as experienced gamers will find it too easy to complete. I consider myself a fairly weathered adventure gamer, and managed to complete the game in just over 7 hours. There are a LOT of nifty things hidden beneath the surface of this game that can easily be missed if your sole intent is to finish the game. You can have Adrienne pet her cat, get a drink of water, use the facilities, and see some pretty spooky things in mirrors. If you are a 'stop and smell the roses' kind of person, you'll probably love this game. Personally, I think it could have been a little bit longer.
The game is restricted for children under 17 years of age and parental guidance is suggested. It offers a password protected censored mode that will eliminate unsuitable scenes, allowing parents to control what their kids can see.
Beautifully drawn backgrounds.
Serves to set the mood, but voices sometimes sound out of place.
Game interface makes Phantasmagoria a bit too easy for veteran adventure gamers.
Good game, but a little short."
1) Game industry and software technology had not yet reached the point where an effective and frightening computer game could be made. As a result, Williams (creator of the game) decided to wait until CD-ROMs were faster and could handle real actors, which she believed was crucial for a horror game because she felt the player had to be able to empathize with the character to fear for them.
2) Hoyos (art director for Phantasmagoria) drew particular inspiration from the films of Tim Burton, and he particularly tried to emulate the lighting, sets and "imaginative edge" of Batman (1989). The films Alien (1979) and Hellraiser (1987) were additional influences.
3) Victoria Morsell, who plays Adrienne, and David Homb, who plays Don, started dating a week after they began filming together. The picture that sits on the night stand in the character's bedroom found a new home in the couple's living room after the game was finished.
4) Malcolm was portrayed by veteran actor Douglas Seale, who had previously performed voice work, including the role of the Sultan in the animated film Aladdin (1992).
5) All filming was done entirely in front of a blue screen, and the digitized information was later loaded into the Silicon Graphics computers, which synchronize the relative motion of computer-generated, three-dimensional background.
6) Such items as tables, chairs, doors or stairs that the actors appear to interact with are in fact constructed objects painted blue to match the blue screen, and were occasionally challenging for the actors to work with.
7) Ultimately, all of the scenes filmed for Phantasmagoria were used in the final game. While some were edited for length and pacing, none were cut altogether.
8) Computer Gaming World writer Arinn Dembo said the game "achieved a new height of realism and beauty in a computer game" and was "an important technological leap, and represents a step forward for the whole industry".
9) CompUSA and other retailers refused to carry it, and it was banned altogether in Australia. The German version of the game was banned in Germany on March 31st, 1998.
10) In addition to the graphic gore and violence, the "rape" scene (with actually clothed actors) in Phantasmagoria drew particular attention and objections from the game's critics.One major newspaper claimed Phantasmagoria "makes a game of sexual violence". Multiple parents' groups, religious organizations community action committees and special interest groups called for a boycott, and sent letters to the Sierra offices in droves voicing objections to the game. Game was spotlighted in U.S. Senate hearings debating regulation of content in the computer software industry and there was talk that it could reignite the debate in Congress over whether to impose federally-mandated ratings on computer software that stores would be required to enforce.
11) The office of Bob Thompkins, Adrianne's sleazy real estate agent, is decorated with posters of girls from another Sierra adventure game, Leisure Suit Larry 6.
12) According to the game designer Roberta Williams, the game is inspired by the works of Edgar Allan Poe and Stephen King.
13) Emulated in: VMware
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