Procedural Kowloon: Phantasmal On Steam Early Access

Do you know about Kowloon Walled City? It was a small but densely-populated hunk of unregulated city in Hong Kong, known for drugs, Triads, and unlicensed doctors and dentists, but also home to 33,000 people a few years before it was demolished in 1993. It looked straight out a cyberpunk flick, with building upon building crammed in close and veined with mazes of corridors. Which makes it an interesting setting for procedurally-generated sneak-o-shoot-a-horror.

Last time we saw Phantasmal [official site], it was set in a ghost house. Now it’s out on Steam Early Access, ooh look it’s switched to Kowloon.

All the people are gone from Kowloon in Phantasmal, replaced with various types of spooky ghost. They are not friendly ghosts. You can kill them with melee weapons, or a few rare (and noisy) firearms, but it seems like you’ll be a lot better off sneaking and scavenging in the shadows.

Developers Eyemobi say it’s “fully playable with the core gameplay complete” in its initial Early Access state, but they plan a lot of work. Over the next 3-6 months, they plan to improve monster AI and the AI director that controls the game, bosh in procedural story generation, make it more Lovecraftian, add more and more varied environments, and more. Right now it costs £10.99, but that will go up once it leaves Early Access.

I do wish more games would explore settings like this, ideally with the people still in there. Phantasmal’s Kowloon does look far too open to my eyes too. Have a trailer:

(I hear this book about Kowloon Walled City is a cracking read, if you’re curious.)

7 Comments

  1. SpinalJack says:

    I recently visited the park that’s built where Kowloon Walled City used to be.
    It’s a fascinating setting full of drugs and hookers but also the spirit of collaboration and community, things like sewage and electricity had to be installed and maintained by the people who lived there as neither government (China/UK) managed the city, even police rarely entered.
    Near the end they even kicked out all the triads by themselves.

    Loads of films are based on Kowloon City so it’s good that some games are exploring that setting (but like you said, I’d prefer one filled with people)

  2. Ross Angus says:

    One Block confirmed. If only we could talk to the cthulhus.

  3. libdab says:

    I lived in Hong Kong for a few years as a kid (my dad was in the Army) and I remember us going to Kowloon often. Oddly enough, we stayed away from the walled off drug dens and stuck to the shopping district, which included the famous, original Ocean Terminal shopping centre.

  4. Baines says:

    There was Kowloon’s Gate for the PS1, and Shenmue II apparently had a part take place in Kowloon, but games were probably more likely to use images of the city as inspiration rather than the actual setting.

  5. Kolba says:

    Kowloon Walled City has fascinated me for a while now. Here’s an info graphic: link to static.messynessychic.com

    The new Deus Ex is going to have a location inspired by the city, apparently.

  6. suibhne says:

    That book (City of Darkness: Revisited) is indeed a great read. The original edition was on my Amazon list for years, but the multi-hundred-$ price was more than a bit offputting. I missed the recent Kickstarter relaunch, but I was fortunate to catch up with the project right before the pre-order price expired, and the book now holds a prominent place on my coffee table.

  7. Baines says:

    Wow, after watching Jim Sterling playing this, the blur and flare effects are insanely overdone.

    Everywhere except the center of the screen is blurred. Holding a board, your hands are far enough from the center of the screen that they are rendered as a blurred flesh blobs. There is blur added when turning your head, even though human vision doesn’t work that way. All lights have massive flare/blur effects. It even uses that overdone annoying color separation thing that games have started using. Once something starts hitting you, the screen pretty much becomes useless as an information source.

    I feel like I could smear Vaseline on my glasses and still see better than the guy in this game.

    It seems like it would be a potentially interesting game, but the visual effects completely destroy it.