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Have You Played... Phantasmagoria?

FMV weird spooks

Phantasmagoria is a point and click adventure from the mind of Roberta Williams -- famed creator of the Kings Quest series. Phantasmagoria, though, is a massive departure from the family-friendly adventures of King Graham. It's a cheesy FMV horror adventure game that was a technical marvel in its time.

As famous writer Adrienne and her photographer husband Don settle in and explore their uncomfortably spooky new home, it becomes clear that they've made a poor real estate decision. They've disturbed something dark -- and it's affected Don. He begins as a reassuring partner who deeply cares about Adrienne, but over the course of the game he slowly grows distant, isolated, and eventually openly hostile towards her.

The vast majority of the game has a schlock-horror charm. The performances are the best kind of B-movie overacting, with no scenery left unchewed, and because it's such an early FMV game (and came on multiple CDs) all the effects are heavily compressed, with unintentionally hilarious results.

It should be noted, however, that one scene is out of character with the rest of Phantasmagoria. At the start of chapter four, you'll encounter a cutscene that I recommend you skip, as it shows Don violently sexually assaulting Adrienne. It's presumably to clumsily underscore how much of a monster he's become, so I will save you time and tell you that Don has become a monster. The scene is of no plot relevance, and you'll miss nothing by skipping it -- the opposite, in fact.

With that particular distasteful vignette removed, it's worth playing this relic of FMV games to see how far we've come since, and enjoy overacting so over it might even circle all the way back around to under. If you can believe it, the sequel is somehow even more ridiculous and uncomfortable to play, so if you delve into that one it's entirely on your own head.

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Dave Irwin avatar

Dave Irwin

Former Guides Writer

When Dave was guides writer for Rock, Paper, Shotgun, it was his privilege to understand how to play certain games well, so that newer players can understand the more complex things about them.

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