“ Sequel to the best seller Phantasmagoria. Attempt to unravel the sinister plot of murders that point to Curtis Craig as the culprit in this complex & sophisticated Horror Adventure. „
Phantasmagoria- A Puzzle of the Flesh is the second game in the Phantasmagoria series, and like the first game it is an FMV-based point and click affair with added buckets of gore. The game has you play as Curtis, a geeky IT worker who may or may not be a murderous psychopath. Curtis' workmates are being murdered one by one, and it's up to you to work out what's happening and who is responsible, whilst simultaneously getting to the root of your character's increasingly disturbed psyche.
The visuals are pretty polished and impressive, as is the the eerie score, whilst the direction and acting, whilst not about to win any awards, are strong enough to allow you to get sucked into the story. It's a pretty intriguing and weird story too- curtis starts off perfectly normal, but before long he's sneaking into his creepy boss's office, getting his nipples pierced at a kinky nightclub, and wondering whether he might be a serial killer. It only gets weirder from there.....
The main problem with the game though is the puzzles, some of which are so obscure as to be ridiculous. The game requires you to do mundane things, like chat with your workmates in a bar after work, mess about with your work email, and potter about in your apartment, all of which is well and good and helps make the game feel more immersive. The game starts with you getting ready to go to work, (there are a limited number of locations that you can visit, accessed from a map screen) and throws you right in at the deep end, puzzle-wise. I'm going to give away the puzzle in question, because it's so incredibly daft. In order to leave, you first need to find your wallet. Fair enough. A good bit of searching later and you discover that your wallet is lying under the sofa, but youre unable to reach it. The logical solution would be to move your couch, or maybe fashion a hook out of a wire coathanger and retrieve the wallet that way. But no, what you have to do is put some cheese under the couch, then pick your pet rat up from his cage, put *him* under the couch, at which point the faithful rodent reappears, with both cheese and wallet. Hard puzzles are fine, but ridiculous trial and error stuff like that can really kill the atmosphere and flow, not to mention the fun.
There are other puzzles like that too, such as not being able to progress because you didnt send an email that you had no idea you were supposed to send. There are also more trial and error 'action-sequences' in which you have to respond correctly in order to avoid a sudden messy death. These aspects are annoying, but the game and story are well-enough put together that they make you want to keep playing to see what happens next. It gets increasingly silly, - zombies and other wierd monsters turn up later on- , and the gaame increasingly resembles a late night horror b-movie, or somethign you might find on the SyFy channel at 2am, but to be honest thats all part of the game's goofy charm. plus, being an FMV game, its all filmed in glorious nostalgic 90s-o-vision too.
You;ll need to do some tinkering around to get the game working under windows (it was originally made for dos), but if you like cheesy horror/sci fi and obscure point and clicks, then its worth the effort.
(originally posted on Freeola)
As far as horror fiction goes, there's a lot of good stuff; Ramsey Campbell, Stephen King, the late Richard Laymon, and Dean Koontz, four of the best horror writers around. Unfortunately, there's just as much, if not more, mediocre stuff about. Let's face it, you could knock up a plot on the spot. Just chuck in two or more of the following; a haunted house, demonic possession, an ancient indian burial ground, a masked psychopath, and hey presto, instant shlock horror. So I was expecting the usual dial-a-plot stuff from Sierra's Phantasmagoria II: A Puzzle of Flesh, now available from Grand Old Games.com for three quid! What I actually got was something that was genuinely chilling, and very very scary indeed.
In Phantasmagoria 2 you play Curtis, an ordinary everyday joe. Ordinary that is, until his past comes back to haunt him... big time. Before Curtis got his job at Wyntech, a research and development company, he spent some time in a asylum; something to do with childhood trauma. But he's alright now. Isn't he? Maybe not, because odd things start happening to him. He starts hearing voices, and seeing things. And then things get really nasty; a colleague is murdered in a particularly gory fashion, and Curtis becomes the prime suspect. And if that wasn't enough, he has to cope with the attentions of both his girlfriend and Teresa, his S+M loving colleague. Then things get really complicated.
It's up to you find out the truth aso to what's going on, and keep Curtis alive long enough to get to the bottom of things. Has Curtis gone mad, or is there something more sinister taking place? Each day you'll need to complete a number of puzzles in order to progress to the next day; these range from simple things like finding Curtis's wallet, to managing to break into a guarded basement. The puzzles aren't quite as insane as they were in some of Sierra's later titles, though you do still do need to use a cereal bar to force Curtis's pet rat into retrieving his wallet. No, really.
Phantasmagoria 2 is one of those games that uses copous amounts of Full Motion Video to chronicle important events in the game. In fact, when you do almost anything, you get a video clip, showing the results of that action; be it hacking into a computer, or triggering a hallucination. Fortunately, the acting is of a very high standard; amongst all the characters, I couldn't spot a single piece of dodgy acting. And Sierra have also taken the 'proper set' approach, rather than the blue screen approach, which sometimes looks a bit dodgy. This means that all the characters are filled on real sets, rather than just standing them in front of a blue screen, and adding computer generated scenery, and it shows. The production quality is comparable to the likes of the X-Files, and the storyline is easily worthy of an X-Files episode. The truth is a real shocker. And given how gory things can get it's not surprising that the game was only originally released in a censored format in the UK.
But sometimes, the game's linearity lets it down. You can't actually change the change of events at all; no matter how many times you play, Curtis will always end up doing the same things; you also can't choose what you say to the characters. There's no way of turning down either Curtis's girlfriend, or Miss S+M. In comparison to this, Access's The Pandora Directive, also available on GOG.com, lets you influence the storyline; it was up to you whether you managed to save the girl or not, and how you treated people directly affected the ways events progressed. In Phantasmagoria 2 however, I felt more like a passenger than a participant.
Also, you aren't always given any real clue as to what you're supposed to be doing. The day only ends when you've performed a certain number of actions, and on the first couple of days at least, you could end up trying to find that one action that will let you finish that day. Furthermore, you can't complete the tasks in any order, as you can in Discworld or The Pandora Directive. On one day, if you try to visit your psychiatrist, you are told your appointment isn't till 5:30. What this really means is, you've missed some piddling little trigger, preventing you from continuing. Remember how I mentioned having to use a rat to retrieve Curtis's wallet? You can't leave the house until you've done that, so the game doesn't progress any further till that task has been achieved.
If you can put up with the aforementioned frustration, you'll find a deeply compelling and very scary adventure game. And it's pretty cheap at GOG.com. Personally, I thought it was a little to linear for my tastes, but if you miss the heady days of adventure games, and are a bit of a gore hound, consider giving this a go.
Written by: Lorelei Shannon
Year of release: 1996
Paul Morgan Stetler as Curtis Craig
Monique Parent as Jocilyn Rowan
Ragna Sigrun as Therese Banning
Paul Mitri as Trevor Barnes
This classic 1996 horror game, full name 'Phantasmagoria 2: A Puzzle of Flesh', is one of my favourite-ever Adventure games. It's an FMV ('Full Motion Video') game, in which the characters are played by real actors rather than by computer-generated models. For some reason, many gamers frown upon FMV games, maybe because the acting is sometimes a bit sub-par, but I like them and I even find that a bit of sub-par acting just adds to the fun.
In this case, however, the acting is pretty respectable, certainly in the case of the four main characters listed above, and most of the rest of the cast as well. The production quality for this game is very good, too - this was made on a large budget, and it shows. It looks far more like an interactive horror movie than just a game, with better production than many horror movies I've seen!
This is basically a psychological horror story but is also quite macabre in parts. As the CD liner notes blurb says, 'A psychological horror story of madness, murder and the blackest depths of the human soul'. You have been warned.
You play as a young man, Curtis Craig, who you see in the creepy opening intro sequence as an unwilling inmate of a psychiatric hospital being forced to undergo shock therapy. This then dissolves into a scene of Curtis waking up in bed in his apartment. Was the hospital scene a memory, or just a dream?
The intro ends, and we start the gameplay. You guide Curtis through getting ready for work. We see that he is a nice, mild-mannered, nerdy sort of a guy who has a cute pet rat that he's very fond of. At work, as a copywriter at Wyntech Labs, Curtis is well-liked by his boss and colleagues. He works in a cubicle alongside his cutesy-poo girlfriend Jocilyn, his wacky best friend Trevor, and sultry and mysterious Therese. There's only one exception: the highly unpleasant and arrogant Bob, who bad-mouths and stitches up Curtis every chance he gets.
Curtis says hello to everyone and goes to sit at his PC to get busy with his daily work. However, when he logs in he is greeted by a strange loud noise and is then punched in the face by some invisible force, drawing blood. Not being quite your typical Windows crash, Curtis is understandably frightened. An evil-sounding disembodied voice exclaims 'Freak!'. Things hot up when Curtis stumbles across some classified documents on his company's network about strange secret experiments that his company has been carrying out, and then receives a disturbing phone call from the evil-sounding voice he heard earlier. Deciding to go home sick, he arrives home to a hallucination of his mother having hanged herself in his bedroom.
He begins having increasingly gruesome visions, and even taking Jocilyn out for a drink that evening provides no relief - the evil voice commands him 'Kill her! Kill her like you killed your mother!' And next morning, everyone arrives at work to find Bob murdered, gore and entrails everywhere.
Well, that's only the first few scenes of the game, and there's many hours more to come. You/Curtis have a bumpy ride ahead as you get subjected to all manner of gruesome and depraved experiences, more uncovering of dodgy behind-the-scenes activities by your employers, and very disturbing revelations to do with your own past, all the while fearing that you are losing your sanity.
I've played this game through twice and I'm sure I'll play it again, because it is such an enjoyable experience in a horrific sort of way. The characters grow on you and you enjoy going back and seeing them again, much as you enjoy seeing a good film with good characters again. In particular, Curtis is a real sweetie who is portrayed movingly and who you do really want to overcome his demons, and Trevor is such an immensely likeable and funny guy that you feel he could well be like someone you know. And he too gets to play a couple of quite touching scenes when not being a joker.
I'm a member of a games forum that recently did a longplay of this game, and many who started out thinking the game wouldn't be all that good, ended up completely swayed. Trevor was an instant favourite with everyone, so much so that one member bravely sought out, and was kindly granted, an interview with Paul Mitri who played him. It was fun to be able to ask him questions we had about the game and about what he's been doing since - he's now a respected University professor of stage acting, as well as an actor, writer and director.
Of the other three main characters, Paul Morgan Stetler has appeared in a few bit parts including an episode of 'Buffy The Vampire Slayer', does Shakespearean stage acting, and is in upcoming 2009 movie 'The Spy and The Sparrow' starring Eric Roberts. Monique Parent has had a busy career in numerous softcore movies. Ragna Sigrun, however, doesn't seem to have had many other appearances, mainly in shorts also starring her husband Todd Licea, who plays Curtis's father Jonas here.
As mentioned, this had a fairly hefty budget for a computer game and comes across as a quality item almost on a par with a lower-budget Hollywood horror movie, of a 'B' sort rather than blockbuster material. The sets, locations and props are of a high standard and the special effects are effectively grisly. The soundtrack is a good mid-1990s techno.
So, in sum, if you enjoy both adventure games and having the pants scared off of you, this is a good combination of both. Out of the box, this game may pose problems playing on Windows XP/Vista or on modern hardware, but a very helpful soul has created an XP/Vista installer for it, which can be found here: http://www.squirtthecat.com/games/phantasmagoria_2/index.html . I use XP and this installer/patch works fine for me, and I've heard that it does work with Vista though can't guarantee that from first-hand experience. As with many old games, if you have a dual-core processor (I don't), you may have to disable one core if the game runs too fast. It comes on five CDs, so if you buy this second-hand, make sure it has the full set of CDs!
'Phantasmagoria 2' contains a fair amount of sexual content, including brief softcore porn scenes and a visit to an S&M club, and some pretty gruesome blood-and-guts violence. For those reasons, it is rated 18 and is definitely not a children's game!
An 18 certificate point and click graphic adventure game. The first Phantasmagoria, is not as good as the second - the second loses it graphically and in storyline. Phantasmagoria means "a sequence of dreamlike real or imaginary images" and that is the basis of the story. You go through the story never 100% sure whether what the character is experiencing is real or imaginary. There are many puzzles to solve - you know the kind get the key and open the door, get into the office and look at the PC and find the password etc - and to me they were very logical. There are cut scenes of a sexual and violent nature, hence the 18 certificate. This is a oldie, but a goodie - i have a 98 machine an XP and an ME and the game runs on all machines with no trouble at all. If you want a good ADULT puzzle adventure, this is one not to be missed. Another great game from Sierra!!