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Phantom

by Peter Eastman

2020

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Number of Ratings: 11
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
The Phantom's only the second-most interesting character here, December 9, 2020
by Mike Russo (Los Angeles)
Related reviews: IF Comp 2020
Oh hey, another literary reimagining by the author who did How the Elephant’s Child Who Walked By Himself Got His Wings – I’m sensing a (very fun) theme! And it’s funny, just a few weeks ago I went down a Wikipedia rabbit-hole checking out all the different literary, cinematic, and theatrical depictions of the Phantom of the Opera and the various ways his psychology and disfigurement were portrayed, quite similar to the rundown the author provides in the opening (now it bothers me that I can’t for the life of me remember what set me off on this jaunt).

Offering options to the player for what kind of Phantom they want to have in their story, whether modern or archaic, and your choice of insane, vengeful, or romantic personalities, is a nice touch to acknowledge the diversity of different moods the story can have, though I think this is primarily a bit of sleight of hand to prime the player’s expectations rather than a significant branch point (I went for sexytrad my first go-round, then did a quick psychomod replay, and only saw substantial divergence in a few elements of the last scene of Act III). In fact while there are a lot of choices, almost all of them felt to me like the kind of choices that allow the player to reflect on how they understand the main character (you play Christine) and their circumstances, rather than slotting in different options for the narrative. As it happens, this is one of my favorite things choice games allow you to do, so that worked for me, but I can see other players perhaps being a bit frustrated by the perception of linearity.

So the main draw really is the writing and the story, and you’re in good hands here. The author does a great job of moving the story around in time and place, and concisely sketching in characters and situations, so elegantly you’re never quite aware of how the trick’s being done. I am not an opera buff at all, but the prose effectively conveys both the behind-the-scenes mechanics of how it is produced and performed, as well as the aesthetic impact it has when done well. There are also some good jokes: in discussing the legend of the phantom, one character says “Some people say he was a famous tenor who died onstage. But other people say that’s just romantic nonsense, and he was really a baritone.” (I think that’s an opera-diss).

The two main characters very much come through. The author conveys a mix of tyranny, wistfulness, and threat in the Phantom, which is as it should be. And this Christine is definitely not the ingenue of the musical – one of my favorite bits is that when the Phantom first brings her back to his subterranean lair, she fans out her keys into impromptu brass knuckles just in case! I found that to be a bit of a double-edged sword, though – I have an extended series of thoughts on that with which I’ll wrap up, so those who haven’t played yet, feel free to hop off at this point secure in knowing that Phantom is worth the time!

All right, those of y’all left, please join me behind the curtain as we explore what I mean about Christine: (Spoiler - click to show)The major surprise of Phantom has nothing to do with the titular cape-afficionado: it’s that Christine is one hardcore motherfucker. After her rival tries to put itching powder in her wig, Christine escalates – in one step! – to straight-up murder. In fact when reflecting on said rival, she shares this observation: “Unfortunately, you have never been very good at making friends with other women. In your own mind, you mostly categorize them into two groups: those who are potentially useful to you, and those who are potential rivals.” And this is after choosing the option to try to be friendly! Or again, here’s her thought process when being introduced to Raoul: “This is a man who could make your career, if only you can win his support. But how? If you were to sleep with him, would that help to secure him? Or is it just what everyone does?” Lady, if that’s what everyone does, he is going to give you chlamydia.

There’s nothing inherently wrong with making Christine an antihero rather than a naif, but I’m not sure it really works. For one thing, this characterization flirts with some misogynistic tropes, which I don’t think is intended at all, but since the game is so short we don’t really get a sense of her as a more rounded character or if there’s anything behind her sociopathy, putting her at risk of being a comic-opera villain. But more saliently, it feels odd to cram this Christine into the exact same plot structure of the traditional Phantom – with the murder only described obliquely and retrospectively, she’s still more acted-upon than acting, and often feels passive (the fact that the choices don’t generally change the narrative but are only internal is maybe a factor here). I think there were some missed opportunities to break the mold and do something unexpected to give our new Christine the opportunity to come into her own.


1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
Phantom considerations, December 6, 2020
by AKheon (Finland)
Related reviews: drama, IF Comp 2020, choice-based, Twine
Phantom is a choice-based game by Peter Eastman, published in 2020. It’s a story-driven 30-minute experience about an aspiring opera singer who meets the Phantom (of the Opera).

The game begins with some discussion about the tropes pertaining to this classic horror character. On my first playthrough, I assumed the purpose of this was to refresh the player's memory and ease them into the setting. (Spoiler - click to show)You could argue the whole game largely *is* a character study of Phantom; in some ways this idea even eclipses the rather low-key main story line.

The writing is generally good. It has enough detail to create a convincing image of the main character and her aspiring opera singer ways. The overall pace of the story is quite fast, though, and towards the end characters are introduced and plot developments happen so fast that not all of it has the weight it deserves. (Spoiler - click to show)The biggest twist here is that the protagonist is also villainous, so it’s not a clear-cut “beauty and the beast” tale this time around.

Your choices during the game (Spoiler - click to show)are less significant than you'd hope. Act III changes depending on what you picked earlier on, but not by too much. For example, I think that even if you choose classic Phantom, he is still a master of using modern technology and cameras for some reason.

The game has multimedia. There’s a background image of red curtains that creates a nice stage for the story, although when I was playing on Chrome, the lowest part of the graphic sometimes cut off to white instead of black, which looked a bit glitchy. The game also uses some background music. The snippets of classical and opera music work well in the context, but some of the public domain samples suffer from the limitations of their day, making the game feel a bit anachronistic. The story is supposed to take place in the modern day, but the audio quality brings to mind the 40s.

Overall, Phantom is not perfect, but it should offer an interesting time if you enjoy any media related to this classic horror character.

- Karl Ove Hufthammer (Bergen, Norway), December 4, 2020

- necromancer, December 4, 2020

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
An investigation into the myth, December 2, 2020
by Stian
Related reviews: ifcomp 2020
Phantom is an investigation into the myth and the various portrayals of Erik, the Phantom of the Opera. As a choice IF, it reconstructs the story – albeit in a very abridged form – based on which aspects of the different adaptations you would like to see, including an option for further modernisation. Although this rendition is too short to be considered a thorough discussion of the character, it is nicely done, with the music being an extra nice touch. Only slightly bothersome was a strip of white background below the text on most pages, which does not seem intentional and should be changed to black.

- Spike, November 30, 2020

- Sobol (Russia), November 25, 2020

- Zape, October 26, 2020

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
A retelling of the Phantom of the Opera story in a modern setting, October 20, 2020
by Enrique Henestroza Anguiano (Oakland, California)
As one might expect, Phantom retells the classic story, this time in a modern setting and fully from the perspective of Christine as she navigates opera house intrigue and encounters the titular singing tutor.

The story has very solid writing and characterization, with a Christine and Phantom that feel fully fleshed out. The scene-level approach to structuring choice points is also polished and a bit reminiscent of the Choice of Games style, usually presenting alternative approaches for overcoming an obstacle.

The flip side of this is that the game is very text heavy, with relatively few choice points and interactivity—it could have used some mini-scenes with lower stakes choices to create more dynamism. Also, something minor, but the musical component didn’t work well on my browser, only playing during the first and last scenes and cutting off abruptly after a bit in both cases.

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
Light-touch remix of Phantom of the Opera, October 18, 2020
by verityvirtue (London)
It's from Phantom of the Opera, of course. Keenly aware of its source material, the game opens almost by establishing the player's own understanding. I, for one, enjoyed the possibility of a modern remake - how do you maintain the mystique of Gaston Leroux's Phantom when everything, it seems, can be found on the internet?

Structured in three short acts, with broad-strokes choices, Phantom casts Christine Daae in quite a different light. I found it interesting that the choices given the most granularity were the emotional ones, not the moral ones.

Overall an attractive adaptation of a story one not usually remixed (as much as, say, Sherlock Holmes or Lovecraft).

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
A multimedia retelling/spin on the Phantom of the Opera, October 10, 2020
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes
This game gave me all sorts of different reactions.

First of all, it has nice visuals and sounds chosen from a variety of operas and symphonies.

The text is slow during musical portions, but the game overall is relatively short.

This game is a retelling of the Phantom of the Opera, where you can customize it in 6 different ways depending on the time period and the way you perceive the story of the Phantom.

However, on replay, choosing entirely different options, I found myself with almost the exact same story. I checked the code of the game, and all the stats affect at most one or two paragraphs each.

The writing is interesting and makes for a good retelling, with narrative twists. I felt that the characterization of Christine as seductress was surprising to me and didn't really gel with my version of the character, and then later events further differed, but I suppose that's the variety in retelling a story.

So I honestly don't know. This is in no way what I would consider a bad game, but it has a lot of unusual choices that I need to sit and unpack for a while.

+Polish: Everything worked well from the get-go.
+Descriptiveness: The characters and locations were vivid to me.
+Interactivity: Despite the small effects of choices, I felt like it was interactive, especially the first time.
+Emotional impact: I'm a Phantom of the Opera fan, so it was fun to play it in Twine form.
+Would I play it again? I don't plan on revisiting this.


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