The Phantom Block Alpha

Phantom Block

First, let me say one thing: I am absolute crap at platformers. Phantom Block is a puzzle/platformer.

Phantom Block comes to use from Michael Celani, also known as Phantom Block !5Yn0PMIwXM. It’s a puzzle/platform game with an very unique and fun main game mechanic, as well as a insidiously cute visual style. Everything is so bright and happy, I’m half expecting it to pull a full Eversion and turn grim-dark. The sounds are fairly well done as well, so that’s pretty good. 

Onto the actual game. You control a little walking square thing with the basic set of abilities. You can walk, jump and bonk enemies on their stupid round heads, unless they have spikes. We’ve seen this a hundred thousand times before. You jump a bit high, but that’s about it.2

Until, that is, you get your first power-up: Ghost.

In this game, you don’t just need WASD/arrow keys, you actually use your mouse as well. You can click on blocks to affect them with your special powers, and boy is there quite the variety! Ghost can make blocks intangible, to both you and enemies. So, for example, you can use the power in this pic to quickly get rid of those enemies. There’s also spring, gum, magnet and even one clearly inspired by VVVVVVV that reverse gravity.

The real best part, for me, is the level design. Oh fucking god the level design is so good I am sexually attracted to the level design. It’s that good. Seriously, Each puzzle usually has a few different ways that it can be solved through your various tools. And each jump is perfect so that people like me (shit at platformers) always know what is and isn’t a jump-able ledge.

The the puzzle elements are so perfect. They are a few simple mechanics (spikes, floating platforms from SMB3, button/gates, enemies, crates etc.). Each one is introduced in a very good way that lets you learn about them in a vacuum, then makes you apply that knowledge. Here is a button, the game would say, when you stand on it, these lock blocks disappear. Here is a box. You can push the box, and it weighs down buttons. Oh, and you can stand on this box. And the special blocks affect the box. Oh, and there is a spring block you can place. And there you go, like 40 different puzzles can be made from those three elements.

But, sadly, not all is sunshine and roses. I prefaced this review with an admission of my own terribleness, so the following critique may not be entirely accurate: the jump is borked. Again, this may just be me, but I find that the jump button just… doesn’t work sometimes. Usually when I am running and jumping off a ledge, I just kind of walk right off. Or with the puzzles about jumping on a monsters head for the boost, sometimes I just impotently bounce off with all the power of a strong fart.

And secondly, and this may be related to the previous comment, the game is hard. The puzzle aspects are fun, but the platforming aspects hurt my soul. But, it doesn’t seem like it’s the game’s fault, but rather my own, so I don’t hold that against it.

All in all, Phantom Block is a tremendous little game with so much polish it shines. Throw in a few levels and it will sell extremely well on Steam.

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