Phantom of the Arcade 2: Shadows, Darkness, and Dread

by Susan Arendt and John Moulton

Episode 2 of Phantom of the Arcade

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Number of Reviews: 2
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4 of 6 people found the following review helpful:
Creepy, Funny, but Fizzling, March 28, 2010
by AmberShards (The Gothic South)

POTA2 has many compelling elements -- a creepy atmosphere, a believable plot, a snarky narrator, and a dash of humor; however it also features features missing punctuation, erroneous game messages, profanity, a bare-bones implementation, and a throw-away ending. The result is a playable, moderately enjoyable game that fizzles out at the end.

As far as the atmosphere goes, horror often needs moments that release tension so that it doesn't become unbearable; POTA2 provides those points in just the right amounts (for example, note the name of the Ferris wheel contrasted with the rest of its description). The plot is basic, but functional and believable, but the main puzzle is thrown off-kilter by the uneven scoring system. I thought that the game was much larger than it turned out being due to that alone; a third or more of the points result from one action at the very end of the game. And speaking of that action, a false message leads you to believe that there's another item you have to find, when that is not the case.

The implementation's bare-boned nature also misleads you into thinking that there are more tasks to complete; in an absence of guidance, you're left to experiment endlessly with no clue as to whether you're on the right path or not. This encourages you to waste time on red herrings and not use certain items for their intended purposes. Even those intended purposes are not obvious because they are, in at least one instance, a stretch.

The ending came as a complete surprise, and an unwelcome surprise at that. Apparently winning involves making a certain choice at the beginning of the game in an area which you cannot get back to in order to do something that is wholly unethical -- in short, something which I would never have thought to do, and which would be out of character for the PC.

On the whole, POTA2 initially tastes good, but leaves you with a bad aftertaste, much like a diet soda on a hot day.