Phantom Club
for ZX Spectrum

Company: Ocean
Year: 1988
Genre: Adventure, Action
Theme: Misc. Fantasy / Unique
Language: English
Licence: Commercial
Views: 7482
Review by Moebius (2015-11-28)

Phantom Club. A brotherhood of supernatural heroes. A place where impossible becomes possible and defies reason. Things went wrong when Zarg the overlord has attained to supreme powers and turned to the dark side. Next he will corrupt others and eventually they will fall under his foul dominion. All except one, who will rebel against the new order and seek to restore the status quo. A daredevil greenhorn named Plutus, the most inexperienced of all but with fully developed alpha instinct is challenging Zarg and his puppets!

This is the second work of the serbian programmer Dusko Dimitrijevic (codename Duke) after his successful MOVIE, only this time it's less adventure and a lot more action. The art and graphics of the game mimic MOVIE tangibly, offering the same 3D isometric perspective, high-detailed scenery, fluid animation, but also somewhat improved dynamics and swifter gameplay. Likewise, apart from Spectrum this was only ever ported to CPC, which, I believe, ensured its obscurity to certain extent. The target of the game is to complete a series of missions which involve locating and eliminating Zarg's high-ranking ministers, where in a series of success you develop your powers eventually plenty enough to confront Zarg himself. In the mean time you have to battle lesser adversaries, avoid traps and collect points which are essential to your progress. Above all, the main challenges in the game are mapping and survival skills.

Your champion is a psychic warrior who looks terribly like an american football player. He can run, flip over barriers and shoot at his opponents with a magical beam from his head. Unlike MOVIE here you have whole 5 lives and extra energy bar in a form of a sword, which shortens every time you suffer a bad encounter. But even that is far from heaven as far as my personal experience goes. Here you have 550 screens in total (holy cow!), almost every room holds one or a whole band of enemies you must either avoid or clash with, which oftentimes leads to energy/life loss, let alone occasional traps which may cause you plenty of damage. Meanwhile, you must always seek out specific objects and personalities often located in the various remote parts of this astoundingly colossal maze, where in the course of it you may die not 5 times, but 50. So staying alive here is one of the major hurdles, in fact.

Your average foes are similar to you but use different powers, although sharing one thing in common: like you most of them shoot rings, lightning bolts and other psychic charge from their heads. Some of them can be paralized with one shot, others have to get beam-struck repeatedly. None of them, however, are permanently disqualified, and each time you re-enter the same room they are all revitalized and active as ever. Some of them on hit can turn into nasty spiders which are pain in the ass and can't be destroyed. Some are bizarre droid looking figures most of which you likewise cannot destroy and therefore must simply avoid. There are also traps and static hazards you must skirt, like killer plants, piercing columns emerging from the ground and rotating cogwheels.

Some of the rooms are special survival and deathmatch zones. One type traps you inside with hell knows who or what and won't let you out until you neutralize its occupant(s). Another keeps you inside only for a certain interval of time (about 20 sec) and you are only exempted when the beeping sound stops which is engaged on entrance. Such rooms are marked with a respective icon appearing in the top left corner when entered. Some of your enemies dwell only in the deathmatch rooms, namely Psi Man who unlike others can't be killed directly, instead you must aim at his floating bird-like soul which if contacted drains your energy. It may take a while till you find the right position and finally destroy the target. These technically qualify as traps but are often unavoidable, therefore they fall into the category of natural obstacles.

To face any of the superior opponents you must find them first, but prior to that receive the right mission which is rank-specific and is technically a license to kill. This is done by shooting at the large screen showing horse animation in some of the rooms, which also have to be found as it's a challenge in itself. Also, you have to make sure you collect enough points to unlock the mission, otherwise you may cover a long bloody distance from one far-off part of the maze to another only to discover that you still don't qualify for the task. And with each successfully accomplished mission your title is promoted and you are admitted to greater challenges. You must progress through a total of 10 ranks, from Zelator (your initial title) to Ipsissimus to eventually level up to Zarg and defy him. Incidentally, this is a second instance of so-called magical ranks used in a computer game which I've already mentioned in my Heavy on the Magick review.

To make your life easier there are certain rooms holding special objects which aid you in some ways. Revolving spheres on posts shower you with extra points if shot at. Similar looking cubes allow you to save your current progress, so on restore you proceed from the last saved position. Large floating bubbles grant you an extra life if touched once, however, touching it again may take the newly given life away. Floating diamonds can speed up the game for your convenience, although I never found it particularly useful and always thought it's a hindrance of some kind. All these objects like everything else in this game must be located first, and that may take plenty of time.

Finale. This here is a really tough and unusually lasting game. It provides you with a vast playground and presents a challenge within a challenge within another challenge. Mapping skills? No, folks. This game needs a freaking map! And even so it doesn't make things much easier, I assure you. You can play this game literally forever, and in that sense it sure is singular and unparalleled. Lastly, if you don't know how to waste your free time effectively I suggest you play Phantom Club and see if you can ever get to meet Zarg, which I, frankly, never accomplished myself. Let me know if you're successful, I will personally congratulate you and shake your hand. Good luck.

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