Version Reviewed: 1.0
Device Reviewed On: iPad Air
Graphics / Sound Rating:
Replay Value Rating:
Busting ghosts makes you feel good. This is a scientific fact. And it’s as true in video games as it is in the real world. Solving puzzles, nabbing spooks, and exploring haunted mansions in The Phantom PI Mission Apparition will definitely make you feel good.
Players put on the monocle of Cecil Sparks, the titular Phantom PI. Instead of helping the living with their ghost problems, as one might expect, Sparks helps ghosts deal with other ghosts upsetting their peaceful afterlife. In this particular mission, he’s helping deceased rock star Marshall Staxx recover his stolen gear from a bullying, gluttonous, Slimer-esque specter named Baublebelly. Along the way, players will learn more about Staxx’s time on Earth through newspaper scraps, demo tapes, and other effective forms of emergent storytelling.
The Phantom PI's 20 levels are mostly comprised of 2D haunted mansion puzzle rooms. To reach the exit, players will hop up and down floors solving clever environmental puzzles. Need to put out a fire? Find the bucket and fill it with water. Need to sneak by a looter? Use a potted plant as camouflage. While progressing, players will also occasionally unearth spirits to catch through a tracing minigame. While other adventure games frequently trip players up with overly obtuse solutions, The Phantom PI succeeds with tight, smart brainteasers and by giving players an excellent sense of place within the manageably sized mansions. Each act is punctuated with an arcade boss fight where players activate bright ladders to climb like Donkey Kong.
Victory requires a keen eye, which is also great for taking in the game’s exquisite visuals. Objects hover in the background, character animations are full of personality, and the creaky homes feel genuinely lived-in. But these flourishes aren’t just for show. There are lots of secrets, like extra ghosts and backstories to collect, hiding in plain sight within these little details. The 3D graphics might look a bit blocky, but the atmosphere is so infectious it’s hard to notice or care. That goes for the appropriately eerie music as well.
The Phantom PI Mission Apparition is simply a joy to look at and play. It’s not a great mobile game, it’s a great game that just happens to be on mobile.