It was summer of 1995, when I discovered the PC game Phantasmagoria, released by the great Sierra On-Line. This point-and-click adventure game told the story of Adrienne Delaney, a successful mystery novelist who moves into a remote mansion and finds herself terrorized by supernatural forces. Adrienne is accompanied by her photographer husband, Don Gordon. Their new home is located off the coast of a small New England island that was previously owned by a famous 19th-century magician: Zoltan “Carno” Carnovasch, whose five wives all died by mysterious circumstances.
You play the game as Adrienne, who is hoping to find an inspiration for her next novel. Upon moving in, she begins to have nightmares. She explores the estate, where upon she makes mysterious discoveries, such as strange music, written warnings on her computer, and ominous messages from a fortune-teller automaton.
As you click-through, guiding Adrienne along, you begin to uncover more details about “Carno” the magician, his evil ways, and that he has not quite departed this world. It is up to you to stop him.
The game is an interesting take on the interactive movie game, which this one was made during the peak of their popularity. It included only four mouse commands: look (which changed to “talk to” when selecting a person), pick up item, use item, and walk. The mouse cursor is an arrow and turns red when it passes over an area where the user can click to perform an action. Once the action is completed, the cursor will not turn red again. You can pick up objects in the game by clicking on them or interacting with them in a film sequence, after which the item automatically gets placed in your inventory.
Since the game is more focused around the storyline and atmosphere, the game difficulty was toned down, thus making the puzzles relatively easy, logical and straightfoward.
The game was very controversial when it was released. Due to the graphic gore, violence, and sex, the nation’s largest discount computer retailer, CompUSA, notified Sierra it would not stock the game. Numerous parents’ groups, religious organizations, community action committees, and special interest groups called for a boycott, sending letters to the Sierra offices voicing their objections to the game.
Originally budgeted for $800,000, the game eventually cost $4.5 million to develop, and it was filmed in a studio that cost $1.5 million, which Sierra built specifically for the game!
Despite the controversy, the game was a financial success, grossing $12 million in its opening weekend!
Phantasmagoria definitely is an outdated looking game by today’s standards, but if you’re a fan of old PC games and are looking for something different to play during this Geek-o-Ween season, you might was to give this game a look. I will warn you that it is not for children to play and some scenes may be upsetting, so play it at your own risk.