The Phantom of the Opera tale has seen many different adaptations, whether it be movies, musicals or rock operas. The plot for MicroProse's 1993 adventure game Return of the Phantom is a sequel to the events of the source novel, taking place 100 years later.
The Paris Opera House is putting on a show. It's Don Juan Triumphant, a piece written 100 years ago by Erik the legendary Phantom. History repeats itself as a chandelier crashes down into the packed auditorium, killing several patrons. You are Raoul Montand, a police officer who just happened to be present and has taken it upon himself to investigate.
The game looks stunning for 1993 standards. The backgrounds are beautifully drawn and the character sprites are made up of "real" actors. I say actors, but you wouldn't think so when you hear some of them speak. It is often laughably bad, particularly when it comes to the lead actress in the double role of Christine Daae and Christine Florent. A look in the manual shows why. The actor playing Raoul is Charles Shenton, a professional actor who has appeared on several British TV and stage shows. He's not too bad. Scroll down to the Christine's bio played by Laura Duirk and you get this:
"Ms Duirk is making her professional stage debut with Return of the Phantom. She was the
discovery of the Opera manager during the massive talent search for these two demanding
roles. After auditioning more than 400 hopefuls, the manager settled on his Accounts
Receivable Coordinator, who was sitting outside his office during the entire process."
The character profiles may have been written in jest and it's debatable how true they actually are, but it shows the amount of effort they put into the voice work. I can't complain. Full voice acting was a rarity in 1993 and those that had speech were often tragically bad. This falls in the entertainingly bad category.
The game is not particularly challenging. Most of the puzzles require manipulation of objects on the same screen. While there is an inventory, it is seldom used and often is filled with red herrings that have no purpose. There is a particularly large maze in the catacombs later in the game, which can take you hours to get through if you don't know what you're doing. This was noted in reviews at the time, but these are the types of puzzles that walkthroughs are made for.
The plot plays out like fan fiction (in that regards it's similar to the Webber sequel Love Never Dies). Halfway during the game, you are pushed from the scaffolding by the phantom only to be taken back to the 1890s when the original events took place. If you remember the Robert England (aka Freddy Kreuger) horror movie version, it's the same thing. It now more or less follows the plot of the original story.
I really enjoyed my time with the Phantom. It does have its flaws but it doesn't detract from the overall experience. The graphics, atmosphere and humour (however unintentional) all make it a joy to play through. If you can get past the dodgy acting and annoying mazes, you'll find plenty to like in this cult gem. Well worth it.
As of 11th September 2020, Return of the Phantom is now available to buy on GOG.
Buy from GOG
Return of the Phantom is © MicroProse
Review, Cover Design and Installer created by me