Never before has a game suffered from such an identity crisis. If you bought this game, the cover picture told you it was Phantom of the Asteroids. But when you got to the loading screen, it had become Phantom of the Asteroid. Then, once it had loaded, the title screen said it was Phantoms of the Asteroid!
So, which was it? Well, given that you were on an asteroid and there were phantoms, I would say it should have been Phantoms of the Asteroid. That's what I've always called it, anyway.
I'm-a-livin' in a box... I'm-a-livin' in a laser-edged box...
Phantoms opens with an excellent, rousing and energetic Rob Hubbard track, which just gets you in the mood for a fast-paced spacey shoot 'em up. Which, erm, you don't get. Instead, it's more of a leisurely exploration game.
Actually, it's not that leisurely. Granted, you move around the gigantic asteroid at a slow pace, but the phantoms appear very often indeed, so you'll have to keep your finger on your laser trigger or you won't be getting off the thing alive. Or dead, actually.
There's a reason why you're on this asteroid, though, besides just having a bit of a look around. It's actually on a collision course with Earth, and that wouldn't be good. So it's your job to stop it.
Ahhhh... precious fuel.
It should be easy enough... just float about the inner passages of the asteroid, collect the 36 uranium cubes that are known to be located within, combine them and get out of there before the thing blows to smithereens. Nothing to it.
The thing is, this asteroid is home to thousands of phantoms. And they're pretty clever beings, intent on taking over the Earth (although they can't be that clever, because if their asteroid hits Earth, both will be destroyed. Ummm.). The asteroid is riddled with deadly laser gates which hinder your progress. In fact, they're worse than that... touch any of them, just once, and you're dead, and all Earth's hope is gone.
That makes Phantoms of the Asteroid a very difficult game. It's absolutely huge, which makes it a bit unfair that you can lose it all with one miscalculation. You've got a lot to keep an eye on besides that; fuel, energy and oxygen are all depleting constantly and must be topped up, if you can find any of those things lying around.
That would be my first uranium cube, if it wasn't for that massive wall in the way...
It's funny, because there's a lot of emptiness in this game, with large spells where you're flying around empty caverns with just occasional phantoms for company. You could say that would make for a boring game, but I think it actually adds loads to the atmosphere. It feels like you're in a desolate place, which is how it should be.
For £1.99, it's impossible to argue with the value that Phantoms of the Asteroid provided. It's an enormous challenge, truly living up to both of those words. If you've ever completed it without cheating, I salute you.