Phenomenon 32

By: Derek Yu

On: May 24th, 2010

Phenomenon 32

[This is a guest review by Gregory Weir. If you’re interested in writing an article for TIGSource, please go here.]

Phenomenon 32 is a bleak game by Jonas Kyratzes, creator of the previously-featured House at Desert Bridge. Earth is gone, destroyed in the 50s by a Reality Bomb based on the elusive Phenomenon 32. The only surviving humans are on the Moon Colony, and they’re running out of resources. Your team must explore the distorted remains of Earth to find a solution, but the Reality Bomb has turned it into an alien mishmash of old buildings, twisted plants, and dangerous anomalies.

Phenomenon 32 is an exploration platformer in the vein of Zelda II. Each area is represented by a spot on the overworld map, and contains resources as well as bits of technology that allow you to research enhancements to your initially fragile ship. Reaching the exit of an area unlocks new areas, and many areas have multiple exits.

The game starts off quite hard; your ship has precious few hit points, your weapon is weak, and your movement is clumsy. However, with a bit of exploration and expenditure of resources, your ship quickly becomes quite capable, although the threats in later areas will still prove challenging. This is a huge game, with a broad array of new tools and enhancements for your ship and upwards of 35 levels.

The graphics and sound here are great. The art is black-and-white, with the shapes of things just indistinct enough to look alien and uncanny. The music ranges from atmospheric to downright nightmarish. There’s also full voice acting, which helps excuse the large download size.

The game has a pair of opening sequences that may drag on a bit longer than you’d like, but they can be skipped with the ENTER key and don’t contain any essential gameplay information. The game’s also a little rough around the edges, in part due to outgrowing its development environment; Kyratzes claims it’s the largest game ever made in Construct, and I’m inclined to believe him. There’s occasional slowdown and even rarer crashes, but nothing that should erase your progress or make the game unplayable.

This is a massive, creepy, challenging RPG platformer, and I highly recommend it.

  • !CE-9


    …still downloading!

    I like the overall, initial feeling of originality, seriousness and developer care about this one (like in the aulden days, when something really special was announced and I couldn't wait to get my hands on it). Content-richness is always welcome.

    Off to actually play it.

  • Endurion

    I wouldn't call the crashes rare. It called once on clicking “[Phenomenon 32]”, and on the second try after the briefing and mission choice.
    Looks and sounds interesting though…

  • Ghede

    I've completed about 10 stages, and have yet to find the resource required to repair and restock on missiles. The “Go back to start everytime you die” mechanic is insanely frustrating, especially since there is no clear indication of what can kill you. I bump into what I thought was scenery, I die and have to go back to start.

  • Ghede

    Gahhhh. Found out that the resource I was missing turned out to look exactly like a deadly spike on the ceiling.

  • pgil

    I've been looking forward to this for a while. Unfortunately, I get an “unexpected error” :(

  • LaserDracula

    The voice acting is surprisingly not bad but completely out of place given the simplicity of the rest of the game. Why is the ship a little ball that has to jump?

  • Cellulose Man

    Awesome to see this posted here! Does it work in Vista now?

    I voiced the young Lieutentant in the intro. :D

    The manual mentions stuff like the cieling-goo, by the way.

  • Moldar

    Sadly, I am unable to play this game. I have been waiting for its release for a long time. I keep getting an error that says:

    Failed to load plugin
    C:UsersMoldarAppDataLocalTempcapA377.tmp8.csx (126)

    Running Windows 7 – any tips?

  • !CE-9

    yes, it does work in Vista.

  • Lailoken

    I've played for about 2 hours now and I really really like it. Yes it's frustrating to have to go back to start of a level when you die, but that just adds a sense of danger. And scenery that kills you (bulbous plants for example) is supposed to be part of the mystery, exploration, and fear of the unknown. It reminds me of S.T.A.L.K.E.R. in terms of the atmosphere.

    My only minor gripe so far is that found equipment is not very gratifying in that you need to find many parts to get one upgrade to work.

    It crashes sometimes when I alt-tab, but other than that it is completely stable for me.

  • guest

    200 MB is music, unless 55 megs counts as the biggest construct game ever then w/e

  • Name

    It does feel a lot like what I expected from S.T.A.L.K.E.R. originally. Stuff you don't pay a second glance killing you, anomalies you know are there but don't know if they kill you or not, having to wait for a danger to pass as opposed to shooting it – just how the Zone is supposed to be. It could have some sort of early warning, though. Nothing like clearing good part of the level only to wander into an irradiated zone and dying instantly.
    The only big gripe I have is the controls. Shift+left+up locks up my keyboard, making some jumps an exercise in dexterity.

  • Wellwellwell

    Had to THINK twice before I got the point. This game is hard, a highly recommended game frankly. Respect.

  • Anon

    I never thought I'd see Phenomenon 32, let alone create it.

  • thewreck

    is there a small delay between pressing shift to jump and the craft actually jumping for anyone else? I found that to be very frustrating, causing many deaths… hard to really get into the game when you feel that way.. Loved the intro though.. looked through the whole thing.. extremely nice feeling!

  • SirNiko

    Downloaded, played the first few levels. It's looking good so far, I'll probably go back for more. I dislike the voice acting between missions. Not because it's bad, it's actually really good, but I don't like having all this talk front-loaded into the game when I'm trying to get in and play it. I find myself wishing I could display all the text at once so I could read it quickly and move to the next.

    There are little touches like the billboards that are nice, but other parts feel too long and not interesting enough.

    I wish the materials stood out better against the background. Those are pretty basic, and once you recognize them it shouldn't be an issue trying to find them again. I also dislike the way you're constantly kicked back if you die, especially after you've collected a bunch of minor materials all over the place. If it was just one or two important pick-ups and I could grab one and hot-tail it out before I die, I wouldn't mind.

    This looks like it could be pretty good. We'll see how it stands up over the next few levels.


  • Malasdair

    This thing is driving me up the wall with rage but I can't stop playing. It's infuriating and brilliant. I hate it but it's so good. I think I need to spend an hour or two grinding before attempting anything else. I'd say the difficulty is slightly broken, but with good reason – it is set in an unfamiliar, unforgiving, hostile environment. I would file this under 'daring' if not exactly 'original'.

  • meepmeep

    I'm getting the same error, but on XP.
    Any help?

  • Paul

    Given the above comment about not recognizing one of the minerals, I can see why he warned people to read the manual. That said, I'm not sure why a manual is a substitute for good level design that instructs the player through play (I think Auntie Pixelante wrote some good articles about this in Star Guard and Mario). Maybe it's the theme of being on a totally alien planet shining through – but if this is the case, why give us a manual at all?

    The rest of the page, I agree, is quite patronizing. You should let players discover they dislike the game after playing it, not tell them they'll dislike it before they even download. I don't know much about game programming, but why was this made in Construct? It seems quite buggy. There are all kinds of platforming glitches, and whenever I alt-tab on the world map, the map part disappears. If, in addition to this, Construct creates huge files with high processor load (for a game which doesn't really seem to be that complex wrt processing), why use it?

    All this aside, I've been enjoying it so far. It is incredibly frustrating, but at the same time really atmospheric, and the sound design is great – the background music/noise as well as the weird sounds the monsters make. I've yet to uncover any major twists or hooks in the plot, so I'm not sure how to analyze it yet. The voice acting is spot-on, and I really enjoy it when after purchasing an upgrade one of the scientists congratulates me on building it.

    Hopefully this will be only good things. We'll see.

  • Jonas

    is not meant to be patronising. It is meant to avoid the misunderstandings that caused a flood of unhappy casual game players to start writing me personal notes about the evils of the game. I know some of the things on the list may seem obvious or irrelevant to you, but trust me, posting that thing has made my life a lot easier. It wasn't meant to offend.

    (The new patch makes the controls more accessible, by the way. Not having the traditional x/z/y/c controls was a stupid mistake.)

    – Jonas

  • Jonas

    I've never heard of that problem before. Must be a Construct compatibility issue (or maybe something to do with DirectX?). As soon as I get the time, I'll have a look around the Construct forums, maybe there's something about it there.

  • Someone who finished the game

    Roughly 50% of people who play this game do exactly this.

    Great game design at work!

  • Someone who finished the game

    Yes, everyone who disliked your game was an unhappy casual game player. You did not make any mistakes – anyone who does not like your game design is a casual player and thus not worth catering to.

    Resources should look like deadly spikes, and bombs should look like trees. Everyone who doesn't get it is a casual. Brilliant.

  • Jonas

    That is not what I claimed at all. It is absolutely your right to disagree with my game design decisions, as it is my right to make the game the way I think best. That's the point of any kind of art, isn't it? No-one ever agrees about what is good, but we make it anyway.

    I have no desire to get into a long discussion about why my game offended you; I am merely saying that a large portion of the complaints came from people who are used to a different kind of game, and this list was written to help people decide whether this game was the kind of thing they might be interested in. And it worked. Surely that cannot be so offensive?

  • DimJim

    I've explored 24 areas and found 13 places (counting the construction and R&D buildings) and now I can't find any more. I'm pretty sure there's something in the Lab but I can't find it. Where should I go next?

  • Review

    I found the comments about this game to be far more enjoyable when they were posted on the something awful forums.

    The ending to this game is very weak, compared to all the effort you put into it. Ultimately there is no final boss fight, only a several-hour-long trek to gather about 2 thousand units in resources so you can watch a 3 minute cutscene of googled images of space while listening to audio clips of MLK jr and Carl Sagan.

    The game feels more like an advert for the author's own world view (he is socialist-atheist). You could save the time and wrist-breaking pain of the game to simply wiki the concepts of socialism and atheism.

  • Chrono

    It's not 'mystery' when you're focused on 20 different things (those little flying things that are a pain in the ass to shoot) and you end up bouncing between them because you tried to dodge through that mess.

    The fact that everything is so bland makes this game relatively unenjoyable for me (those damn trees that are set for you to bounce between), and the fact that I often can't look before I leap (given how many times it would have actually helped) is infuriating. Also, why does a serious tone game have grindy elements? It's a game that's more of a chore than a game. It's screaming 'Neva' to me all over the place.

    But hey, the voicework is pretty nice, so it's not all bad. Just wish I had a way to speed up the text sometimes (it's actually surprising that the voiceover outpaces the text once in a while).

  • Chrono


  • Devin

    Man. I love it, but I seem to have run out of things to do. I've got 4/6 of the communications array bits, but I can't advance due to R3 radiation. I think I've checked the levels pretty thoroughly, what am I missing?

  • M.

    The gameplay is far too thin a reed to support such heavyweight worldbuilding. And instantly dying to random hazards and things which you can't tell what they're supposed to be, with the result of constantly having to start levels over, becomes agonizing fast. Avoid.

  • BAWZ

    I don't think hazards are any random… Level design and monster placement are really well integrated, putting up quite a challenge… One hell of a game, quite difficult, yes, but wait until you start getting some upgrades, I actually flew through a lot of levels once I got boosters, stealth and some more health. Great sensation of accomplishment without taking away the overall .difficulty, always keeps you on your toes.

    Plus, I really really like the style.

    Great job, Jonas, please keep making stuff!

  • Snave

    I really, really wanted to like this. The concept and old-school difficulty are exactly what I like. Plus the general artistic style and story.

    Here's the catch though: its just too buggy! Clipping, wall and enemy detection are questionable. Often I get caught on walls and then flung out randomly. Hitting movement buttons does not always yield the same result, but does most of the time, so I'm guessing this is an unitended mechanic? My guy would also get stuck on falling blocks such that they would stop falling, then fall rapidly, then stop falling. Sometimes, without warning.

    The game felt like a frustrating grind. Most of the difficulty I encountered was derived from luck instead of player skill, or what the game appears to be promoting: player choice. Choice of taking a leap of faith one way or another is not real choice. When even the intro stages are just annoying then you've got a problem.

    Still, I perservered because I hoped these were just teething problems, that perhaps your movement grid not lining up with the enemy one would be fixed with a wider shot, or a motion upgrade later. Then I met radiation.

    The radiation mechanic in particular is bugged beyond belief. Instead of actually implimenting it, it appears there are squares that are insta death if you don't have the right item on those levels. Whilst that means you could trial and error your way through without the right powerups, I found these invisible radiation squares on other stages too. Hit a mistaken one on a non-radiation stage and the game crashes and burns, no saving. That was the final straw. I came to the conclusion that “I Want to be The Guy” was more forgiving than “Phenomenon 32″'s radiation.

    This game was undeiably frustrating to me, but ultimately most of the frustration was not from bugs, or gameplay, or anything else but the knowledge that behind these issued there was something I wactually wanted to play and knew I could genuinely enjoy. I liked the style mostly too. Ok, the graphics were a little inconsistent in a few spots, but all in all it had a distinctive appearance which was neat.

    Please Jonas, if you are reading this, consider a few tweaks here and there. Even if they reduce the difficulty early on, at least then there is a bit of wiggle-room for any buggy bits left in. Instakill bugs are not fun. Challenge from gameplay MUST be greater than challenge provided by glitches.

    For the record, I'm running Vista.