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The Wonderful Murders In: Roberta Williams' Phantasmagoria!
by: -RoG-

Ah Sierra games. If you ever owned a PC with dual 5 1/2" floppy drives and a beautiful EGA/CGA monitor back in the day, chances are you grew up playing many of their fantastic adventure games. Games such as King's Quest, Space Quest, Police Quest and more. Out of everybody working on their games, the one person who achieved star status would have to be Roberta Williams. As the pioneering game designer behind the King's Quest series, Roberta "The Queen of the Graphic Adventure" Williams became a household name for anybody into PC games between the mid 80's and mid 90's. As popular as her King's Quest series were, it was Phantasmagoria that she named as her favorite.

Phantasmagoria is one of those lengthy adventure games that came out during the big interactive movie game craze in which real actors were placed in virtual worlds for you to control. The game took up a whopping 7 CDs (which was a lot at the time back in 1995) and it's mainly because of all of the live-action video that was filmed for it with the lead actress, Victoria Morsell (Adrienne). Apparently, there are more movie sequences in this game than any other one ever created to this day. Granted, most of the scenes were about as cheesy as your average daytime drama, but it was still pretty impressive back then (as were other interactive media games of the time such as the Tex Murphy series and Ripper). I should also note that Phantasmagoria was made available on the short-lived Sega Saturn system for those of you who own one and are looking for some classics to add to your library. Those without a Saturn, well you can still get copies of the game for your PC, but you'll need a DOS emulator like DOSbox to run it these days.

But what exactly is this game all about? How's this for starters...

With a description like that on the back of the box combined with 7 CDs worth of impressive video motion, we didn't need much more to be completely sold on the game. It was also surprising to many of Roberta's fans simply because the plot of this story was much darker than anything she had worked on before. To go from games like King's Quest and Mixed-Up Mother Goose to a game like Phantasmagoria which features violence, graphic gore and even hilariously awful demonic rape... saying that's a departure from her previous works would be a huge understatement.

The story behind it all is that a recently wed couple move into a mansion in Massachusetts. But this is no ordinary home. Much like The Shining, which was one of Williams' main influences for the game, this house had a past full of dark secrets. You see, it was once owned by a magician named Zoltan Carnovasch (aka: "Carno") in the late 19th century. Ol' Carno wasn't your typical "pick a card, any card!" magician though... he was into black magic and wound up possessed by a demon that made him kill off his wives in all kinds of creative ways. If you ever enjoyed how Freddy Krueger killed his victims in the most non-conventional ways, then you'll probably appreciate Carno's work in the field of homicide as well.

And that is what I would like to focus on with this article today. I'm happy to share with you this terrifying tour of how Carno offed his many wives in this highly controversial game (Big thanks to SASpitefulCrow and ZarlaSheenaza for capturing the footage). Throughout the game, the lead character, Adrienne, experiences visions of how these women were killed. Of course, if you're not careful as you play as Adrienne, you'll get killed in a horrific way too as you'll see later in this article. But first, on with the murder of Carno's wives!

Hortencia Pushes Daises!

If you have a name like Hortencia, I'm guessing that you can't really expect your life to go all that well since your parents have obviously forsaken you from birth. Sure enough, Hortencia is the first one to go in this game, and interestingly enough, her death is directly related to her love for horticulture. I'm thinking Roberta Williams named her Hortencia just so that her name would sound like the horticultural demise she would face in the game. Her husband decides to do some gardening of his own by planting the gardening shovel in her mouth - complete with top soil.

Leonora Pulls An "Exorcist"!
(with some assistance)

Granted, her husband was a magician 'n all, but you'd think his wife Leonora would be a little suspicious of his having a device like this in their house. It's an old torture device in which the body is shackled into place and rendered immobile while the head is placed into a turret. With as the gears are set into motion, the head is twisted around until it eventually snaps. What strikes me about this scene is how long Carno turns her head before her neck finally gives in and snaps. I swear, Leonora must've been made of rubber.

Regina Gets More Than A Mouthful!

Now this is probably the most infamous death from the entire game. Regina has a big appetite and Carno is more than happy to give the wife one last meal consisting of all her favorite foods. He has her strapped to a table with a funnel attached to her mouth to make feeding all the easier. Giblets in red marina sauce, sweet & sour tripe, scrambled brains... it's all on the menu tonight. I think what really sets this scene apart are the sounds. Between hearing Regina gagging through the funnel, the various foods being squished down with the wooden rod, and then the final crunch as her eyes roll into the back of her head... even the most hardcore meatatarians are left with a nauseated feeling in their stomachs after witnessing that. This scene was better than most of the stuff in real horror movies at the time and that's why so many people still remember it to this day.

Victoria Learns How Alcohol
Can Really Kill You!

Out of all the deaths, I'd have to say Victoria's was the least memorable for me. Sure, having your head smashed down on a wine bottle and then snapping it off once it's been embedded into your eye socket is brutal, but eye trauma is nothing really new when it comes to horror (just see "Zombie" for example). The scene also goes by really fast which also failed to make it have a long-lasting impression. Not a bad death, per se, but there could've been some more in the exposition before her death. All of the other deaths thus far were clearly related something each wife really liked (gardening, talking, and eating) but this one just seemed kind of haphazardly thrown together. I think they were trying to say Victoria was a lush, but they could've demonstrated it a lil' better is all I'm sayin'.

Gaston, Marie And Carno
Have A Threesome!

Marie, who was Carno's last wife, suspected him of not only murdering his previous wives, but planned on murdering her as well. So she and her lover, Gaston, decided to kill Carno by rigging one of his magic acts so that he couldn't escape. The act, called "The Throne of Terror", involved both setting his face on fire and escaping before a swinging blade of death slashed his head in half. Well, I don't know how he escaped the blade part, but he went into a coma from the severe burns to his face. When he came to, he killed off Gaston (by sneaking up on him through a ridiculous secret door no less) and then he killed Marie in the same contraption that she tried killing him with. But with his last breath, Gaston stabbed Carno through the chest and all three of them died together. Such drama. Like sands through the hourglass, these are the days of our lives.

Gotta also love how Carno's burned head looks a LOT like Freddy Krueger from the Elm Street films at times.

Don Pranks Mike With A Tire Iron!

After Mike is done getting the phone line in the house working for Adrienne, he heads on out to his truck to leave. But before he has the chance to do so, Don, Adrienne's husband who is now possessed by the same demon that once possessed Carno, decides to play a little prank on Mike. A prank involving a tire iron and his brains. They don't show much at all in this scene as far as the carnage goes, but just listen to that laughter... that laughter! Is that not the best thing you've ever heard before? Seriously, that's a laugh that would impress The Joker himself. Sometimes I think there's nothing better in this world than a fine display of overacting.

Adrienne Shows That's She's Not
Just A Beauty, She's Got Brains Too!

Having the demon take complete control of his psyche, Don now has Adrienne strapped into the same "Throne of Terror" chair that Carno killed Marie with. While playing as Adrienne, if you haven't collected the necessary items and you don't time things right, Don does indeed kill her. They only show her head sliced open for a brief moment, but I'll be damned if that wasn't some brutalicious fun... brains 'n all!

Don Lets Go Of His Inner Demons!

Now if you do time things right, Adrienne is able to grab the lever on the chair and make Don take a swinging blade to the chest. It's not a very exciting death for ol' Donny boy, but what happens next is 100% pure CGI cheesy awesomeness. The room begins to shake and as Don sinks into the floor, the demon that was controlling him emerges from his chest... and it looks absolutely ridiculous. This thing is part beast, part snake, part alien with dripping viscous fluid, part devil, part horrible demo reel from one of those "You too can learn how to make video games at our school!" infomercials. I remember even back when the game first came out how hilariously bad everybody thought the demon protagonist looked. After all, this was the main bad guy of the whole game, and considering the imagination that went into some of the aforementioned death sequences, you'd think they could've gotten a little bit more creative with this big lug.

Adrienne Learns The Benefits
Of Facial Reconstructive Surgery!

As you make Adrienne run away from the demon, things can either go right or really, really wrong. When things go right, she progresses to the next segment, but when things go wrong, the demon literally tears her face apart right before our eyes as one of the greatest death sequences in the entire game. There are a few variations of the face ripping, but this particular one is my favorite because the camera stays on her face for quite a while as the demon tears it apart. Hey... if you're gonna die, you might as well go out in a memorable way.

And there you have some of the finest murder scenes from the Phantasmagoria game. Phantasmagoria? More like PhantasmaGOREia, am I right guys? There was also a second game called "Phantasmagoria: A Puzzle of Flesh" released in 1996, but that's a story I'll save for another time. A Puzzle of Flesh... kinda sounds like a sequel to one of the Hellraiser movies doesn't it? Well anyway, if you never played Phantasmagoria when it first came out, do yourself a favor and get a copy of it. It's a great throwback to the popular interactive movie games of the 90's, and besides... the cheesy acting combined with the gory death scenes are guaranteed to keep you entertained the entire time.

Have any questions or comments about this piece?
Email -RoG-

If you enjoyed this piece be sure to check out:

A Nightmare On Elm Street:
Freddy's Forgotten PC Game!


Haunted House Candy Hunt!

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