Danse Macabre: The Last Adagio

     from Eipix Games

Like the majority of the Phantom story-themed games in the library, this one is listed under the Hidden Objects genre, and like most of them it leans heavily on minigames and puzzles to add variety, and on painted backgrounds and images to make the game visually appealing in spite of its static screens.  Unlike the majority of games on my list, this is one of a series - there are six Danse Macabre games to date, each one with the same theme of an obsessed and dangerous figure stalking a performer who must be rescued from terrible peril (although what kind of performer varies).  It remains to be seen whether they're all based on the Phantom story or just loosely related, but this first one, at least, has enough similarities for me to be pretty sure it was based on Leroux's tale!

 

The introductory cut scenes, which set the stage for the gameplay that will start pretty much full-bore directly into the action, have subtitles, as will all future lines from both the player character and any others they encounter along the way.  I've heard some complaining about this convention in this genre of games, but I'm a fan - not only does it free everyone from the occasional vagaries of suspect voice acting, but it helps increase accessibility for players who might be hard of hearing.

The first cut scene shows us a ballerina completing a triumphant debt of a new work, which the ominous masculine voice-over informs us he wrote the story and music for specifically in her honor.  The composer turns out to be a dude with some very questionable hairstyle choices who is deeply in love with the ballerina (with whom, it is strongly implied, he already has a romantic relationship), but when he comes to her dressing room to offer her flowers after the show, he sees another man already offering her flowers.

At which point he flies into a massive jealous rage, runs away without saying anything to anyone, and SETS THE THEATER ON FIRE, KILLING EVERYONE INSIDE.  He stands on the roof dramatically ranting about how deeply she has hurt him while the flames consume everyone, for additional points of complete nonsense.

Obviously, this is hilarious in that tragic way, where it's obviously ridiculous that seeing another dude give his girlfriend flowers - his girlfriend, who is a performer, who probably gets a ton of flowers every time she dances, wtf man - immediately translates to her being unfaithful to him with this random person he's never seen before, but at the same time this is a real-life thing that dudes sometimes do and then it's not funny at all.  One part of me is dryly saying "ah, yes, a guy in a tuxedo gave her a pre-fab bouquet when she left the stage, CALL THE POLICE", and another part of me is just sighing sadly and going to get brownies out of my kitchen.  It's worth noting that we'll see a not-insignificant pro-ladies theme throughout this game, and that the villain being a man who is literally attacking the women in his life out of wild, entitled jealousy is very much in line with that.

The artwork in this game is all right, by the way, but it isn't quite at the level of some others I've played; it's serviceable but not particularly detailed or evocative beyond doing its job.

 

The most noticeable feature of the style here is that characters are pretty obviously rotoscoped from actual human beings, possibly whomever worked on the game; they're photorealistic with some colors and filtering slapped on top, which sometimes makes the whole thing look jarring when a character looks oddly out of sync with their background, or they appear in a weird pose that an artist probably would have cleaned up but a real person digitally put into the image didn't have the opportunity for.  This is a move with a long history in adventure-style games, but it was mostly popular in the mid-1990s, so it's a little weird to see it here in a very recent game.

The following introduction to the story informs us that it is thirty years later, and that we, the player (you'll put in whatever name you like, so for purposes of this review, we are all Anne), are coming to see our sister, a prima ballerina, who is very excited to be performing in the very first restaging ever of the ill-fated show that literally brought the house down decades before.  The setup is similar to the 1989 Little/Englund film, which also played on themes of a cursed piece of music whose rediscovery called up the Phantom's involvement in events long past, although mercifully without any time travel.  She's asking me to meet up with her to celebrate after the performance, and since Anne the Ballerina's Sister is still blissfully unaware of any supernatural bullshit that might be involved with this particular ballet, I just show up ready to go out on the town.

Of course, my sister isn't there, so on to the actual gameplay as I try to figure out why not.  The initial setup menu for this game is great; it has an explicit layout of the differences between difficulty levels (which include "Casual", "Expert", and the unfortunately-named "Insane"), which include differences in how quickly hints and minigame skips recharge, what kind of aids are included to tell the player to look at or interact with relevant items and areas in the game, and what messages and clues the player can expect to get.  The game also provides an excellent option for a very customized difficulty level, too; you can choose specifically how much of what kind of help you want, which means that someone who loves challenging themself with minigames but hates hunting around in tiny detail screens can put themself at the rock-bottom no-help minigame difficulty you would normally have to choose the Insane level to get, but include all the easy-mode "look over here" sparkles and arrows that would normally come with Casual.  It's also a neat touch that you can change difficulty mid-game, if you shoot too high and realize you're getting frustrated more often than you want to be.

I'm me, so I chose Casual with no customization, both because I'm not here to be stressed out by things like time limits and invisible clues, and because it gives me a good idea of the expected gameplay the designers probably intended.

Anyway, the stage manager, an unpleasantly shifty-looking little man in a full tux and top hat, informs me that my sister is not inside anymore and must have left, and furthermore that NO ONE is inside anymore and I should go see if she went home.  My ability to look directly up and see the lights on in peoples' rooms makes no impression on his insistence.  So, it's time to kick this thing off by breaking into the theater, and unfortunately I started by going into the adjacent alley and encountering a goddamn ghostly light that snuffed out all the lanterns, so this is already not going the way I probably hoped it would.

By the way, I'd like to note that this game does hit a lot of the notes of a horror game, and there are spooky happenings, things that seem like jump scares, music that's meant to be a little bit on the scary side, and so on.  However, it's definitely on the lukewarm end of that scariness scale; the music's not much to write home about and the sets and characters, even the ghosts, are on the sanitized end of the spectrum.  I'd guess this is on purpose, to make the game more accessible to younger audiences and folks who aren't into the horror genre, so it will not give you the relentless heebie-jeebies of the 2011 Mystery Legends game and really isn't trying to.

Gameplay is actually not as heavy on the hidden-object puzzles as several other games that I've already reviewed; it's more in the vein of a traditional point-and-click adventure game, where you look for objects in various environments and then use them in other places to advance to new screens or trigger cut scenes.  It's pretty challenging in that regard, with small items well-integrated into backgrounds and not a lot of forgiveness as far as clicking near but not directly on them, although you can get some help from the game at Casual setting by allowing sparkles to appear over things you can interact with every ten seconds or so.  When you are doing a hidden object puzzle, there is no click penalty for mistakes - that is, you can click on things that aren't the object you're looking for as much as you want to without the game yelling at you or revoking your hint privileges, so the searches are all potentially solvable with just enough determined random clicking.  (I did play on Casual, though, so that might not be true on higher difficulties.)

 

As in some other hidden-object games, there are some hilarious choices when describing the objects you're looking for - "opera binoculars" in the image above instead of "opera glasses", for example - but for the most part, dialogue and descriptions make sense.

After minor snoopery, I discover that the stagehand is kidnapping my sister, and that dick.  I knew he looked like an asshole.  It's time for ladies rescuing ladies!  Get out of my way!  I begin this joyous journey by bashing in the stage door with a bag full of bricks.  Witness my determination.

Once inside, a ghost manifests, like a full-on, actual real ghost:

 

So clearly we're going with a fully supernatural story here, none of this Phantom just pretending to be a ghost nonsense.  The story revolves around these events being the result of the Phantom-based drama that already happened in the past, again similarly to the 1989 film or the 2011 Mystery Legends game, except the ghosts of everyone else who got killed by the composer's ridiculous decision to MURDER EVERYONE would kind of like him to be stopped and maybe removed entirely, thanks.

Minigame puzzles in this game are pretty standard; match games, pattern recognition, order of events, a lot of simple theoretical math, pretty much what you'd expect from a basic brain-teasers type of game event.  

 

This particular game might beat the others for sheer number of different kinds of minigames; it's a big game with a LOT of content and puzzles, and the design team is pretty impressive for coming up with so many different kinds to avoid making the overall whole feel too samey for the player.

The setting is very reminiscent of the Lloyd Webber musical and particularly of the 2004 Schumacher/Butler film based on it, with lots of red and gold color schemes, lots of statuary, and a surprisingly large theater interior for the building we saw from the street.  I'm not going to include screenshots of all the settings - like I said, the art didn't really grab me a lot of the time, and besides, let's leave something for those who might buy the game and try it themselves - but they're nice enough, if not show-stopping.

 

Yeah, okay, sure, the ghost wants me to follow it, so I'll just... do that, alone in this empty building where my sister has just disappeared.  That seems like solid reasoning and decision-making.  (It might be considered rash, but I'm on a MISSION and I'm COMING, ADELE, so let's just see this goddamn ghost try something.)  I'm also committing a LOT of casual burglary along the way, but I don't have time for laws, I'm on a rescue mission!

The ghost, once I catch up, informs me that Gaspar, our long-ago composer and obvious Phantom character, did in fact kill everyone in the theater in his vengeful overreaction, and they'd all like to stop being stuck here while he continues being loudly mad about it on into eternity.  Then the ghost explodes the box office, I guess because she felt that FLYING SHARDS OF GLASS were going to help get me on her side?  Get some perspective, dead lady.

 

When Gaspar himself shows up, an obvious ghost I manage to see by peeking into another room while hidden (our literal Phantom of the Opera!), he looks way more dramatic and less like a whiny nerd than he did in his flashbacks, but I'm still not super impressed.  I do want to know, however, why the stage manager, who does not appear to be dead in the slightest, is helping him.  I would say he is supposed to be an analogue for Joseph Buquet, given his position, but his helping out the Phantom  and seeming vaguely uncomfortable about it suggests he might be intended more to parallel Madame Giry, specifically the incarnation of her from the Lloyd Webber musical and its progeny (which I see a few possible influences from).

There's a neat variation in the hidden object searches where sometimes instead of a text list of items to search for, there'll be a silhouette, so that half the search is in trying to recognize what the outline is even of before you start looking for that item in the mess.  (Or maybe that's just me, I'm sure someone out there can just look for things from outline without having to translate in their head first.)

There are achievements in this game, by the way, which I learned when I happened to get one for completing a hidden object puzzle without clicking on anything that wasn't correct.  Some achievements appear to span multiple playthroughs, so there's some replayability baked into the game for those who like going after obscure or difficult goals in addition to or instead of worrying about the game's plot.

"This is the creepiest theater I've ever been in," I say as I climb the stairs.  Oh, me.  How quickly we forget the 2011 Mystery Legends game.

There's no voice-acting except in cut scenes, pretty much, so most information is communicated through text next to animated portraits.  The voice acting there is is... fine.  I'm not impressed but I'm not annoyed, either.  It's just generally serviceable, like a lot of this game.

Now, this is what I'm talking about with a real puzzle: an adorable live cat who won't let me pet her until I provide delicious food bribes.  I think this game knows its target audience.  She ROLLS OVER and PURRS and BEGS TO BE PETTED when you feed her.  This is the best day ever.

 

By the way. a neat thing about the hidden object screens in this game (and the whole game in general): the design doesn't take shortcuts as far as what objects you're looking for and what they look like.  Hidden item screens are populated only by objects that make sense; if you're digging around in a cluttered dressing room, the things in there are all things that could be in a dressing room, and their placement always makes sense, too, with all the normal rules of gravity and physics intact.  You won't see any of those hidden-object-game tendencies toward random items that would never be found in this area (including live animals sometimes, looking at you, Nightfall Mysteries), and you won't find things randomly levitating behind curtains or tucked into spaces much too small for them.

I was actually thrown for a loop for a bit by the logic, given how often this kind of game genre goes absurdist in order to better hide things.  And I think it works out; the constraints of normal rules forced the design team to make choices that involve more cleverly coloring and hiding items than they otherwise might, and I really enjoyed the result.

 

There are various other musician and performer ghosts in the theater trying to help me out, including a grumpy cellist, a finicky flautist, and a woman who I think worked as a maid or dresser or in another supporting, non-performing role.  Together, they manage to get across that I'm going to need the help of the ghost of Marie - the original ballerina and object of Gaspar's affection, our Christine character - which makes sense, since his violent obsession with her is what landed everyone in this ugly supernatural mess in the first place.

 

As I mentioned earlier, there are a few different background music pieces, but none of them are anything to write home about.  You've got your nervous strings, your minor keys, your ominous drums, your just-enough-movement-to-suggest-anxiety long passages.  It's about what you'd hear in the background of any run-of-the-mill police procedural or supernatural drama on television.  It does its job to generally set the scene, but much like the rest of the game doesn't commit to a particular genre much, so the music just sort of hangs out in the background, undecided.

I just cut an antique oil painting in half.  Because I am ON A MISSION.

I finally manage to find my sister, where I discover she's being possessed and forced to dance forever while, predictably, the ghost of Gaspar rants about how she belongs to him and she'll dance forever and she can no longer hear anything but his music and other things that make my intrepid sister-rescuing character filled with rage.  It's all very reminiscent of the 1944 Waggner/Karloff film, in which the Phantom character became violently obsessed with his Christine character to the point of killing her in a jealous rage and then eventually immolating himself along with the entire building.

There's also a music riff in there that is, probably intentionally, reminiscent of Tchaikovsky's Swan Lake, which is a common go-to for ballet-themed games and visual media.  (Although it's also in public domain, so why not actually use Swan Lake?  Just trying to be more subtle?)  The ballerina's name (my sister, not the unfortunate original one) also happens to be Adele, which is an awful lot like Odile, the second (and usually evil) twin swan in Swan Lake, just as she's the second (and probably, at least in Gaspar's opinion, inferior) ballerina trying to take over the role he designed for Marie.  This also reminds me of the 1992 Clark/Englund film - which was also called Dance Macabre, and was also ballet-themed instead, and made very heavy use of the Swan Lake theme, and I'm just SAYING it's very hard not to make comparisons here.

 

Yes, I KNOW, lady, I'm TRYING.  Like I want to let that stage manager put his grubby hands all over my sister?!  If every door in this place didn't require a MENSA application I'd already have beaten him to death with the first easily clickable item in my inventory, but the place was designed by a sadistic puzzlemaster so here we all are.

I'm curious: does Gaspar need the stage manager to help him drag poor Adele around because he can't physically interact with her himself, being a ghost?  What are his metaphysical ghost rules?  He recently shot me in the face with ghost power and froze me temporarily, but he didn't MOVE me anywhere, so maybe he can't?  If that's true and he needs the stage manager for this, why is he working for him?  What's he getting out of hanging out with a ghost?  And for that matter, if Gaspar can't interact with living people, why is he harassing Adele instead of Marie, who is also presumably dead and therefore in his sphere of power?  I don't ever see any of the ghosts interact with each other, even though they seem AWARE of each other - is it that they can't?  I have SO MANY METAPHYSICAL QUESTIONS.

My dialogue text card says things like "Adele, I'll get to you, I promise!" a lot, and I like to think that I'm roaming the theater bellowing encouraging things down the halls at her, brandishing the needles and pieces of LPs I'm carrying around and daring the stage manager to come out and face me.

Like I noted at the beginning, there's a noticeable trend in this game: almost all the positive characters are women, and all of the negative and antagonistic characters (Gaspar, his stage manager, and that long-ago unfortunate suitor with the bouquet of flowers) are men.  The game sets up the player character as whatever the player themself is, so your own gender or decision controls who the main interactor is, but it's noticeable even so, with Adele as the focus of the action, the female ghost as the major helper who first contacts you and directs you where to go, and Marie as the character who ultimately has the most power to handle the situation.  The adventure and hidden-object game genre has been mostly marketed toward women players for the past decade or so, so this isn't surprising, but it is a pretty noticeable difference from the early Phantom-themed games in the 1980s and 1990s, which mostly feature explicitly male protagonists and a very few female characters, largely present to be rescued from peril.

The game balance here is definitely far more adventure-game item scrounging than hidden-object puzzles, a switch from other games in the genre I've reviewed before, but on the other hand, we never repeat the same hidden object screen, nor are any items from them recycled or appearing in other searches.  I think this is literally the first time I've ever seen that, so kudos to the Eipix team!  There are also some cute and clever touches here and there, like a search that takes place in a dumbwaiter, so that when enough items are found it moves up or down a level to reveal new things to search for, making a nice use of limited visual space.

I'm informed by Team Helpful Ghost Buddies that only "Marie's heart" can defeat Gaspar.  They mean it somewhat literally - Marie has a heart-shaped locket that is used to complete various puzzles and set up various situations in the game - but also in a symbolic sense.  We won't see it actually happen until the end of the game, but just as only Christine's selflessness and compassion can stop the original Phantom and save everyone from his grasp, so only Marie's emotions will eventually stop Gaspar.  (Although there's an inversion in there I don't like but we'll get to that when we get to it.)

Okay, Gaspar definitely can't actually hurt me.  He keeps just breaking things in my general vicinity, and melting doors shut and stuff to stop me from going places.  Which is an interesting metaphysical question, why he can affect inanimate objects with huge amounts of energy but not any living things, and probably something to do with the dead not intruding on the living, although that doesn't seem to stop him from constantly fucking with Adele's ability to do what she wants, but nobody's ever going to explain my questions, damn it.

Oh, look!  A dressing room with a creepy mirror!

 

The only thing I can complain about as far as gameplay goes is the INCREDIBLY ANNOYING fact that while the inventory strip sprouts a scrollbar to accommodate a large number of items, if you keep your mouse on the scrollbar for more than a second, the inventory bar assumes you're not using it anymore and puts itself away, making scrolling around looking for the right object extremely frustrating.  It's nice that the bar collapses quickly, so that it isn't obscuring the area when you're looking for things, but lord almighty does it need to recognize a cursor on it that isn't "active".

Now I just had to stop and sew a collar onto a shirt in the costume shop in order to progress?  PEOPLE.  I am dealing with kind of an URGENT SITUATION here.

I also just took a rose out of a freezer, in which it was frozen solid, and then thawed it by holding it under a red-hot radiator steam valve.  Then I put it in a vase.  I am a professional horticulturist.

I have to say, a lot of puzzles don't make very much sense; there's no reason this door would be barricaded behind a complex mathematical problem, but some of the situations do tie in well.  For example, at this point in the game, I'm running around trying to recreate the setting of Marie's most cherished memory in order to entice her ghost to come out and talk to me and help me stop her insupportably annoying boyfriend, and that's a nice way to tie the player into the story.

 

Unfortunately, once I do manage to scare Marie up (ha, ghost jokes, amazing), she lets me know that the only way to stop Gaspar is to convince him that she didn't cheat on him and this was all the colossal mistake that I already know it was from watching the introductory cut scenes (not that he would have been in any way justified in going on a shitty murder-bender if she HAD been cheating on him, either, but even his garbage justification isn't true).  Which explains, I suppose, why her ghost has just been hiding from his this whole time and why he's eventually decided to kidnap Adele to replace her, since if he was going to listen to her say "no, you jackass, that's not what happened," we wouldn't be in this situation in the first place.  She sends me off to find the artifacts still remaining around the place that will prove to him that she was faithful to him, which again raises the question of what ghost powers these dead people even have because now she can't go affect inanimate objects, either?  Give me some consistency, people!

Personally, I have no interest in proving Marie's faithfulness to this jealous bag of eggplant dicks, since it shouldn't have made any difference to not horribly killing and torturing people and also fuck him.  But, sigh.  I'm doing it for Adele.  (And there's that theme again: literally everyone in the game knows that Gaspar is being an utter rusty dumpster bottom here, but the female characters are stuck placating him in order to defeat him anyway, which is another one of those depressingly true-to-life portraits for when this sort of thing happens in the real world.)

And speaking of Gaspar, his stage manager crony has finally decided to start objecting a little too loudly, so he knocks him into an elevator and locks him in, which proves he has some powers to affect people, but again I ask too much when wanting to know what I should be worried about here.  This leads to the incredible revelation, when I talk to the schmuck, that he's helping Gaspar because the ghost caught him cooking the books - you're helping a DEAD GUY kidnap the PRIMA BALLERINA because he's FINANCIALLY BLACKMAILING you?  What's he going to do, call Le Better Business Bureau?  Get your shit in ORDER, dude.

 

Well, at least I clearly agree with myself.

Moving on, I can only assume that the cello player appears when I start sawing on his abandoned cello because he wants to stop the horrific noises I, a non-cello-player, am undoubtedly making.  I, too, would probably rise from the dead to look incredibly disapproving at someone abusing my personal musical instruments.

This game gets high marks for things making sense in some areas more than others, but it still does that annoying adventure game thing where you use a super useful item, like a large sharp blade, for a single task and then it magically disappears out of your inventory for no reason and you can never use it again.  (Except, inexplicably, a couple of times when the item does stick around to be used in a second instance, and you can never tell which ones that'll be, which led to some weird moments of me hanging around trying to figure out what the hell would work here because I assumed something I'd already used was gone.)  I mean, this is a tradition, because otherwise these games would be a lot harder to add new challenges to, but I miss the old-school 1990s games that at least came up with some justification, however outlandish, that the item went away when you used it.

I found Adele again!  But she's still possessed and forced to dance eternally, and can't hear me talk to her, so it's not the greatest victory ever.  Gaspar appears to STILL be able to puppeteer her completely but not do more than vaguely spit ghostliness at me, so... I don't know, maybe his power is all wrapped up handling Adele right now and he couldn't manage both of us at once.

 

And of course Marie's spirit is on hand to remind me that we have to gently handle Gaspar's feeeeeelings to resolve the situation.  SIGH.

I like the occasional tongue-in-cheek moments - for example, when picking up some random reeds, my text line appears saying, "My improvisational skills are amazing.  I'm sure I can find an appropriate use for this," a nod to the fact that it's ridiculous to expect anyone to do anything with half the things in this sort of game but also to the creativity involved.  (For those wondering, I will later tie the reeds together with a cord to make a feather duster because I do a lot of goddamn chores in this game.)

Man, I went outside and almost immediately got killed by a random non-supernatural lightning strike?  I agree with my text line, that IS bullshit.  I survive all this and now nature is trying to get me, too.

The proof Marie has sent me after are a bunch of scattered pages of her journal from the time period leading up to the disaster, which begin to suggest that Gaspar was becoming moody and unhappy well before the fateful destruction of the ballet theater; everything was going well, but he was getting more distant and cranky anyway, much to her confusion.  I'm not sure what the goal of the unfolding drama of the diary is, but I'm not sure it worked; if it's meant to be a sad tragic portrait of how innocent Marie was, it misses the mark because we already know that and even if we didn't that doesn't make MURDERING HER okay, and if it's meant to be a sort of impending doom unraveling of a deep dark mystery kind of thing, it's too slow and the outcome too irrelevant to work out.  Mostly it just makes me increasingly sad about Marie, because she genuinely cared about this dude and fuck him for murdering her because she forgot to wear her Chastity Goggles or whatever the fuck.

There's a minigame here in which you look through a glass heart to reveal "invisible" clues around a background, which is very similar to the look-through-the-monocle game in the 2012 Night in the Opera game.  It's an interesting mechanic, which is why I think we see it across so many games.  In one of the subsequent minigames, some knowledge of how to read music is helpful but not strictly necessary, as we also see in a lot of Phantom-themed games.

Ah, yes, the obligatory creepy love interest shrine:

 

Always a classic in a Phantom story adaptation.  More recovered journal pages tell us that Gaspar vanished for a month to write, after telling Marie that he could no longer hear any music in her presence and had to be away from her to do anything worthwhile.  (Remember, though, she is the thoughtless person accepting bouquets of flowers from ballet-goers so WHO IS THE REAL JERK HERE, am I right?)  He then followed this up by ramping up his jealous behavior when he came back, and trying to convince Marie that her dance partners were secretly trying to take advantage of her and that she should stop going to practice, because... yes, professional ballerinas definitely are all about skipping practice.  This is all bananas enough to make Marie legit start wondering if Gaspar is possessed by an evil spirit or something, but unfortunately it appears to be just the spirit of his unending assitude.  (Or of Boris Karloff in The Climax, but probably the first one.)

I spy a lyrics homage to Lloyd Webber!  Also, Gaspar appears to at this point to be controlling Adele with puppet strings, which recalls the 2011 Mystery Legends game again and its creepy marionette re-enactment of the events of the original story.  For the creep factor, we take a short cut scene through Gaspar's memories to supplement Marie's journal, but all it does is re-confirm that he sucks and that there is no reasonable explanation for any of his nonsense.

 

However, there IS a FANTASTIC PIPE ORGAN.  I knew we'd get that shot eventually!

 

Nice.  We don't actually find out at this point, but it is in fact situated underground, in case anyone is wondering.

Finally, Marie manifests after we present the journals proving her devotion to Gaspar, who at least has the grace to say that he's sorry about viciously murdering her and everyone else in the building in a fit of jealous pique before evaporating and letting me victoriously rescue Adele, hopefully to be taken somewhere with warm pastries and counseling.  Gaspar's hold over the theater is broken, and one hopes Marie goes to a nice place after crossing over, one in which Gaspar cannot be the worst at her anymore.

Now, of course this is the Collector's Edition of this game, because that's how I roll, so there's a bonus chapter to continue the story - and that bonus chapter takes us into the sewers under the city, which is of course exactly what this Phantom story was missing!  The setup informs us that Gaspar is gone, but that there is still some sort of "disturbing presence" lingering around the theater, especially under it, and that the ghosts of the musicians are still stuck in the place as a result.  They are understandably displeased, and since they put up with so much of my yelling and brandishing of lead pipes earlier, I'm glad to try to help them out now that Adele has been removed to safety.

A lot of the scenes down here are surprisingly similar to the into-the-underground bonus chapter from the Mystery Legends game - obviously, by this point I'm pretty sure some inspiration was borrowed - including some specific challenges, such as having to drain the sewer line in order to get things on the other side, or using explosives to punch a hole in the wall to get access (always a great move underground, right?).

Gaspar, it is revealed, has a full-on classic Phantom's lair under the theater, which is the absolute best:

 

I continue to love my own inner monologue when it's printed on the screen.  "I can't play this organ without sheet music.  I mean, I can, but it wouldn't be any good."  It's like someone literally wrote it specifically for me.

Here we get the extra bit of plot for the bonus chapter: Gaspar, it turns out, had a student protégé, a young man named Marcel (don't spin out any influence from the 1937 Weibang/Shan film and its successors yet, it sadly doesn't work out that way).  Marcel was SO GOOD at composition that there's a serious suggestion of him having made a demonic pact to gain this skill, although it isn't followed up, but there's a little shade of that old idea from the 1974 de Palma/Finley and 1989 Little/Englund films!

As many of you can probably piece together from the combined clues of "Gaspar complained he couldn't write anything good and disappeared for a month", "Gaspar had a student no one has ever heard of who was better than him", and "Gaspar's spirit is gone but some pissed off force is still hanging around", it turns out that Gaspar did not write the ballet that all of the action has centered around.  Marcel did, and Gaspar promptly stole it, making his histrionic yelling about how he composed it only for her and she can never dance to anything but his music yet more ridiculous and trash-scented.  The theme of the Phantom's music being stolen from him and passed off as someone else's, often with accompanying mayhem on the Phantom's person, is a film tradition - from the 1943 Lubin/Rains film where the Phantom mistakenly believed his music was being stolen and panicked, through the 1962 Fiscer/Lom movie in which the nefarious Lord D'Arcy was stealing the Phantom's music to the 1974 de Palma/Finley production with Swan passing off the Phantom's work (not to mention the Ye ban ge sheng film franchise where a singer sometimes literally impersonates the Phantom), it's a common idea.  Which makes sense, since the idea of music as a symbolic expression of the Phantom's soul is also common, so stealing it represents stealing his agency and personhood in a very concrete way.

But this is a startling revelation: that means we have a split Phantom, and just like Swan and Leach in Phantom of the Paradise, we have one Phantom being an asshole upstairs and another one confined to the basement with the actual talent and a very big chip on his shoulder.  So there you go; we've all been hating on Gaspar this whole time, and it turns out we were hating on Swan instead of on Winslow.  And who doesn't enjoy a nice recreational hating on Swan?  My guess is that the bonus chapter might have been written by someone other than the original creative force behind the rest of the game, which would explain why Gaspar's behavior in retrospect is so fucking ridiculous, but frankly he's the worst so I'm not particularly surprised either way.

As should surprise no one, we finish out the game by discovering Marcel's murdered corpse walled up near the organ, and after that he also departs and the rest of the ghost team can finally get the hell out of here, and I can go get some much-needed hot chocolate.

 

I will say that the menu of extras and bonuses on the Collector's Edition of the game is pretty great, though.  In addition to the extra chapter, it also provides computer wallpapers, all the music from the game (and the option to add your own, so if you have ever dreamed of searching a ballet theater to the screaming guitars of AC/DC, your fantasy can now be realized), a making-of video, and the option to complete just the puzzles and hidden object screens on their own if you prefer doing that (an option I wish more of these games had!).

So that wasn't the weirdest version of the story I've ever seen, although it's clearly been heavily revised to make more room for gameplay and splice in some extra plot ideas, with mixed success.  It lacks any real emotional depth in spite of the game's attempts to hit home the idea of Marie's forgiving love as a saving grace for everyone, mostly due to the asinine setup; it needs Gaspar's explosive destruction of the opera house to have more of an understandable reason behind it in order for us to really get behind Marie's forgiveness as a response in kind.  (Then again, his absolute depths of trashery DO make her forgiveness that much saintlier, so you be the judge, I guess.)  Combined with generally fine but not particularly inspiring art, music, and pacing, and I'm going to call it just a little bit above average.

 

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