Friday 13 May 2022

Return of the Phantom - Traveller in Time

 Written by Morpheus Kitami

This session in a nutshell

Oh, so close to a title drop!

I didn't save last time, because I didn't need to, so I talk to M. Brie again. Imagine my shock when he tells me this is a copycat crime. This is one of those games where information that should be important is only revealed if you select the proper dialog options. Sure, the back of the box and the manual makes no secret that we're here to stop the Phantom, who has returned, but this is fairly important information for us to be told, and it's entirely optional. I hate having to savescum my way through the dialog.

There are a surprising number of people in the music world back then who have such a vague death date

Hang on, there's a ton of info being said here! I thought I was only missing where to find the damn stage manager! (It's an adventure game, not Morrowind, I don't need directions...I shouldn't need directions) A lot of the stage staff was sent home, and if I were here to do an actual investigation, I would check all of them out first before deciding to look for ghosts. But I've seen the phantom in a cutscene and the game isn't going to have an actual twist like that. Also, minor dialog quibble, I question a Frenchman describing a famous opera house being built as a thing. Feels like something I would say, not someone who is presumably a bit snooty.

Coincidence? No, not here

I'm harping on this, I know, but all this attempt at trying to build up a mystery just feels like wasted effort. I know that it's the original Phantom somehow, you know that it's the original Phantom somehow, and that all these things are going to be related somehow. Brie goes on to tell me that the artifacts are in the Opera Library, where there are also other documents on the Phantom.

Anyway, it was in the not famous catacombs that they found a strange abode along with the artifacts and maybe the body of Erik...but nobody has ever really proven it. I mean, I don't think it really matters when a crazy person in the sewers died, especially considering that if he was still alive, he would be like 110. I don't think anyone who's lived that long did so living next to the constant stench of human waste, but I admit I haven't checked.

Wow, we are just...completely incompetent

Anyway, as I should have asked last time, Charles the area under the stage...Er...well, there's nothing there. Oh, I can climb up the stairs...where I see the Phantom slowly walk across the stage. Was this supposed to be creepy? I just feel amused at the incompetence of everyone in this game. Dude's just walking around. Does that open the door? No. Nothing has happened. Great. I should point out that a lot of the descriptions of objects in this game have a very edutainment vibe to them. All about the opera. Surprised we didn't get something important about the chandelier that's a beached whale or something.

By the way, those chandeliers? They move independently of the background, very cool

There's a very nice foyer if you walk back up the aisles. Unfortunately, I don't see a way backstage.

Oh, shock, someone broke into the display case!

My first destination is the library, which is a very impressive place...with nothing to do. Not even any books on my nemesis.

Like that's going to stop me!

The manager's office, where M. Brie is. I can tell him he's been robbed, but this doesn't really help anyone. Brie just acts shocked and says nobody would ever want to steal that. Pretty sure nobody just randomly cuts a chandelier into a bunch of people either, but as the French would say, badda bing, badda boom.

Incidentally, pressing the left and right mouse button at the same time will also open up the menu. It's not the worst possible menu option...but it is pretty bad in a game that encourages you to hold down the mouse buttons in order to determine what's in the room.

Why I spent so long playing Return of the Phantom

There's the entrance hall, which has nothing in it, and then the upstairs "Loge Corridor" which leads to the private boxes. All of these are locked, by the way. You know, I was going to say something about this game being perfect for people new to adventure games, but having to do a rousing game of "find the exit" right after starting is not perfect, it's bad.

Why would you hide this?

While going into the menu to check for a way to turn up the music, it's seriously too low compared to the voice acting, I notice that there's a score! How I got six points this far I don't know, but the question is...why wouldn't you slap this on the HUD somewhere? It's just inconvenient to have it there. It might as well not exist.

Did you spot the lever beforehand?

So, what did I miss? Well, I missed a lever next to the door. It's not the worst pixel-hunting I've ever done...but I would say that I think this kind of thing doesn't work with this interface. Pull the lever and the box thingy. Don't these people get around in any kind of normal method?

Searching elsewhere, there's a weird description of the chandelier again, like a limp washcloth. I shudder to think how awkward the prose in Benson's James Bond novels must be like. "I hit her bum with my wet noodle, the pasta was still undercooked."

 It's more interesting than your walk

There's a lot of stuff in the backstage area, but it's all fixtures and nothing worth picking up. (I actually missed something, funny how most of the puzzles involve finding things) The recreation of the opera house is very vast, but it's all very slow. Especially walking up stairs. Yes, it's exactly as slow as you think. I mean it's nice we get all these rooms and the game does mention which are useless to the plot because they're locked and no one is inside. I do find a piece of paper with a number of it, which will no doubt be useful later. (Raoul doesn't want to steal anything because he's a police officer or because he's in front of the owner)

No, the mirror doesn't register Raoul, but it does mimic her movements perfectly

The only person in the dressing room is a "12-year-old"* by the name of Julie Giry, and yes her acting is somewhere between hot trash and accurate for a snooty rich girl of her age. I ask her about the chandelier incident, and she's glad I asked. She thinks it was the Opera Ghost, and she knew that he would return. She's a psycho-I mean psychic. Ms. Giry enlightens me as to a dream she had where the Phantom, shrouded in darkness, held unto a mysterious masked woman, either Christine Daae, the singer from the original story, or Christine Florent, the singer we presumably saw in the intro video. They look alike, they're both singers.

*Played by the same person who will be playing a Madame Giry later, and is presumably much older than 12.

I can't put my finger on it, but this whole paragraph feels weird somehow

Ms. Giry goes on to tell me that her great grandmother was an usher back in the day, and that the Phantom had reserved a box at the opera, box five. I'm starting to think everyone's IQ drops 50 points in the presence of the Phantom...although he is a great tipper despite apparently being a jealous homicidal maniac.

And then the big bit of it comes out. Ms. Giry saw him! TWO NIGHTS AGO! He didn't have his mask and apparently his face looks like a skull. And all she's upset about is that she didn't follow him! ARGH! Oh, and Christine probably also knows about the Phantom! EVERYONE'S AN IDIOT EXCEPT ME!

I need to stop talking to these people before I get a brain aneurysm from all this stupidity. Oh, wait, I can't, I'm supposed to be solving a murder. Well, there's another dressing room on the 3rd floor*. Outside of it is a fire ax, which I can't pick up now, because its only for emergencies. I guess no enhanced interrogations for me.

*Is it the 3rd floor, or 2nd, owing to the ground floor and this being France? Considering that the previous Microprose adventure, Legacy, was made by Brits who put the 1st floor wrongly as ground floor, does Microprose care? Further, do I? Best answer gets 10 CAPs.

Uh...okay Raoul, whatever you say...

Anyway, this is the room of Christine Florent, who has a note in his dressing gown that is no doubt from the Phantom. The voice actress for Christine is decent, though I wouldn't say she's the most beautiful woman in the world. Maybe I just have high standards. And shocking, she says she's in danger. As the world's most handsome man and greatest detective, I'm sure this is connected to the Phantom!

I should note I've been trying to play Raoul as a jackass as much as possible, clearly it isn't working

She tells me her fear is related to the chandelier falling*. It's all her fault, because she didn't tell anyone about the Opera Ghost. Sounds about right. Erik, the phantom, might have possessed some black magic abilities and Christine claims he speaks to her in dreams.

*As an aside, I could say bye literally right after this. I can just imagine a smile on the face of the programmer as he codes that in.

 Now, why do you think this man trying to kill you in your dreams is after you?

She continues by describing the dream in mostly the same way as Ms. Giry did. Huh, interesting. Although in her case she describes it a bit more...sensually. Anyway, she finally tells me about the note, and I can take a look at it now.

"Beware! I have returned to seek my revenge against you for leaving me to die in loneliness and solitude. Not even your lover can save you this time. - O.G."

I have to wonder if this was intended as a red herring. Oh, well, better prepare ourselves for that time travel later.


Finishing off my conversation with Florent, I can ask her if she's ever seen him, she says no, and if she's ever heard of Daae, she has. She even heard that she resembles her. She doesn't know if she's related to Daae though, because her grandmother was orphaned. Apparently she was born in Scandinavia, and that's where Daae was from. Its also speculated that's where she and Raoul de Chagny fled to.

What? In this game? Probably

She begs me to stay as the conversation ends, reasonably terrified of the psycho running around. Unfortunately for her, I'm not going to win the game by standing around.

The way his neck is angled looks really unnatural

I should note I finally have an item now...pun unintended. Interactions I can take with it are on the right of it, plus I can throw, give and put things. Come to think of these actions, you can't really do a lot with the environment here.

Are we sure this isn't an edutainment title?

As I was typing the above paragraph, I was walking towards my next objective, lots of walking in this game. Someone apparently tried to murder me! Who would dare do such a thing? I would think this is the worst possible thing for a murderer to do, because I don't think its unique to America to bring the hammer down on people who murder police officers. Interesting, I can pick up the sandbag and Raoul looks up suspiciously before I walk up again.

 I suspect many people are watching you Raoul, just the wonder of the internet

There's not a lot of interest on the catwalk. Plenty of rope, but Raoul's some kind of neat freak, complaining that they're too dirty. Meanwhile, Raoul is more than happy to pick up a blue color frame.


Anyway, at the end of the catwalk is the chandelier trap...with a note on the cut rope. You'd think someone would have noticed that, but apparently everyone except me is actually an idiot. I'm curious as to the logic here. Are Raoul and Christine reincarnations of the original duo. Does this mean Raoul's grandfather was also abandoned somewhere and the two are 2nd cousins? I'm not aware of any issues with that, just want to make sure I understand where things are going or if I've put more thought into the game than the writer did.

I don't know what's more amusing, his sniff or my dialog options

On the other side of the stage is Charles...who is suitably snooty. He mostly just continues the weird educational part of the program, not contributing anything at all to the mystery and instead illuminating me about the role of a stagemanager and that of the Opera House. What he tells me that's of actual interest is that the sewers/catacombs are entirely blocked off. "If there is a way down there, then it's through some secret passage we don't know about."

Oh, and it's at this point I actually ask him questions about why I'm actually here. (!?!?!?) No one could have possibly been up there, we saw no one, yatta, yatta, talk to the ballet girls. (we already know this) Curiously, it seems like he hasn't seen anyone at all, and yet he was on-stage when the Phantom was walking across it. Either he's blind or he's the Phantom. Oh, right, I already know who the Phantom is.

Well, there is one room left that I haven't entered, the area downstairs from the catwalk. And there's another color frame. I suspect this is going to be one of those really boring color puzzles I've probably already done 20 times and is a sign that whoever was designing this game had no idea about puzzle design. The door back to the trap room is naturally, locked here too, so I have to do the obnoxious way back.

You know, I have to say, I don't think that the MT-32 is making the music so great. Once you've heard the same rendition of a classical piece on loop for twenty minutes it gets a bit old. Especially if it's just a little bit too low in volume.

Isn't this just what we already knew...?

All the way back in the library, there's a bit of pixel hunting finding the book by Madame Giry...and I'm disappointed.

Yes, but the rapping community are hardly ones to hang out around an opera house!

Returning to my near and dear friend, and it turns out he got a note too. Holy crap, everyone really is an idiot except me. The note:

"You do not have my permission to perform my 'Don Juan Triumphant'! Cease the production immediately or I shall cause thee a great deal of stress! - O.G."

Apparently Erik hasn't heard of a little something called the public domain...wait...does the public domain apply here?

Anyway, I explain more about the evidence I've found, the accident I had, and he jokes about his insurance premiums. I tell him that the real Phantom is back and he goes as far as to agree that someone is trying to get us to think the Phantom is back. After a very obvious three dots in the dialog box, we hear a woman's scream in the distance. Julie (somehow) screams that something has happened to Christine. 

"Five minutes later..."

A charitable estimate of the time to cross the area.

Well, uh, I wasn't expecting this to happen

And what do you know, Christine is dead. I wasn't expecting that to happen! If I were smart I would call in backup. My suspect is either the actual Phantom of the Opera who is alive through some supernatural means, well above my pay grade, a maniac who believes that is true, or someone who wants us to think either. Either way this isn't something I should handle alone. And if I had an ounce of intelligence I would take the fire ax just outside this room, but I don't. So I take a minute or so to walk down all those flights of stairs. The frantic music feels silly with this long walk downward to the fly loft I have to take.

I was expecting this though

And to the surprise of no one, the Phantom ambushes me on the catwalk. We struggle in a cutscene and Raoul gets thrown of the catwalk. If only I hadn't worn myself out climbing up and down all those stairs. Ah, damn, I guess I missed something and I have to reload...

Only, that doesn't end the game. No. No. No. You know, when I saw the back of the box, I didn't think the method of time travel would be snapping my neck on the way down from the catwalk. This is going to have a steaming mess of a final plot twist, isn't it? Don't tell me, I want to have my rage be that of being right without being told.

After having done the last option there, guess I can't do that

Now, if you're not getting my distaste here, what has happened is that we're now in 1881, and we've just been woken up by Christine Daae, the long dead opera singer that Florent, the now dead opera singer, resembles which is absolutely not a vital plot point. Now we get the fun of having to convince all these people that the Opera Ghost is about again. Along with all the other fun time travel things.


It appears I have stepped into the shoes of Raoul, the Vicomte de Chagny, or rather Raoul the police detective has. Daae is his lover, and boy, is she ever happy to show it. Naturally, nobody knows who Christine Florent is and the Phantom apparently hasn't murdered anyone yet. For some reason my dear friend, the other opera manager is very curious about the unusual tuxedo I'm wearing. Which I definitely got from London. I don't think the Opera Ghost has murdered anyone yet. Key word, don't think.

Somehow I don't think Frenchmen say they've got someone's number unless its not a metaphor

The opera manager, my very dear friend whose name I haven't heard yet, tells me there's another note from the Opera Ghost and to meet him in his office when it's convenient. At this point I should probably stop, but I feel like I need to see an actual puzzle in this game before I end this session. Before I continue, I should note that most of the opera house is the same as last time, with minor period accurate adjustments, and I don't have any items I had before.

If you cared by this point, this seems to err on the merciful style of puzzle design

For instance, the thunder machine, which is a piece of aluminum, was old in the present, here shiny and new. Although there's also a color flat...a modern one the game points out. Hey, a lantern, that's going to be useful. There's also an exit further down, no doubt to the catacombs, and the door to under the stage is unlocked.

Hope they never played any Wagner

And there's someone here! Why, it's the prompter, someone who tells actors their lines if they forget them. And he went to school with the Phantom, and bullied him. Mostly the usual stuff, although he apparently studied architecture, and that the catacombs are sealed off, even now. You'd think I would just go outside the opera house to find an entrance, but apparently I'm so smart I can find the secret door.

You should imagine this guy with just the deepest and creepiest voice you can

The walk up the aisles is kind of weird without the giant chandelier there anymore. Pretty soon there's another new fellow, Edgar actual painter, like an actual real life painter. A good one. Not sure if he was as fond of young ballerinas as the game is implying, but I'll leave the slandering of dead men for another time. After I finish talking to him, intending to leave him for another time, he walks off.

For the record the note says he wants 20k francs a month

Back in the office with my best friend whats-his-name, I get to see the notes. The older note is your usual protection racket type crap, seems quite excessive to me, but I'm not crazy. What would the Phantom even be buying with this money? I don't know what the inflation is, but I'm sure we're starting to talk about Richie Rich-level money.

The hell is this, who wrote this crap?

Anyway, the new note says that Christine Daae shall sing the lead in The Wedding of Isabel, not the toad Carlotta. Or something horrible will happen. Are we sure Raoul's not writing these? Knowing the writer's work, I can't discount that possibility.

You mean you're not from Paris good friend whom I definitely remember?

All that's left is to talk about my beautiful lover Christine Daae, whom I know...well I actually know quite a bit by now. Although we do learn that some mysterious throat ailment has hit Carlotta, so not giving Christine the role is impossible, even as young as she is, and someone is teaching her to become a great singer. I will note that all this seems to dampen the mystique of Christine, judging by what I know of the story so far it doesn't seem like she sung much before marrying past Raoul and then disappearing into northern Europe.

Curiously, there's a ticket seller who isn't Madame Giry at the front. I could buy a ticket if I had money. Is this a puzzle?

Madame Giry looks and sounds a lot younger than I expected

The conversation with Madame Giry more or less goes over the same information I already knew starting off. Then I accuse her of knowing that the Opera Ghost isn't a ghost and she accuses me of being from another time and place. That my soul is under control by forces beyond our understanding, like in a play. Smooth, surprised she didn't compare it to a pawn in a game. She tells me to find three items from my own time...the frames. Then she'll unlock Box 5, the Phantom's box.

Giry ends off with telling me about all the traps and puzzles that I'll have to solve next time. One involving alphabetical letters very close to the Phantom. I hope that its something like Christine and not the name of someone I've forgotten. Hmm...what if its a subtle form of manual protection? One of the books that comes with the game is the backstory of the Phantom...

The game's been teasing it for so long, now I finally have it!

Let's just go over the stage area for now, we'll deal with Christine next time. In the lowest level is a piece of rope I can pick up. Finally! The blue frame is where it was in the present too. Now at this point I have to hope that the green frame, wherever it is, didn't need to get picked up by me in the present for me to pick it up here in the past.

Curiously, now I can climb down the rope onto the Chandelier. There doesn't seem to be any purpose for this...yet. And the final frame, which is yellow, is just hanging out on one side of the stage. Success. I actually missed the one that was in the present, somehow. I have finally solved a puzzle...I think. I guess I'll stop here for now.

Gotta say I don't think I'm going to play the easy mode afterwards. So far the puzzles in this game have been...I think we've had puzzles. I don't know how you'd make this any easier, because I haven't noticed anything. We'll see next time.

This Session: 1 h 30 m
Total time: 1 h 40 m

Score: 109
Inventory: Red Frame, Lantern, Letter, Notice, rope, blue frame, yellow frame


  1. Is it the 3rd floor, or 2nd, owing to the ground floor and this being France? Considering that the previous Microprose adventure, Legacy, was made by Brits who put the 1st floor wrongly as ground floor, does Microprose care? Further, do I?

    After a little bit of research, Opéra Garnier is divided in just three floors above ground (including the 1st/ground floor) at the Foyer, so it would seem impossible that there is a 3rd "european" floor.
    However, at the Foyer de Danse behind the stage (where presumably the dressing rooms would be) the building is divided in seven different floors, so the dressing rooms could be either at the 3rd or 2nd floor.
    But, the stage itself is level with the 2nd (european) floor, and you went up from there to reach Christine's dressing room, so the only possibility is that it really is the 3rd floor and MPS has correctly used the French numbering system for the Opéra étages.

    Or I am wasting too much time on this and they just pulled out a random number.

    1. Huh, seems even if they didn't do the research they got lucky anyway. Good job!