I don't know about you, but my fingers weren't built for combos. Put me in front of a fighting game or literally anything developed by Platinum and my hands turn into useless slabs of ham, just barely capable of feebly hammering the light attack button as I'm smashed to paste by my far more competent enemies.
Consider me nervous, then, about Phantom Hellcat, a third-person action adventure game that just got announced during Gamescom's Opening Night Live. The devs say they want to "bring hack-n-slash titles back to their roots" with a combat system based around chaining together combos and utilising your environment to take down rooms full of enemies. I'm doomed.
The story revolves around Jolene, the phantom-of-the-opera-with-a-sword figure you can see slashing and dashing in the trailer above. When Jolene mistakenly breaks the seal holding back all manner of otherworldly evil in a cursed theatre, demons emerge and kidnap her mother, forcing her to hack and slash her way through a series of haunted stageplays to save her family and—one has to imagine—the world.
The devs are keen to draw your attention to their level design, which they boast will transition seamlessly between 2D and 3D perspectives (the former for platforming and the latter for combat, if the trailer is anything to go by) and offer you different possibilities for smiting your enemies. You can knock enemies through walls, use props as weapons, and otherwise wreak havoc on your foes Sleeping-Dogs-style using the tools that are littered around your various arenas.
Combat looks like it depends a lot on your ability to act quickly, dodging away from enemy blows and punishing them for their hubris with follow-up combos. As I've mentioned, I can't do this, but the devs say you can upgrade and mix up Jolene's abilities by switching out her masks. So long as there's a mask specifically designed for lumbering idiots, I'm golden.
The aesthetic is very Tim Burton. Everything has a Corpse Bride plasticine vibe to it from Jolene's glowy sword to her SPORTS brand Walkman, and combat proceeds in puffs of smoke and streaks of ichor. It's pretty—and the devs promise more levels beyond those featured in the trailer—but whenever I look at it I can't help but think of American McGee and I honestly cannot tell you if that's a bad thing or not.
Phantom Hellcat doesn't have a set release date yet, but you can find its fresh-baked Steam page right here.