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Phantom Abyss is a Frantic First-Person Temple Runner That Puts Indiana Jones to Shame

Several ghostly players being pursued by a giant glowing head in Phantom Abyss

Think Indiana Jones and Lara Croft had it tough? Their antics have nothing on Phantom Abyss, a multiplayer first-person trap-dodging action game that’s just exited Steam Early Access. But don’t worry, you won’t be alone in failing horribly, thanks to the game’s phantom system you can also breathe in the misery of others.

Revealed back in 2021, Phantom Abyss plunges you into one of several temples, with more traps than you can shake a frozen butler at. And, unlike Tomb Raider, there’s no hanging from ledges and shimmying along. Instead, your trusty whip serves as a grappling hook to reach upper platforms. That’s assuming you use it because, racing through each temple, you’ll have a split second to decide what to do. Do you whip across the top of the pillar? Slide down the slope and hope it doesn’t lead to a spike pit?

It’s up to you, but you’ll have to think fast. Bad decisions or bad luck will cost you a chunk of health, but you’ll also lose valuable time. It’s not that there’s a timer ticking away: instead you’ll see ghostly figures racing through the temple alongside you that are echoes of players past. The levels are procedurally generated, so you’re never sure just what you’re going to encounter. But the sneaky thing is that once someone has solved that particular temple, no others can play it again.

That’s one of a heck of a brag: thanks to your skill, you alone have conquered that level. And no-one’s ever going to get the chance to take that victory away from you. Muahahaha! Sorry. But it’s a fantastic motivator, especially when you watch someone’s spectre race right past you. It’s not just the long game, either. Some of the temples throw in modifiers, like one that has phantoms stealing 100% of upgrade coins from a chest. So if someone on that run reaches a chest before you do, you’ll find it empty.

Admittedly, it did make our brains hurt a bit, thinking about a ghost stealing loot when they’re not really there, except they’re in the past, and the coins are… never mind. What you need to know is that seeing all those ghosts lined up at the beginning of a level will drive you forward like little else. We could feel our adrenaline pumping as we raced through each temple zone, grinning with every trap we dodged and ghost we raced past.

At least, that was the case with the Xbox Store version, where the game is included in Game Pass. In contrast, the Steam release was, when we tried it, so poorly populated that none of the levels had any phantoms. That may be down to developer Team WIBY resetting progress but it made us less motivated to finish each level.

Phantom Abyss
Image: Devolver Digital

Another issue is that sometimes the modifiers are too much. At each tier, you can choose from one of several temples to tackle and while you can add modifiers, you can’t remove the existing ones. It was a riot, at first, to get chased by a floating head or an eye-spewing laser. But sometimes, typically after getting our backsides kicked, we craved a more vanilla experience. Phantom Abyss isn’t short on ‘regular’ hazards, including spikes, wall traps, rotating floors and more. We’d definitely appreciate an offline mode where we could practice (the game require an always-on connection).

We’ve yet to explore Phantom Abyss’s trickier, upper-level tiers, but we had a blast taking its temples, shaking an imaginary fist at every ghost that dared pass us. And we’re definitely diving back in, before someone else beats us to that relic. If you’re a fan of speedrunning, tomb raiding or want to prove you’re the best around, dive into Phantom Abyss.

Phantom Abyss is available on Xbox and on PC, with a regular price of $24.99/£20.99 on Xbox and £16.75/$19.99 on Steam. There’s a launch discount bringing it down to $9.99 on Steam – just bear in mind the potential lack of phantoms.

Weekend Editor // Chris has been gaming since the days of the Acorn Electron, which was allegedly purchased to 'help him with his homework'. You can probably guess how well that went. He’ll tackle most genres – football titles aside – though he has a taste for games that that are post-apocalyptic, horror-oriented or thought provoking in nature.