Paris, 1880: The Palais Garnier opera house. A party celebrating the careers of its managers is about to begin, but the shadow of the Phantom of the Opera lingers over the festivities. A young woman ascends to the starring role, guided by her Angel of Music, while her childhood friend falls deeply in love with her. The story is a classic, spawning all sorts of retellings, including possibly the most famous musical in Broadway history. Growing Seeds and CFK, known for their MazM series of visual novels based on the classics, have given us their own take on the tale. Sadly, despite some nice moments, it’s about as enjoyable as being strangled with a contrabass string in a subterranean cavern. Keep your hand at the level of your eyes as we dive into MazM: The Phantom of the Opera on Nintendo Switch.
A night at the (haunted) opera
There are a few good things to be said about this game. For one, I love the character designs. There’s a soft anime feel to all the portraits that’s very nice to look at. There are occasional minigames that help liven up the point-and-click adventure. The sprite for one of the dancers does a little pirouette when she’s excited. There are papers to find all throughout the game that provide little factoids and information about the setting.
In fact, these collectibles wound up being my favorite thing in MazM: The Phantom of the Opera. A modern reader might not understand why a firefighter would be in residence at an opera house in the 1880s, but now I know. There’s also a feature where the game keeps track of the characters’ relationships to each other as the story goes along, which is helpful. If you like annotations in your classic literature, this game’s got you covered. Sadly, that’s about where the praise ends and the tragedy begins.
Like a chandelier crashing into the audience
The game currently has a number of glaring issues. First among them was the load times. I was counting out five to seven seconds between dialogue finishing and being able to control my character. Coupled with the lack of visual or audio cues as to when you finish the dialogue, it’s far too easy to accidentally hit the A button again and skip something important.
Additionally, the music isn’t bad, but the tracks are way too short. I don’t think a single one clocks in at over a minute in length, and they all repeat abruptly, including the opera song. Also, the script could have used another editing pass, as there are frequent misspellings, grammar errors, and formatting issues.
However, all of this could have been forgiven if it weren’t for the main problem with MazM: The Phantom of the Opera — the interface. This is a port of a mobile app, and it’s apparent that this type of thing doesn’t translate very well to controllers. For example, there’s an icon at the top of the screen to pause the game and enter the menu. But much more often than not you’ll need to deselect it before you can perform an action, and it’s not obvious at a glance when it’s selected by default. Essentially, you’ll accidentally bring up the pause menu almost every single time you press A. Using the joystick in the game simply puts a cursor directly in front of your character, which makes positioning and selecting things difficult, especially when they’re all clumped together.
Of course, this could have all been avoided if there had been an option to use the touchscreen.
There is no option to use the Switch touchscreen in MazM: The Phantom of the Opera.
The fat lady’s about to sing
I ultimately went and got a different version of the game for comparison. I downloaded the original game onto my Android phone, and while it’s not perfect, the experience on mobile devices is far superior to that of this Nintendo Switch port. Almost all of the interface weirdness is gone, and the bloated load times don’t exist. I’d potentially have given that version an eight out of 10.
Ultimately, MazM: The Phantom of the Opera is worth playing, but not on Nintendo Switch. It would be a pleasant way to experience a classic novel, but unfortunately it’s couched in an experience that does not translate well to the platform.
A review code was provided by the publisher.