When you're in the actual arena, you might be surprised by how the scoobees handle. Though all the scoobees have a realistic, mechanical look to them, they're quite nimble on the ground and can launch themselves high up into the air at the drop of a hat. The pacing is just a touch faster than what you'll find in the other current giant robot game for the Xbox, MechAssault. The name Phantom Crash doesn't really make a lot of sense until you learn about the stealth capabilities of the scoobees. With the press of a button, you can turn your mech virtually invisible, Ã la Predator. This provides a great tactical advantage, but only for a few fleeting seconds, after which you'll have some downtime before you can activate your stealth capabilities again. The action is fast, and the AI gets incredibly devious later on, putting up a satisfying fight, but the game is hindered by a lack of variety. Each environment is structurally unique, and the abandoned subway access area is especially intriguing in a strategic sense, but you'll fight dozens upon dozens of battles in the same four arenas, against the same half dozen or so scoobee types, over and over again. The only other real gripe to be had about Phantom Crash is the scoobees' slow turning abilities. It's not detrimental to the gameplay, but a quick swivel feature of some kind would've quickened the pace and eliminated those annoying moments when you're scrambling to face an attacker who's pummeling you from behind.
Phantom Crash has a look that oscillates between retro and cutting edge. When you're in the shops, the other characters and their respective CHIPs are represented with mostly static prerendered images that are so low-res and blocky it almost appears to be a purposeful design choice. However, once you head into the arena, the game shows off some technical prowess. Every scoobee is modeled with a great amount of detail, with nice, tiny, quasi-mechanical touches that lend the machines some real-world believability. The arenas skillfully convey a burned-out, dystopian future, and though they're technically well done, the drab earth tones don't make them the most interesting environments to look at. Most of the special effects, like the smoky glow of the missiles, are subtle, but the effect of activating your scoobee's stealth capabilities is just awesome, and it probably couldn't have been done without that Xbox muscle. There's some minor slowdown in Phantom Crash, and it can be annoying, but it never really becomes a major issue.
The general structure of Phantom Crash looks and feels remarkably similar to that of Yumekobo's Bio Motor Unitron.
The skirmishes in the arena are complemented by some sharp sound effects, but any nuances that might exist are summarily drowned out by the game's extensive and unique soundtrack. Produced largely by Japanese pop groups, the music covers a lot of different genres, like stripped-down rock music, dance music, acoustic folk music, and some really strange, high-concept stuff, but it all has a certain Asiatic feel. As mentioned earlier, you can customize exactly what music you want to listen to while in battle, making it possible to cull out those songs that don't especially appeal to you.
For all that it does right, Phantom Crash comes up short in a few key areas, keeping it from attaining any sort of true greatness. Simply put, the game could've benefited from a greater number of arenas, a more diverse variety of scoobees, and more gameplay modes. Hopefully, Phantom Crash will garner enough positive attention to prompt Phantagram to release a follow-up, because there's the potential here for something incredible.