Simplistic design in games is nothing new. Arcade games decades ago made players play the same game over and over, competing for the highest score on the leaderboard. This type of gameplay has never died, but has been less popular in the era of gaming we live in. An era where games are full of rich storytelling with a variety of different play styles implemented within the game to keep you excited. Mandrake Phantasy uses the old formula, and mixes it with mystery and beauty.
Mandrake Phantasy is a very short game, one minute to be exact. You start the game after talking to a large and mysterious blue woman. She asks you to find her friends. After this, the music starts playing and you are tasked to remove mandrakes that are buried in the ground by playing a little game where you try to stop a marker in the tiny green portion of a line with red, yellow, and green areas. If you land in the red, you fail to save the mandrake and you suffer a time loss. The gameplay is simple, but is helped by its exciting music that stops it from being too tedious.
The land is pretty large and full of mandrakes to pull out of the ground, and it holds very beautiful scenes that created an implicit history that I wanted to explore, even though the game never tells you where you are, who you are, or who you are helping. The absolutely gorgeous graphics made me want to spend hours searching every inch of the setting multiple times. Cute rippling ponds, the bridges connecting the level to other buildings you cannot explore, the shadows of the clouds slowly drifting over the ground, the vases holding unknown objects, the architecture that seems useless in the seemingly abandoned location, every piece of the setting was so beautiful and mysterious that it made me want to know more about the world of Mandrake Phantasy.
Each playthrough consists of pulling mandrakes out of the ground, and after the timer runs out, you return to the blue girl, and release all of the mandrakes you gathered. This can cause her to say a few different statements depending on how many mandrakes you gathered. These statements are always very short and never seem to encourage you to continue playing. They’re just short congratulations and goodbyes.
The reward for your work isn’t really interesting, but you only worked for sixty seconds, so you don’t deserve a reward. At first I had a problem with this, I wanted a story, I wanted a small piece of history from this place, but I didn’t really deserve it. I was already provided with beautiful graphics and music that kept me excited through the somewhat average gameplay.
Mandrake Phantasy’s short time commitment stops the gameplay from being too repetitive, and excuses it for not having history in its world. With only being able to explore the setting for sixty seconds, there shouldn’t be a need for history, or any interest in the setting at all. The fact that Mandrake Phantasy made me intrigued in the world and characters is quite an achievement.
After finishing Mandrake Phantasy for the tenth time, witnessing all of the endings, and saving countless mandrakes, I felt like I spent my time well. The music has been stuck in my head for days, the characters still have a mysterious charm to them, and the experience was one I highly recommend. Mandrake Phantasy is short, sweet,and mysterious. Be Bad Boi, Mandrake Phantasy’s developers, in their itch.io comments section, stated they are thinking about making a new game with more exploration, and that makes me even more excited, because they already created an interesting world I want to explore in a sixty second game, and that is the power of great game design.
Download Mandrake Phantasy here!