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Review: Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective

23 May

It’s never too late to change. Even if your dead. Well, at least if you’re Sissel, the lead protagonist of Capcom’s Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective for the Nintendo DS (and recently released for the iOS). A puzzle game at its core but a crime story in its heart, Ghost Trick is unlike anything else out there. If you’ve been yearning for  a fantastic story and creative gameplay,Ghost Trick is set to please.

 

 


Story


I’ve got some bad news. You’re dead.

You play as Sissel, a dashing young man with a sharp red suit and gravity defying hair. But unfortunately Sissel has just been murdered. The game opens up with Sissel’s murder scene; a junkyard with only one witness to the dastardly deed. Somehow, Sissel is capable of thought and even more strangely interacting with certain objects. Unaware of his past life, the freshly deceased finds out he is a ghost and decides he is going to find out just what events unfolded that culminated in his slaughter. By some other strange circumstance, Sissel is capable of interacting with other recently deceased, and is even able to rewind time four minutes prior to their death. While in the past, he can manipulate objects in hopes of averting the unfortunate individual’s dire future.

But things just keep getting weirder and weirder for Sissel. In what starts out as a simple whodunit scenario, things couldn’t get more bizarre. A young detective with a penchant for getting killed, an adorable Pomeranian, a wrongly convicted man, and other-worldly spirits later, you’ve got a complex, entertaining, and extremely well paced story. Ghost Trick’s biggest draw, and largest portion of the game itself, is the story. Thankfully characters are likable and have their own motives for doing their actions. I give the game lots of praise for being able to hold my attention for the 14’ish hours it took to complete, as there is a lot of reading. If you don’t like words being the majority of gameplay, then stay away from this one. But for everyone else, Ghost Trick has a creative crime drama to be told.You might think you have the story pinned down and can guess what’s next only to be utterly incorrect by the newest turn of events. And I liked it!


Gameplay


Move to new objects like chandeliers and books to get about the room.

Ghost Trick is a simple yet challenging game to play. The gameplay can be broken down to two distinct components: ghost mode and trick mode, both of which (so literally the entire game outside of any story elements) take place when trying to save someone’s life by working in the past. Ghost mode freezes the action and places you in a crimson hued version of your surroundings. You’ll see blue nodes that designate an object you can move too, so long as it is within your reach. You must enter ghost mode to move to new objects, and on many occasions you have to time your moves appropriately because if you’re too slow you’ll miss your chance to possess that book someone was carrying in order to get to the far right of the room

Possess an object in ghost mode to manipulate it in trick mode. Trust me, it’s more fun than it sounds.

Once you’re out of ghost mode you enter trick mode, which runs in real time (meaning people move around and do stuff). By pressing the “trick” button on the touch screen, you can manipulate the object your possessing. So for example, if Sissel is possessing a fan, he can manipulate it to spin faster in hopes of getting a reaction out of the people in the room (or perhaps to reach a new object to move to). Your goal in each of the 18 stages is to stop someone’s death, and once you’ve successfully averted their fate, you’ve won. It is a very simple formula, but it can present quite a challenge if you do not see any means of moving. Trial and error plays a big part in the game, particularly in later levels, which can hamper your experience if you have to repeat a stage again and again just to figure out what the hell to do. Overall the gameplay feels very mundane and repetitive, but it can be fun to see each object you can move around. On top of that, the satisfaction you get from figuring out what to do is unparalleled. Don’t expect Ghost Trick to give you any variety in gameplay, and once the game is completed there is little to no incentive to go back through the game again.


Visuals


Lots of characters dance in this game, especially Michael Jackson-inspired Cabanela.

The first and last thing you’re going to notice about this game is the visual presentation. Ghost Trick features smooth shading and animation that looks fantastic for a handheld game. The use of colors and shadows is unparalleled for a DS game. Characters move so nicely. Even simple tasks like walking across the room, picking up a book, making a phone call, and skating over to the martini bar are a joy to watch. I think it is for this reason that the programmers thought it necessary to have a lot of people dance in the game, just as a way of saying, “Hey, check out how awesome our game looks!” Ghost Trick is easily the best looking game I’ve seen on the DS. Check out this GIF to see what I’m talking about.


Overall


I’d have the same reaction if I were him.

Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective is unlike any other game I’ve played. I was a fan of the story and characters as well as the art style. But the game isn’t for everyone, as the amount of text you’ll sift through will turn off a lot of folks. I am afraid that the game is going to be left in obscurity where it most certainly DOES NOT belong. This game deserves to be in your DS/3DS (or iPhone/iPad) right now.


Final Thoughts

 The Good:

– Creative story with interesting characters worth getting into
– Very nice animation and visual presentation

The Bad:

– Light on gameplay, heavy on text
– Later puzzles rely on trial & error

Laters,
Jsick

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5 Comments

Posted by on 05/23/2012 in Nintendo DS

 

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5 responses to “Review: Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective

  1. Eric

    05/23/2012 at 8:36 pm

    I have a huge list of DS games I really want to play, and this one is right near the top of it. It just sounds so unique and different from anything else I have played lately. Thanks for sharing your review, man. I’ll see about checking this out once I finally beat Chrono Trigger.

     
    • jsicktheslick

      05/23/2012 at 9:08 pm

      Whenever I can dig into my extensive back catalog I think it’s a good day. It seems like you’re doing the same, finishing up Chrono Trigger (which is excellent, by the way). I look forward to seeing what you jump into next. How is the video game project going?

       
      • Eric

        05/24/2012 at 9:03 pm

        It’s coming along a little slower than anticipated, which I can mostly blame on getting sucked into the Mass Effect universe. I played the first two games back-to-back and I just started ME3 the other day. Chrono Trigger will be my next project feature, and I hope to finish the game sometime soon. I think I’m about ten hours into it, and I’m really enjoying it so far.

         
  2. jsicktheslick

    05/25/2012 at 12:54 am

    That sounds about right with Mass Effect. I did the exact same thing playing the first two games back to back. I loved the story and characters. But I’ve yet to pick up ME3, though I really want to play.
    And 10 hours into Chrono Trigger should be getting somewhat close to the end. If I recall it wasn’t a particularly long RPG.

     

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