Nukezilla Review: Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective (DS)
Capcom’s Ghost Trick is a game where you die in the first ten seconds. Sorry. However, there is some hope. In the world of Ghost Trick, a select few spirits are given powers of manipulation, or Ghost Tricks — in our hero Sissel’s case, the ability to manipulate some small inanimate objects — and are able to use these powers to work out the mystery of their death. Unfortunately, these spirits only have until dawn the following morning to work out how they died before they and their powers dissipate forever.
Assisting Sissel is a young, death-prone detective named Lynne, a mysterious lamp-inhabiting spirit (aptly named Ray), and Missile, the cutest damn Pomeranian you have ever seen. These — and every other — characters Sissel encounters relate directly to the mystery of his death in some way or another, and with each fate Sissel can avert, the characters become further woven into the tapestry of his own fate.
Ghost Trick was developed by Shu Takumi, the creator of Capcom’s Phoenix Wright series, and the same “feel” of those games is present here. Although the story involves death and conspiracies — and lots of it — it’s actually a fairly light story, with plenty of humor laced liberally throughout. Sissel, teaming up with Lynne, must discover the identity of the game’s evil mastermind, and why he is so hell-bent on killing Lynne. He must also thwart the detectives hindering Lynne’s progress, stop a kidnapping, save an innocent man on death row, and keep everyone alive while solving the mystery of his own death — quite a lot to do in one night.
Gameplay is fairly simple. As a spirit, Sissel has the power to enter the bodies of the recently-deceased and rewind time four minutes before the moment of death in order to inhabit and manipulate surrounding inanimate objects to change the newly-dead’s fate. Manipulating objects can range anywhere from opening an umbrella in order to move to a different location on screen, or moving a tray of donuts to force the target to sit on the opposite end of the couch, or (later in the game) even swapping similar sized objects. Each Ghost Trick changes fate in some small way, and it is the sum of these manipulations that alter destiny and save lives; there is no one-step cure-all to be found here.
The puzzle-solving in Ghost Trick is a mixed bag. There aren’t many hints in dialogue to walk you through the process to avert a given fate; for the most part, the puzzles are entirely trial and error. A good amount of time is spent simply manipulating objects to see what effect they will have on the surrounding environment, and working out in what order these items need to be triggered.
I found this trial and error system fun, but it did sometimes become a little tedious in the longer sequenced puzzles. When combined with the fact that each puzzle has one (rarely two) checkpoints, one mistake could send you back more than a few steps in the puzzle-solving process — and when some puzzles involve split-second timing, having to reload a check point can sometimes be more than a little annoying.
While both the puzzle-solving and the story are fun, the stand out element of Ghost Trick is definitely the characters. Ghost Trick boasts a large cast of both primary and secondary characters, each with their own unique quirks — ranging from an opera-singing chicken chef, to a Michael Jackson-esque dancing detective and to an alcoholic smut writer. Additionally, I feel I must also point out that Ghost Trick has what is possibly the best animation I’ve ever seen in a DS game.
My biggest problem with Ghost Trick, however, was that it was simply too linear. It’s understandable that the story itself can and will be linear; however, each puzzle has exactly one solution, and there are often more objects to manipulate than objects that are actually used in a given puzzle’s solution. I would have liked to have seen puzzles with more than one solution based on how Sissel interacts with any given object and in what order.
If you can excuse the extremely linear nature of the game — and don’t mind trial and error in your puzzle-solving, then I encourage anyone with a DS to give Ghost Trick a try.