You may be thinking the same thing I did when I heard the title Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective: “Oh cool, a game about a dead detective turned ectoplasmic prostitute”. Alas, such is not he case. Instead, the game you will find waiting for you when you boot up your DS is a interactive mystery where you will be controlling a ghost named Sissel on his quest to unravel the enigma of his own murder. Game designer Shu Takumi is no stranger to the whodunit genre. As creator of the Ace Attorney series he was able to craft mind boggling, smart point and click mysteries with a good amount of tongue-in-cheek humor. It will be clear to players of Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective that this ability has not at all diminished. An interesting story, a strangely delightful new game mechanic, and loads of tricks for you to turn makes a game that is sure to become a classic.
You must solve Sissel’s murder before the sun comes up and his spirit travels to “the other side” forever. Fortunately, upon his death, Sissel is imbued with special powers to aid him in his adventure. Two of these powers involve how Sissle moves around. For traveling great distances he can posses a telephone that’s in use, trace the origin of the call, and then travel to that location in the blink of an eye through the phone lines. For smaller distances, Sissel can hop into the ghost world where time stands still, and then move place to place by possessing inanimate objects. This ability has a short range, so in order to move around the entire scene, you will need to posses a series of objects to reach your destination. Often, you will need to transfer back to the real world to perform a “Ghost Trick”, which are simple actions along the lines of opening a cot or turning on a fan. These tricks manipulate the environment or cause characters to react in ways which will enable Sissel to get to areas that were previously unreachable. These environmental puzzles are very fun, intricate, and well thought out. Occasionally you will find one that requires a few restarts and some trial-and error, but these instances are few and far between. It’s just a shame that none of them involve a lady of the evening*.
Sissel has another main ability, which is the ability to posses corpses of the recently deceased (excluding his own) and rewind time to four minutes before their death. He can then use his abilities to prevent that person’s untimely demise. When you are working in the past, you will be racing against a time limit, but once you have changed the fate of the person you’re trying to save, it will initiate a checkpoint. If you mess up the timing on something, you have the option of restarting the scenario from the beginning or from the moment you changed the victim’s fate. Usually when you mess up, the error is so obvious that you won’t have to restart anything more than once. Once you’ve saved this person from their untimely demise, you can then hop into that person’s body and have a chat with them even though they’re alive.
The presentation in this game is superb. Characters look cell shaded, but have a 3D aspect to them that is uncommon in cell shading. Their animations are smooth and fluid, and main characters have been given unique and quirky “trademark” movements that are sure to bring a chuckle here and there. The backgrounds they interact with show a high level of detail and serve as the perfect contrast to the cartoony characters. Being an interactive mystery means there is a lot of dialogue going on in Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective. Given the endless chuckles that can be found in the Ace Attorney series, it is easy to expect the same thing from Ghost Trick. There are some jokes, but unfortunately most of the dialogue seems flat and thick to wade through. Thankfully, the developers put important words and phrases in red so you can’t help but to jump directly to them when you’re reading. You’ll be glad for the effort it took to get through all that text, because there is an awesome game hiding beneath it. Hopefully if another game in this vein is made, some attention can be paid to making the text a little on the lighter side, or at least increasing the frequency of humor.
It is a rare occasion that a game developer can come up with something that seems almost completely new and original these days, but the team responsible for Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective pulled it off. Ghostly possession, traveling through phone lines, and time travel have definitely never been lumped together before, but they mesh well. Beautiful, fluidly animated characters provide perfect counter balance to the heavy, and surprisingly not humorous text, and there is actually a good story in this game that will probably challenge you quite a bit, but without frustrating you. Somehow, as if by magic, all of these elements are tied together despite the glaring error of not including women of ill repute**. Give Ghost Trick a fair chance and you just might find you are more of a detective than you thought, with a whole heap of tricks up your sleeve.
* Meaning: HOOKER
Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective
|Great and interesting new game mechanics help make this interactive mystery game a nearly instant classic. Superior art direction really helps bring the story to life.||There is a lot of text, and most of it is pretty bland.|
|Verdict||A must have for all RPG fans|