As the industry turns its focus to Nintendo’s new handheld, the original DS seems like it is about to be left behind. With very few big releases set for the upcoming months, besides PokÃ©mon Black and White, it appears that game publishers are looking towards the future with the 3DS. Thankfully, Capcom’s Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective seem poised to help the extremely popular handheld ride off into the sunset with one of the most original, creative, and fun games the system has seen.
Ghost Trick puts players in the role of Sissel, a man who wakes up and appears to have recently been murdered. For some strange reason, Sissel’s spirit has separated from his body and he has no memory of who he is or what led to his murder. He quickly learns that by using the powers of the dead he can Ghost Trick, or jump to different non-living objects.
Once possessing a non-living object, Sissel can manipulate these objects to navigate around the levels. By doing this Sissel helps the other living characters in the story escape certain death, which eventually unravels the mystery surrounding his own death. Sissel's special Ghost Trick power is the way he can reverse the deaths of any corpse he comes across. While he can’t possess a living person, when he jumps into a corpse Sissel travels back to four minutes before it died, during which he can alter events in order to save the person.
The gameplay in Ghost Trick can best be described as an elaborate version of the popular board game Mouse Trap. That kid's game holds a special memory for many with its multiple objects all working together to create a Rube Goldberg-like machine to trap a mouse. But unlike Mouse Trap, which always has the same items and traps in place, Ghost Trick presents players with a ton of different objects in random places that need to be manipulated in certain ways, and sometimes with precise timing, to achieve the needed results.
For example, in one stage a character appears to die of a heart attack. Once Sissel possesses this man’s corpse, players are shown a video of the events that lead to his death. During this video it's shown that the man reached for his pills but accidentally knocked them across the room where he could not reach them, causing him to die of a heart attack. Once the events that lead up to a character's death are known, it is up to Sissel to reverse or change these events.
Navigating around the environment by jumping from one object to another, Sissel's spirit has a short reach. With the pills across the room, there is have nothing to jump from to reach them. However, there is a ceiling fan that has a stack of papers underneath it, so players can possess the fan and manipulate it into spinning faster, which starts blowing the papers around. Once a paper reaches close enough to the fan, Sissel will need to then jump to the paper before it blows over to the other side of the room. Players who miss the timing can always rewind back to certain points and try again.
Once Sissel reaches the other side of the room, he'll need to knock over shelves and globes in a specific way, all to make a suit of armor swing its sword to bat the bottle of pills back in the direction of the man who is having the heart attack. Do this successfully and the man will be prevented from dying. Sissel can then get information that helps to further his quest to find out answers about himself.
Some of these puzzles are extremely complicated and can require many different attempts until players realize what exactly is required and how to time Sissel's manipulations. Those who are discouraged by trying the same thing over and over until finding the right way may get frustrated at the trial-and-error puzzle solving technique this game requires. The payoff is that figuring it out so that everything works smoothly is an extremely satisfying experience.
The main focus of Ghost Trick is the puzzle solving, but the other part of the game is primarily story based. Players can expect long sections of text between the puzzles. This isn’t a bad thing as the presentation of the game makes these sections stand out. Ghost Trick has some of the most memorable and catchy music in recent memory. Along with this fantastic music score, the game looks like nothing else on the DS. As the story progresses it is acted out by some of the best animation seen on a handheld.
This being a Japanese developed game, it has its strange quirks which may be off putting to some. Each character is animated with a style that fits their personality. For example, a detective in the story wears a long white trench coat and dances around and does disco poses similar to John Travolta in Saturday Night Fever. It may seem strange at times, but it goes a long way toward lightening the mood of the game, which would be incredibly dark without this added levity and humor.
Ghost Trick is one of the most original and entertaining DS games in recent memory. Its unique premise, fantastic score, and wonderfully animated presentation fully support the game's clever, engaging puzzles. Fans of story heavy adventure games like Capcom's Phoenix Wright series or the interactive novel 9 Hours, 9 Persons, 9 Doors should definitely give this game a chance. Though there is some head scratching frustration from the puzzles, and some very quirky characters, Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective provides satisfying puzzles and a lengthy story that is interesting and entertaining until the end.
Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective is available now for the Nintendo DS.