Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective Review

Ghost Trick

Shu Takumi had a major breakthrough with his Ace Attorney series for the DS. People all over the world revelled in the OBJECTIONS, TAKE THATS, and HOLD ITS that the courtroom drama offered. Now, however, Takumi has moved to a new idea and a new IP, introducing Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective. Does Ghost Trick live up to Takumi’s past work? The only answer I can think of is "kinda." The charm is there with funny dialogue and cartoony characters, and the story is quite interesting, but the gameplay leaves a bit to be desired.

Ghost Trick has the players controlling Sissel, a man who is found to be dead in the first scene of the game. However, his spirit has no recollection of how or why he was killed, so he has to piece everything together before he is gone forever. Throughout the story, Sissel slowly begins to realize what has happened to him and the other characters in the story, forming a narrative with an excellent twist. Takumi has always been good at getting players to ask "what next?" and Ghost Trick is no exception.

However, I’m afraid that the main gameplay will turn some players away. As Sissel’s spirit, you must travel between different items in the environment, manipulating them as you go in order to achieve your goal. Think of a game made of Rube Goldberg devices, and Sissel’s spirit is that which sets everything into motion (funny I should mention that, as a Rube Goldberg device is a pivotal story point).

Ghost Trick Screen

These puzzles are frustrating for multiple reasons, the best example being that if you screw up, you either go back to the last Change of Fate (a "checkpoint" of sorts, which could have been achieved 5 seconds ago or 5 minutes ago) or you have to restart the entire puzzle. I’m sorry, but this being 2011, I’d like my checkpoints to be a little closer together, as I barely have the time to go through the puzzle once let alone multiple times. Alas, expect to hit "go back" a LOT. Also, timing is very precise in some puzzles, so you may find yourself sitting on one item and waiting for the opportunity for action to present itself. That lack of action may be a turn-off for action-craving gamers, but puzzle fans should have no problem with it.

The aesthetic aspects of Ghost Trick are thankfully all high points. The soundtrack is great (as one would expect from Takumi) and the environmental audio is spot on. There is no spoken word, just scrolling text a la Ace Attorney, but the text isn’t nearly as annoying or noisy as the Ace Attorney text, which was a major turnoff. The graphics are excellent, as each character is perfectly animated and the movement of items and characters on-screen is fluid and precise.

Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective is a great concept, and a game that delivers on the story, graphics, character, and sound fronts. Unfortunately, because of the sometimes confusing gameplay and difficult puzzles, those elements will be lost to some of the more casual gamers looking for a quick fix. However, if excellent narratives are enough to fuel you through a game no matter the format, then Ghost Trick should satiate your story craving. Just be prepared to be frustrated when Sissel doesn’t perform like you want him to.

4 out of 5


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Author: Jason Fanelli View all posts by
Jason lives and breathes gaming. Legend tells that he taught himself to read using Wheel of Fortune Family Edition on the NES. He's been covering this industry for three years, all with the Node, and you can see his ugly mug once a week on Hot Off The Grill.

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