Game Review: Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective (DS)

In this game, you’re already dead at the start. As a ghost, you don’t remember who you were or why you died. And your only lead is a lady who gets killed soon after you did. You quickly learn that you have special powers as a ghost. You can possess and manipulate nearby objects, and even rewind time four minutes after someone other than yourself had died. Now it’s up to you to use your ghost powers to save lives and unravel the mystery of your death!

Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective for Nintendo DS is like a strange mix of two other niche games: Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney and The Incredible Machine. The narrative, story execution, and instantly likeable characters are just like the point and click Phoenix Wright lawyer mystery games on DS. In fact, Ghost Trick was made by the same team who made the Ace Attorney titles! You’ll have to wade through a lot of text, but the writing is so clever and witty that most fans won’t mind at all.

The other half of the game plays like the classic PC puzzler: The Incredible Machine. In that game you used common objects stringed together like a Rube Goldberg device to solve a puzzle. In Ghost Trick, you perform similar tasks by possessing objects and making them move. Sometimes you’ll need to get from point A to point B, but you can only possess nearby objects so you must use ‘tricks’ to make some items move to help you get closer to other objects. For example, make a ladder extend or fold open a briefcase. In other instances, you’ll need to grab the attention of a person by making a noise on a guitar or music box. Use the stylus to drag your spirit to objects to possess.

Every now and then you’ll encounter a murder. This is where you can rewind time four minutes before the victim’s death to try to stop the killing from happening. Use timing and your noodle to possess the right objects to distract or grab someone’s attention, or move objects around to prevent the murder from happening. By doing so, you’ll save the good guys and add a piece of the puzzle to the big mystery. If you mess up, you can keep rewinding time until you figure out the right solution.

Ghost Trick’s problems may be annoying to some, but barely noticeable to others. There is always only one solution to each of the game’s puzzles, so there is not a lot of room for creativity. And like the Phoenix Wright games, this one is very text heavy. If you don’t like a lot of reading in your games, you may get annoying at all the wordiness. Similar to the Ace Attorney games, Ghost Trick is, at heart, just an interactive mystery novel.

But with the excellent character animations, creative gameplay, and likeable characters, Ghost Trick’s problems seem pretty minor, at least to me. You’ll really want to save the lives of the attachable characters (especially that adorable dog Missile!). If you like the Phoenix Wright games, mystery shows and books, or ghost TV programs like Ghost Hunters, then you might want to have Ghost Trick in your possession. Hey, I like all of those things (yes, watching those dumb ghost shows on TV is a guilty pleasure of mine)!

Kid Factor:

Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective is rated T for Teen with ESRB descriptors of Mild Language and Mild Violence. Honestly I don’t remember seeing any bad words in the text so far, so they must be used very sparingly. You do see people (and dogs) getting shot and killed, and they do fall over and die, but there is no blood. And the violence also seems somewhat negated thanks to the cartoony comic book styled graphics. Plus, the game gives a good distinction most of the time between the good guys and the bad ones. You always have to save the heroes and foil the villains. So really, I would be OK with kids younger than teens playing this. But because of all the heavy text and complex storyline, only older kid gamers would get the most out of Ghost Trick.

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