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Review: Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective—From DS to Steam!

Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective is a puzzle adventure game with visual novel elements. It was developed by CAPCOM, and it was originally released in 2011, making quite a name for itself since then — it was even hailed as one of the best DS titles of all-time.

While I managed to get a physical copy of the game sometime back, I never ended up playing it. I simply hated playing games on my DS. So, when it was announced that Ghost Trick would be ported to modern consoles, I immediately got excited and so did everyone else around me, especially the ones who had actually played it. Tweets swarmed my timeline saying “You need to play Ghost Trick. Its story is one of the best out there,” and other such praises. While I didn’t want to doubt my friends, I’ve had previous experiences where games failed to meet the hype surrounding them.

So, is Ghost Trick one of those cases, or is it a rare case where it manages to meet the sky-high expectations set by its hype?

Red-hair girl talking to someone over the phone

If you were to ask a Ghost Trick fan about its story, you won’t get anything out of them, and for good reason. Ghost Trick is one of those titles where even the simplest of details will spoil one of its many twists.

Going off the game page itself, you play as Sissel, who wakes up just to find out two things… One, he’s dead. Two, he has lost his memory. Everything is hazy, from simple things like what medicine is, to the circumstances surrounding his death. Though, one thing is clear: someone witnessed his death — a red-haired detective. If Sissel wants to have his questions answered, he must follow this woman while utilizing his newly-found ghost powers of possessing and manipulating objects.

This murder mystery thriller is engrossing from its intriguing beginning to exciting and emotional climax and as a result, I had a tough time putting it down. I needed to know what was going to happen next, even if it was 2 in the morning and I had been playing for hours on end.

Ghost Trick Missile promotional art

Ace Attorney has brought players many colorful, wacky characters over the years with every new title. From the witness Polly the Parrot to internet’s favorite clown girl, Geiru Toneido, Takumi Shu is a writer who knows how to write memorable characters, and Ghost Trick is chock-full of them. There’s a talking desk lamp, an eccentric detective who dances in and out of every scene, and the bestest boy in the whole world, Missile. Despite being over-the-top in terms of personality, the writing carefully manages to make the main cast feel human when it comes to their motivations and worldview. Adding these very real human elements helped me connect with them on a deeper level, making me want to see them reach their goals, even if it seemed an impossible one.

The only downside is that the side characters aren’t as fleshed out, which is a travesty because one of the antagonists in particular really stuck out to me. She commanded the room and her presence was scary… I felt like the game could have utilized her better, given her potential.

Ghost Trick gameplay

In this remastered edition, players can solve the mystery in clean HD graphics and with FPS. Additionally, Yasumasa Kitagawa, the composer for The Great Ace Attorney, is behind the music remastering. These small touch-ups give the game a much-needed modern feel and it felt like actual effort was put into remastering this title, which is something that can’t be said about some other titles. Combine all of this to the well-done 3D animations and you have a lively and memorable game whose presentation will stick with you for years to come.

Ghost Trick gameplay, manipulating objects

In every level of Ghost Trick, someone regrettably meets a tragic end, and Sissel isn’t the type to let another person meet his fate. Thanks to his new ghost powers — “Ghost Tricks” — he is able to go back four minutes in time before the victim’s death and try to prevent it. You must navigate the environment, manipulating objects to solve the puzzle, in hopes of preventing the victim’s death.

Overall, I enjoyed these puzzles. The game takes its time to ease you into its mechanics and will throw you a bone via the hint system if you’re stuck. There were a few puzzles that were aggravating, and this is because the solution wouldn’t show itself until the last three seconds before a character’s death. This meant you would need to wait around until the opportunity showed itself. Once it does, you’ll only have a few seconds to quickly solve the puzzle before a character meets their untimely demise. If you don’t, it’s game over, forcing you to restart from the last checkpoint.

Without spoiling it too much, one of these puzzles required timing. What I mean by this is that you would need to manipulate one object, and then quickly move to another to make it interact with the previous object you just possessed in a small window of time. I can see what they were going for here: they wanted to put you in an anxiety-ridden situation. However, having to perfectly time our actions in the last seconds felt a bit overkill.

Ghost Trick cutscene

Simply put, Ghost Trick is a master class on how to do a mystery right, joining the likes of 428: Shibuya Scramble and Zero Escape. Intrigue, emotional investment, excellent foreshadowing, sensible yet jaw-dropping plot twists; truly, Ghost Trick doesn’t miss. While there were some minor missteps, they don’t take away from the overall experience. If you were like me and missed out on Ghost Trick when it first released back in 2011, do yourself a favor and rectify that mistake.

You can now play it on Steam for $29.99.

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