I don’t plan on wasting your time here. If you have any respect for your Nintendo DS then close this window, jump over to Amazon and pick up your copy of Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective right now. Seriously, the less time you spend reading this and not playing Ghost Trick the better. This is the most creative, engaging DS game I’ve played since Elite Beat Agents in 2006 (and if you didn’t find Elite Beat Agents engaging and creative than you need to dive into your old pants pockets and scrounge around for the soul you seemed to have lost). If you insist on spending more time here to make your decision, I’ll try to do my best to relay what exactly I find so amazing about this title.
So you wake up in the middle of a junkyard and you’re dead. Bummer. No problem though; there’s a mysterious girl who saw your last few seconds of life. Oh wait, she’s dead too. Bummer. But there’s still hope because you have your ghost tricks to bring her back. You might as well head four minutes into the past and save her so she can shed some light on your little affliction. This is how Ghost Trick starts and it’s only the beginning of the bizarre, amazing things that are to come on your journey.
You play as a recently deceased mystery waiting to be solved in Ghost Trick by Shu Takumi, the creator of the Ace Attorney series. All you have to do is keep the interested parties in your murder alive long enough to milk the information out of them. By the way, you only have until morning to do it. Ghost Trick’s story is amazing. I’m the kind of guy who figures out the mystery way before the end ever rises, but in this adventure I was left wondering and compelled to continue the whole time. It was like reading a great book, I just had to turn to the next chapter to see where our hero went next. The twists, the drama, and the characters all come together masterfully to the point where I found myself getting emotional over each person’s problems. And somehow the characters remain funny and charming the whole time. Namely, a little Pomeranian who I think is a contender for best sidekick of any game of all time.
The graphics are unique and flow seamlessly. In fact, the character animation is some of the most sickeningly smooth movement I’ve had the pleasure of witnessing on the DS screen. However, many of these spectacular animations are recycled ad nauseum along with much of the music. As disappointing as this is, it doesn’t take anything away from the experience.
As the plot progresses people die… a lot. Once you discover a murder it’s time to go back four minutes before the victim’s death and save their lives. Once the timer starts, the game is broken down into two sequences. Moving around as a ghost and “tricking” items in the real world. As a ghost, time is stopped and you can freely move from object to object without worry of time running out on whoever might be close to death at the moment. Once you find an object with a power (like a rolling ball or spinning fan) you can shift back to the real world and “trick” it into acting. Careful though, time is ticking as soon as you’re back in reality. By using these two techniques you should be able to save your friends from certain death. The whole thing is like a giant cause/effect machine and seeing how your small actions play out is a huge chunk of the fun.
If I had one problem with the game, it would be in the tricking itself. Most of the time you have no idea how tricking an item will pan out and if you roll that ball off the table and find out later that you needed it. Well, it’s not getting back on that table to roll again. In many of the puzzles you’ll find yourself having to rewind the level and replay the sequence of death quite a few times. This can get frustrating, especially if you can see what you are supposed to do but can’t seem to get the timing right. However, the game does provide checkpoints and hints as you go and I rarely found myself too frustrated to happily continue.
Ghost Trick manages to throw plenty of curve balls into the mix and the game is interesting from start to finish. And what a finish it is; one of the best, most intriguing endings I’ve had the pleasure of witnessing. I want to tell you some of the crazy things that are waiting for you but half the fun comes from the surprises themselves. Somehow, even toward the end, I kept saying “no way” as some new puzzle piece or innovative tricking mechanic fell into place. I simply wish my journey could have been longer even though the story lasts about 8 – 10 hours.
So get out of here and buy the game. It’ll be the best decision you’ve made for your little DS.