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Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective (Nintendo DS) Review
Review by 
8.88/10 from 13 user ratings

What's a floating blue entity to do? First the poor guy wakes up in a junk yard, he doesn't know who he is and he's DEAD. This unfortunate guy has only one night to figure out the mystery that was his life and the only thing around to help him is a knowledgeable desk lamp. Toss in a female in imminent danger, and you have the opening to one of the most original DS games available.

Story: In the game you play the role of a wayward spirit named Sissel who simply wants to learn about himself. “Who was I?” and “Why was I killed?” are the two main things on his mind throughout the game. Along the way he meets a cast of memorable characters (some moreso than others) who help, hinder and generally make the gameplay experience quite entertaining. The game was created by Shu Takumi, the creator of Phoenix Wright, and it shows. Dialogue presentation hits with white flashes and “smash” sound effects, and Sissel even meets a spunky female detective by the name of Lynne who certainly reminded me a little bit of Maya Fey (don't worry, she's not a spirit medium and she eventually comes across as an original character).

The story also comes to a satisfying conclusion that had me smiling. I like weird stories though, so your mileage may vary.

Interesting characters to say the least

Gameplay: At its core, Ghost Trick is a puzzle game and the basic controls are pretty simple: First, tap the lower left “Ghost” button to enter the Ghost World. From there, time stops and you can think out your actions. Once you have decided on what you will do, you may drag your spirit into a number of inanimate objects on the screen. Anything with a blue “core” (a blue ball of light) can be possessed and possibly manipulated in a specific way. In the game these possessions are referred to as “Ghost Tricks.” If you wish to manipulate an object, simply click the back button to return time to its natural flow then click the bottom-right button to perform your “Ghost Trick.” Ghost Tricks come in many varieties depending on what object you are possessing. For example, a toolbox can be “tricked” to open or a ladder can be “tricked” and made to extend. These possessions will help Sissel move about the environment as well as solve the puzzles laid before him. For example, an early puzzle has Sissel knocking a gun out of a gangster's hand by possessing a tollbooth gate and “tricking” it to move upward into the goon's arm.

Sissel's most important “Ghost Trick” is his ability to change a person's fate by rewinding time to exactly four minutes before his or her death. This is used multiple times throughout the story since our zany cast of characters is pretty prone to pushing petunias (yes, the term is “pushing daisies” but I enjoy alliteration far too much). It is then Sissel's job to use his other tricks to change the way the situation unfolds.

You will find yourself tapping the bottom corners of the screen A LOT (you can also use the L and R buttons to perform these functions). It can sometimes get tiring (pause time, move, restore time, trick, pause time, move, restore time, trick, etc.), but when you figure out a puzzle and ultimately alter someone's fate, the experience can be quite gratifying.

The gameplay changes up a bit here and there, but due to spoiler territory I will not go into specifics.


Presentation: This game is pretty. Character design is definitely original and lovely to look at. The characters move about the 2D sets in an amazingly animated way and the music is very catchy and never overstays its welcome. It is seriously a pleasure just to watch the characters move about the screen.
When Sissel converses with others, the game will show close-up portraits of the characters involved, similarly to Phoenix Wright's presentation. During these conversations there is often a good amount of text to read and you will want to read it because each conversation may bring you closer to the answers Sissel is searching for. Plus, the dialogue is witty and oftentimes outright funny.
Additionally, when you learn something important regarding the characters or story, it will be added to a file that can be accessed on the top-left corner of the screen, so you shouldn't get lost even if you need to stop playing for a week or more.

Replayability: The game has no real replayability factor. Once you have played out the story, that's that. There are no variations on how to solve the puzzles, so if you do feel compelled to play again it will be for the story and characters and not for the gameplay. The game took me about seven hours to complete, but it was a very entertaining seven hours.

Verdict: Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective is an attractive, original, and highly entertaining game. Sometimes the constant switching between the Ghost World and the real world can be cumbersome, but overall the gameplay is a breath of fresh air. The story is intriguing and you will want to play it to its (awesome) conclusion, but once it's finished you will probably be done with it forever. It is certainly worth picking up however, so go out there and see what the deal is with that dead guy... You know, the one with his bum up in the air.

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Posted: 01/23/11, 10:45:21  - Edited by 
 on: 01/24/11, 20:41:49    
Why not sign up for a (free) account and create your own content?
Hey! I made this review months ago! It just got bumped.

It really is worth the buy though. It's pretty wonderful.
But yeah, I understand backlogs.

Posted by 
 on: 07/12/11, 07:35:38
I started playing it! As I was stuck on a long train ride (with some long delays) I got pretty far too, I'm like 5 hours? into it. At first I felt a bit underwhelmed but as I got further and further I loved it more and more. The interactions between the two cops at the station are hilarious. Hopefully I'll have more time to put into it in the near future.

Posted by 
 on: 08/20/11, 21:04:59
Keep at it! I'm actually thinking of running through it again soon, just to see how quickly I can do it.

Posted by 
 on: 08/21/11, 20:21:19
Ahhhh, the dog Missile. Such a nice nod to the Phoenix Wright games indeed.

Posted by 
 on: 08/21/11, 21:19:57
Yup. Also, the best character ever. Hahaha.

Posted by 
 on: 08/22/11, 20:37:36
Just got the game yesterday after picking it up at Amazon for 15 bucks (5 bucks after $10 credit) and so far I am liking it. Is it me or is the animation rotoscoped like in Prince of Persia, Flashback or Out of this World?

Posted by 
 on: 11/04/11, 12:34:12
The animation certainly looks that way. Smooth and awesome! Whereabouts are you in the game?

Posted by 
 on: 11/05/11, 01:07:42
Everyone should be buying this for $15. They should have bought it for more, but now there is no excuse.

Posted by 
 on: 11/05/11, 05:12:35

I finished up the chapter where you save the little girl in her apartment and keep Missle alive as well.

Posted by 
 on: 11/05/11, 06:29:10
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