After the success of the Ace Attorney series, Capcom has released another similar title for the Nintendo DS. Unlike Phoenix Wright, Ghost Trick’s main emphasis is on puzzle solving, which perfectly fits in with the whole plot of the game. Does this mystery puzzle game make the same splash as Capcom’s previous popular title?
As the name suggests Ghost Trick follows the story of a newly deceased ghost. The game starts in a junk yard where you wake up next to a corpse, a red headed girl and assassin. You quickly realize you are the dead man and can do nothing but watch as the assassin kills the girl. Shortly after, you meet up with a talking desk lamp, which explains that you can stop a person’s death by going 4 minutes before they died and interacting with the surroundings. Clueless as to who you are and being given a dead line until morning until you disappear forever, you set out on quest to find out who murdered you and why, as well as save the red headed girl who just can’t stop herself from getting killed.
This game features one of the wackiest casts of characters I have seen to date. No-one, but I mean no-one is sane in this game. The game features an inspector who makes walking up and down stairs sexy, a cute talking Pomeranian called Missile, a group of assassins all blind as bats and a restaurant chef who is so obsessed with chicken that he never stops singing about it. It really is funny seeing all these characters and they keep the game from ever getting too dark and serious. Even the minor characters are interesting enough to keep you constantly thinking about them. You can read detailed notes in the menu about each individual character. These notes are automatically updated whenever you hear something new about that person. Because of the wacky characters the entire game is naturally filled with humor. Characters have remarks on whatever you do and sometimes it’s fun to intentionally do the puzzle incorrectly to see what the other characters will say.
The game can be compared to and point and click title. You move around the room and interact with objects. Being a ghost you are limited to talking with only people who have died before, making the main focus on object manipulation. You can only jump from object to object and operate them. The length of your jump is limited so you must plan out your path in advance. For instance, you can roll tires and open cupboards allowing you to move to a location previously inaccessible. Sometimes you won’t be able to progress further because an object is out of reach, that’s when you can rewind the timer to the beginning of the death sequence allowing you to try again. There are some “Inception” moments here when you go back another 4 minutes into another person’s death, which is quite creative. There are also a few special levels which bring a welcome change in gameplay forcing you to plan out your movement differently. The game is never too hard and if you ever get stuck the abundance of hints usually gets you going on the right track.
Ghost Trick has a ton of varied locations. Most of them are very clever, because you not only have to take into account the level as it is now, but also how things change during the four minutes before death. You can travel to new locations using a telephone. This means you will backtrack to some locations, which depending on how you liked those places is either a plus or minus. Unfortunately I found some levels a bit lacking in complexity especially considering their creative potential.
For a game whose story is mostly told through visual novel style sequences it’s a shame that there are no additional endings and even no branching paths. You sometimes get to pick what you will do, but usually one choice is a dead end forcing you to repick the other option. Even though the game has almost no replay value, the story is satisfying and the puzzles are very addictive.
Most criticize the game for being it’s a bit on the shorter side. Clocking in at just around 10 hours, makes it a few hours shorter than most of the games from the Ace Atorney series. But to me the game’s length was perfect, almost every minor character was present multiple times, a ton of locations were introduced and the story had a nice conclusion.
The game features fantastic visuals. Characters are colorful and full of life. The animations are so buttery smooth that it’s hard to remember another 2D game that looks this good. The reason for this is everything is in fact 3D, but placed in such a manner making it look like everything was a 2D sprite. This is all the more impressive considering the 3D looks this good on the Nintendo DS.
The game features a great sound track. Some of the tracks have a mysterious note, which really fits the mood when you are trying to complete a puzzle. Characters are not voiced, but in this case I didn’t feel like it was really detrimental to the whole experience.
Ghost trick is a phenomenal game, one of the best I played on the DS. It has impressive visuals with fluid animations, innovative gameplay and a great mystery story. This game uses the touch screen perfectly. It’s a shame that most mobile games follow an existing specific formula ignoring the creative possibilities seen in DS games, because ghost trick proves that making engaging gameplay and a deep story is possible on a portable device. The game is available on the Nintendo DS, 3DS and has an iOS version with updated visuals. If you are a fan of the Ace Attorney series and don’t want to pass on an innovative game check this title out.