Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective Review
There is a conspiracy afoot, involving a pack of blue-skinned assassins, a murderer on death row, a music box, and a rookie detective with a knack for stumbling into danger. Sissel is the one man capable of untangling the knots of this caper, but there is one small hitch. Sissel is a goner, face down on the pavement with no memories of his recently extinguished life. That won't stop him from trying though.
Sissel doesn't know why he deserved such an end, or even if he's the hero or the villain. He simply wants answers, and his best bet for finding them, Detective Lynne, has hitmen gunning for her head. Using his newfound powers of the dead, the ghost of Sissel can leap to nearby object and sometimes manipulate them in an effort to move around the environment and interact with the living. Unfortunately, stopping a gun-toting killer isn't easy when your best parlor tricks include flipping light switches and activating TV remotes.
Sissel's inability to leap to every object, nor leap very far, makes a simple task like crossing a room into a brain-bending affair, and leads to wonderfully imaginative puzzles of the Rube Goldberg sort. Don't get too focused on the idea of balls rolling down spiral ramps or dominos toppling over. Such contraptions do exist, but most of your time is spent manipulating people; getting a dog to bark in order to rile up the neighbor, or activating a police siren to get an officer's attention. As silly as the game can be, most puzzles are surprisingly logical when you take a moment to consider all of your options.
Ghost Trick is at its best after someone dies, enabling you to rewind time and battle the wheels of fate. You'll watch the last four minutes of that individual's life to gather clues before jumping back again in an attempt to alter events and prevent the demise. One false move or moment of hesitation and you may miss a crucial chance to change history.
Failure is rarely a burden in early levels. At worst, you might lose a minute to restarting. As you go deeper though, dialogues lengthen while puzzles become devilishly nefarious. It's at these points that your tolerance for starting sections over will wear dangerously thin. It's difficult to complain with a game that looks this good though. The animations are so stellar that you might forget that you're supposed to be sick of restarting. The characters and objects are three-dimensional, but animated in a hand-drawn fashion, resulting in some of the most brilliant and unique visuals the DS has seen.
Although Ghost Trick is a puzzle game at heart, it constantly reminds me of point-and-click adventures. There is an incredibly engaging story full of surprising twists lurking beneath the whimsical exterior, and it's very easy to empathize with the cast. Even the most minor characters are given such distinctive mannerisms and powerful personalities that you have to wonder just how minor they really are. The narrative can get overbearing, with dialogue often repeated back-to-back using different wordings, but it's only a small slight against an otherwise captivating experience.
Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective is a perfect storm of clever puzzles, suspenseful storytelling, and spectacular visuals that hasn't been witnessed since the heyday of LucasArts adventures. The linear plot makes this a one-time experience, but one that is so enthralling and witty that you'll be thankful for the opportunity.