Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective is one of the most enjoyable puzzle games I’ve ever played. It was created by Shu Takumi, the man behind the Ace Attorney series, and much of the same style and humor comes through in Ghost Trick.
The recently-deceased protagonist, Sissel, has no memory of how he died. His search for the truth pulls him into a strange plot involving quirky characters, with dark secrets that tie them both to each other and to a strange event that took place many years ago. And if he wants answers, he’ll need to find them fast, because ghosts vanish at dawn.
To move around, Sissel must rely on “ghost tricks,” which the player activates through use of the DS touchscreen. He can possess objects within a limited radius around him, and then perform a “trick” with each one. Possessing a piece of paper stuck on the wall, for example, might allow him to knock it down. He would then have access to objects on the ground. In another situation, he might possess something in motion, so he himself can move. These tricks are his main method of short-range movement.
Long-range movement is handled through telephones. If Sissel possesses a phone, he can trace calls and travel through the telephone wires. In this way, you gain access to more areas as the game goes on. At certain points in the game, you’ll also talk to characters and ask them questions in order to learn more about what’s going on.
While the gameplay and the mystery of Sissel’s death are interesting, the characters really make Ghost Trick shine. Inspector Cabanela (who literally dances through life), the adorable Pomeranian Missile, the detective Lynne, and all the other main characters are memorable and endearing. Even the more minor characters contribute to the game’s humor and atmosphere. My favorite minor character was the prison guard Bailey, who launches into a “panic dance” partway through the game and continues it even on later visits.
Finally, the plot itself is amazing. It is divided into chapters, and almost every chapter ends with a cliffhanger or plot twist. The excellent soundtrack increases the urgency as Sissel finds himself further from the truth with each new development, and the thrill when the pieces at last start to fit together.
And when that moment comes, be prepared. Ghost Trick’s final revelations are shocking and emotional, giving it the conclusion such a great game deserves.
The concept of a ghost searching for the cause of his death isn’t a new one, but Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective puts enough unique spins on it to be distinct. The puzzles are enjoyable, challenging enough to make players think without causing too much frustration. The characters, story, and humor make it stand out as a masterpiece. And Ghost Trick’s true brilliance comes at the end, when the player can finally look back and see all the layers of foreshadowing in the plot.
If you like humor, puzzles, and excellent stories, Ghost Trick is a game you should definitely play.