Xbox One, PS4, PC, Nintendo Switch
June 30, 2023
After Devil May Cry V and quite a successful run of Resident Evil games over the past few years, Capcom is again in many people’s good books. Perhaps a lesser noticed but still important feat is how they’ve finally taken advantage of their niche backlog titles with the anticipated Dragon’s Dogma 2 and, most recently, Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective returning. For the first time in over a decade, the quirky puzzle game is available on more than exclusively mobile and DS. It’s an incredibly exciting time and well worth checking out the well-ported title.
You are dead and your name is Sissel. You have lost many of your memories and you are now a ghost. The good news? You have paranormal abilities that let you possess and manipulate objects and even rewind time to four minutes before others’ deaths. With these tools, you can solve not only the cases around you as a newly appointed phantom detective but also the greater mystery surrounding your murder. This all but makes for a killer setup for a fun and twisty, windy noir adventure.
The events of Ghost Trick all take place in one night. It’s a factor that’s easy to forget given just how many inventive twists and turns occur throughout the roughly twelve-hour story, but also impressive because of that fact. No thread is left unresolved and every detail you come across, however minor, will often play a part in the bigger picture before it inevitably crescendos into a neat, tiny little bow.
What this means is that even characters that appear fleeting in nature get their time to shine. It’s a good thing they do too; each and every character is designed intricately and in a captivating manner. Stellar too is the animation. Why exactly does Detective Cabanela strut, dance and moonwalk as he enters and leaves a scene? Who knows. But it looks bloody cool.
An inmate on death row. A chirpy pomeranian known as Missile. Lynne, the red-headed girl you save at the start of the game. A talking lamp. They’re all key and important figures in the narrative in some way, often having their own unique physical traits or animation quirk about them to further invest you in said character.
Rotating through this diverse cast of characters, making it all make sense while remaining in a neat, well-presented package is to be expected of Ghost Trick. It is, after all, created by Shu Takumi, the same man who created the fantastic Ace Attorney series. Having this must-play experience now available outside of mobile and the Nintendo DS family of consoles is an incredible and exciting milestone. This is simply because there aren’t many puzzle games to date that are this special and flashy.
Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective comprises eighteen chapters and each environment you find yourself in is more complex than the last. Whether you’re situated in a junkyard, jail cell, or an apartment, they’re filled with dozens of little trinkets and tidbits to explore and revel in.
All of these environmental details are important in progressing. As most chapters and puzzles go, the death of a character will often occur. Players stumble upon a body usually after the fact and interact with it using their paranormal ability in ‘Trick time,’ the ability that freezes time but also colours these 2D environments in an x-ray filter, so that every interactable object is clearly laid out.
From there, you must review the death and use the inanimate objects in the environment to whip and move around the scene, preventing catastrophic events and thus changing history. How you move around between these interaction points becomes difficult, especially when there’s the pressure of time running out and not every object is immediately in reach.
“…there simply aren’t many puzzle games to date that are this special and flashy.”
Before long, these puzzle-solving mechanics become akin to a Rube Goldberg machine. Perhaps you loosen one end of a shelving unit, making the globe that is stationed on top of it roll off of the edge, knocking another object into place it needs to be and so on…This feels immensely complimentary to the involved mysteries found throughout the game. Like the gameplay, what at first can look like a nonsequitur is in fact the key to everything.
Finding the last piece in the chain reaction of events that makes up a puzzle feels like a eureka moment. That was captured really well on the original DS, emphasising the use of the stylus. Thankfully, that’s captured just as well on the Switch, now using the joysticks for navigation or the device’s touch screen.
Creating butterfly effects throughout time is an interesting implication in the narrative of Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective, but also a thoroughly enjoyable gameplay mechanic. It’s hard to even describe some of the ridiculous feats and contraption sequences you’ll pull off in-game, leaving it really worth stepping in and experiencing for yourself.
The most out-there puzzle resolution is the dialling into a telephone that a character may be currently using in an environment. This then leaves Sissel heading through the wiring across the grid to a new scene where you learn who is on the other end of the line, now becoming aware of their surroundings and how maybe even that can play into the current puzzle you’ve found yourself in. This further emphasises the immersive fact that this gigantic mystery is taking place across an entire city, with events transpiring that you may not immediately even be present for. It’s incredible stuff.
As far as ports go, Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective isn’t perfect. The game’s aspect ratio remains the same as it was on the DS, meaning you have this frankly ugly border that often is on screen, remaining distracting in scenes. If all else, this thankfully is about all I can fault the game for. It’s fared better than other previously DS-exclusive ports.
Otherwise? There are little tidbits in there for returning fans. Unlockable concept art and the ability to re-listen to the game’s soundtrack from the menu are the main new bells and whistles. On that, fans will once more delight in this expert music work from composer Masakazu Sugimori. Already an amazing feat of video game music in and of itself, there are now rearranged versions of each song that can be toggled at any time. These are incredibly busier in the best way, including more varied synthetic instruments that fill a scene’s atmosphere more succinctly.
- Unique character design and animation that distinguishes the cast
- A deeply involved and twist-filled story with no loose ends
- Puzzles are immensely involved, though satisfying
- Rearranged versions of Masakazu Sugimori's music are incredible
- Border surrounding the game is a little ugly
Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective now being playable on modern platforms is an incredibly exciting occasion worth celebrating. Its involved puzzle mechanics are as satisfying to unfold as ever as you glide between interaction points, moving that last piece to create a thrilling domino effect of a solution. Complimentary to this are the quirky character design and animations, along with the involved storyline that wraps up without any loose threads. Tying this all in a neat bow is the return of a fantastic soundtrack now with incredible rearrangements to further immerse you in the noir setting. Ghost Trick is back and the gaming world couldn’t be any better for it.