Sunday, 10 May 2015

Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective - Nintendo DS (also available for iOS)

'YOU HAVE DIED!', screams the blurb on the back of the box. Blimey, that's a bit depressing isn't it? You've not even put the game card into your Nintendo DS yet and you're already pushing up the daisies. That is exactly what happens at the start of this game though. After a very brief intro showing a pointy haired guy who appears to be called 'Sissel' lying dead on the floor in a junkyard in front of an (as yet) unknown woman, you awaken as a ghost with absolutely no memory of who you are, what's going on, or what you were doing there. After having a bit of a conversation with a haunted lamp that calls itself 'Ray' (yes, really!), you discover that you can possess and manipulate certain objects, which is referred to in-game as performing 'ghost tricks', and that you only have until dawn to work out what the hell is going on and solve the mystery behind your murder or you'll fade away completely into nothingness. And it's past 7pm already. So, you'd better get a move on. Luckily, you can also manipulate time to some extent too...

Change how scenes play out with 'ghost tricks'
You'll soon notice that the woman is not the only other person in the junkyard, there's also a very dodgy, hitman looking type with a big shotgun skulking around. Did he murder you? He certainly wants to shoot the woman you've just seen. Another short cutscene plays out and soon she's also lying dead on the floor. This is where you learn the game's main mechanic....basically, if somebody gets killed and you need that character to stay alive, you can rewind time to 4 minutes before their death and then use your powers of ghostly object manipulation to prevent it (and before you ask, no you can't prevent your own death this only works on other people). This leads to quite a few interesting scenarios where you'll have to watch how a scene plays out, rewind time and then use what you've learnt to create distractions or make things happen at vital moments in order to defeat the bad guys and get slowly closer to the truth. Fail, and you'll have to rewind time and try again. A good job then that you can do this as many times as you need to.

Ghost Trick is a very easy game to play. Everything is done via the touchscreen and a couple of icons and you'll have the controls mastered in no time leaving you able to concentrate solely on the storyline and how to solve the puzzles. The visuals and animation look great throughout, the music is suitably atmospheric (with each major character having their own themes), there's a nice variety of locations and the storyline moves at a fast pace and keeps you constantly interested in what's going to happen next, or what new bit of information you'll uncover about Sissel's death....some of the scriptwriting is laugh out loud funny, though that's to be expected considering it's by the same developer as the Phoenix Wright games. And as with Phoenix Wright, it's full of twists and turns too. I was kept guessing about a couple of things even right up until the very end.

Unfortunately though, as enjoyable as the game is, it isn't too challenging. None of the puzzles will take you more than a few attempts to solve, and even though the story has a decent enough length (took me around 15 hours), it's also extremely linear and once it's done, it's done. No unlockables, no extra modes, nothing. But other than Phoenix Wright, there's really nothing else quite like it on the DS, the whole concept of the 'ghost tricks' is quite original and well implemented and used, and that alone is enough for me to give it a recommendation. It's also fairly cheap to pick up now too, so there's really no excuse for not at least considering giving it a go. Whilst it's not quite on the same level or complexity as Phoenix Wright, I'm pretty sure that any Ace Attorney fans will still lap it up and enjoy the ride immensely while it lasts.

TromaDogg's Final Verdict: 7/10

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