Wednesday, 9 February 2011

Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective - DS

Ghost Trick is another brilliant slice of detective work from the mind of Shu Takumi - the man behind the Phoenix Wright series of adventures. But unlike the Ace Attorney's legal dramas, his latest title is anything but a straightforward crime solver.

In Ghost Trick, the player takes control of the soul of Sissel, a recently murdered man who has no recollection about his death or his past life. With a limited time before Sissel’s soul winks out of existence, the player guides the ethereal being through a series of investigations to find out about his troubled past.

What awaits is a delicious blend of puzzles and a hodgepodge of interesting characters, all wrapped up in a well-paced murder mystery with a twist.

The story begins with Sissel’s crumpled body lying in a junkyard in the middle of the night. Nearby, a young woman is held at gunpoint and unless something happens quickly, she’ll be joining Sissel face-down in the dirt.

By manipulating objects and jumping back through time, Sissel’s soul can affect the world around him, changing the course of history and moving Sissel ever closer to the truth about his death.

But this journey isn’t a straight A to B race against time either, thanks in large to the game’s range of fabulous characters.

Their snappy dialogue and wonderful animation brings each of their off-the-wall personalities to life and gives the game a huge amount of charisma. Dipping into the lives of these colourful characters is a joy and adds another layer to an already absorbing game. It also helps that the stylish environments they inhabit are pleasing to the eye, with plenty of detail adding an imaginative flourish.

While this rag-tag bunch are some of the most lively characters to grace a videogame in years, the simple but effective gameplay holds the experience together.

Sissel’s ghostly countenance has a limited range of movement, leading to mini puzzles as the player uses tricks to move trolleys, knock music boxes from ledges and startle assassins with unexpected noises. He can also use telephone lines to whizz about the city and talk to other spirits he meets on his travels.

While the opening levels start out as nothing more than tutorials, Ghost Trick soon blossoms into a devious and engaging thriller, full of twists, turns and things that go bump in the night.

The player has plenty of time in some sections to alter the environment and fill the holes in the background story, but when Sissel has to rewind time to change a future problem, a countdown begins.

During these frantic moments, the player has to think on their feet as objects have to be triggered at the correct time to change history, otherwise it’s curtains. It makes for a wonderful change of pace and leads to moments of panic as the player frantically scribbles the touchscreen looking for the right solution.

There are several tense moments peppered throughout, especially late in the game which heightens the fear of failure. The flip side to this is that Ghost Trick often descends into a game of trial and error, with some solutions not becoming clear until the player has attempted the scenario several times.

But despite this, the game remains interesting, with the draw of finding new characters and exploring their environments keeping players ploughing their way through.

Ghost Trick breathes new life into the staid murder mystery genre thanks to its hatful of surprises and genuinely interesting roster of characters. As a result, it is one of the most refreshing titles to appear on DS in ages and is well worth tracking down.

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