First up, allow me to apologise for the rather presumptuous title. For all I know you could be sitting there right now playing Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective, whilst reading this with a raised eyebrow. However, the fact it failed to make any sort of impact on the UK top 40 chart back in January does lend a certain gravitas to my assumptions.
Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective kicks off unlike any other Nintendo DS game I’ve come across. Starting off in a deserted area, the camera pulls back to reveal a dead body slumped on the ground; your dead body.
As the scene unravels further a young red headed lady is revealed, obviously in shock as she stands over your still-warm corpse. There is then the telling ‘click’ of a gun being cocked as the camera pans out even further to reveal the hitman responsible for your demise, and it seems the young lady is next.[drop]It’s at this point where we find out that death isn’t necessarily the end, as your spirit is still active. Guided by a mysterious force (who has possessed a desk lamp) you find out you have the power to take control of objects and either make them react in a certain way, or use them as a means of traversing distances.
The only restrictions are that you can only possess objects within a certain radius, and you most definitely can’t posses your own dead body. Armed with this knowledge you surge forward to try and rescue the lady but alas you’re too slow, and as the screen fades out you hear the all-too-familiar sound of a shotgun firing. That’s two murders in five minutes…isn’t the DS meant to be family friendly?
This is where the real hook reveals itself, as if you try to posses a newly dead body you can actually travel back in time and watch that person’s last four minutes on Earth. It’s up to you to look closely, because once you’ve watched the scene play out you are given the chance to do a rewind and try and alter their fate.
An example would be possessing a guitar and making it strum, distracting the killer and allowing the victim to try and escape. Of course, this example is Ghost Trick at its most basic; the reality is it gets far, far trickier and involves setting many things in motion which (hopefully) culminate in a positive outcome.
The game’s narrative is also a standout feature. Becoming a spirit has caused the protagonist to lose all memory of who he was. You genuinely want to find out why someone marked him for death, and each puzzle you solve, and death you avert, leads you one step closer to finding out the truth.
Is it perfect? No. A lot of the puzzles involve a fair amount of trial and error which can lead to frustration, and the actual trick mechanic never really evolves until the end, but in an age where people are crying out for originality Ghost Trick certainly scratches that itch.