Saturday, June 11, 2011

Ghost Trick

Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective
Developer: Capcom
Publisher: Capcom
Adventure - Nintendo DS
1 player
Ghost Trick Phantom Detective

From the creators of the Ace Attorney games comes a new kind of adventure: Ghost Trick. There are marked similarities between the two titles: a detective mystery backdrop, character-driven story and dialog, and plenty of twists and turns to keep you interested.

What Ghost Trick does differently is the gameplay. You begin the game as a newly departed spirit of a nearby corpse. Who are you? How did you die? Why did you die? Those are all questions that the game will answer, in time. But what this means in terms of gameplay is something completely different. As a spirit, you have two powers - tricks, if you will.

1. You can possess objects and interact with them in real time.
2. You can manipulate time to go back to a few minutes prior to someone dying.

You're thrown into the game and thrust into many confusing situations, with no immediate context. But these powers not only give you the opportunity to investigate the scenes you come across, but they also allow you to be able to influence the past to change the present outcome. In a sense, Ghost Trick isn't considerably different from other adventure puzzles where you interact with objects in a manner to solve a problem. But because the action takes place in real-time, the puzzles take on a fresh persona.

Here's an example. You rewind time to 4 minutes before a victim's death. In that rewind, you see an assailant approach the victim, raise a gun and shoot them. Now that you know what happens, how can you change that path? Well, you rewind again and get to work. The goal is to thwart the kill. So you now are moving in-real time, possessing objects, interacting with them, just as in the foreground, the events are playing out. The assailant is still approaching the victim, is still going to pull out a gun, and will squeeze the trigger. Your job is to find a way to prevent the situation, and to consider the timing in which your actions will occur. Manipulating objects too early, and the assailant may still end up killing the victim. Manipulating them too late, the victim remains dead. Because you have to consider logic and timing, the gameplay feels more like an action game than your run-of-the-mill adventure game.

As far as charm, Ghost Trick sports a similar style to the Ace Attorney games where the mood is balanced by both serious moments and light-hearted humor. What's notable about Ghost Trick are the fluid character animations. It's often a treat just to watch how the characters move on the screen, because obvious care and intention was poured out in this area. Characters will have specific animations based on the scene at hand. Gone are the static screens and functional visuals of Ace Attorney. Ghost Trick is out to impress stylistically, and it works.

I like what Ghost Trick set out to do overall. It's a unique adventure game with fun mechanics, a character-driven story, and a lot of personality to boot. I'm glad that this team decided to try something different, rather than make another Ace Attorney game, and it succeeds in its own right. Nevertheless, I found the overall plot to be a bit hokey - much like the worst parts of Ace Attorney, and it never does get as serious as the Ace Attorney games. Some of the plots/subplots of AA shocked and had an emotional impact on me. GT never did. And although GT was definitely more interactive in its gameplay, I personally enjoyed the logic-based gameplay in AA games more.

In the end, I'm glad Ghost Trick exists and it's definitely worth playing as a unique an fun DS title. I just don't know if I'd stick around for a sequel.