[Review] Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective

Okay, so this game was pretty cool. After being disappointed by pretty much every Ace Attorney title released following Shu Takumi’s departure from the main series (except for SoJ which I have yet to play and therefore have no opinion of), I really needed a mystery game that wouldn’t bore me to tears, one that would actually offer an interesting, engaging storyline, alongside a cast of likable characters. And Ghost Trick more or less delivered just that.

If you’re wondering why I’m talking about the Ace Attorney series, it’s simple: Ghost Trick was written and directed by Shu Takumi, the guy responsible for the original Ace Attorney trilogy (the first one, Justice for All, and Trials and Tribulations), as well as Apollo Justice before he departed from the main series and went on to work on other things. One of those things was Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective.

The game, interestingly enough, starts with your death: you wake up as a spirit with no recollection of who you are. Then there’s a talking lamp who tells you to hurry the fuck up because as a spirit, you’ll cease to exist when morning comes. Oh and you can also manipulate objects and rewind time to travel 4 minutes before a person’s death so you can save them. Yes, I know. When the least crazy thing to happen to you is meeting a talking lamp, you know you’re in for a pretty wacky night.

Anyway, so the gameplay of Ghost Trick basically consists of you going around town possessing / manipulating inanimate objects in all sorts of creative ways, often creating cool little chain reactions that ultimately end up serving your purposes. If you’re familiar with the old PC game The Incredible Machine, you can more or less imagine what to expect, albeit on a much smaller, simpler scale. Each chapter of the game gives you puzzles like this, after which you’ll see some cutscenes/dialogue and the story moves on.

The game’s puzzles are mostly doable and not overly complex, but there were still a few parts that kinda stumped and/or frustrated me because I failed to notice something important. There are also a few “oops you missed your chance and fucked up, now start over from the beginning” bits. One particular level was so annoying I even dropped the game for a while before deciding to come back to it (and boy am I glad I did). Anyway, thankfully the good bits far outweigh the frustrating ones so you don’t have to worry too much about it. Also keep in mind that I’m not particularly good at puzzle games, so it’s entirely possible I just suck, lol.

As for the storyline, I wouldn’t say it completely blew my fucking mind and flipped my life upside-down, but it was pretty good, and had some surprising twists I didn’t see coming. It’s always nice when that happens. Either way, despite the plot suffering from a bit of a slow start (things only get really heated/interesting in the second half of the game), it was overall very enjoyable and kept me guessing till the very end. Been a while since I was so utterly ??? during a game (in a good way), going all “wtf is going on here / how are they gonna explain this” at several points.

However, a good plot also needs good characters, and Ghost Trick has quite a few of ’em. If you’re familiar with Takumi’s work on Ace Attorney, you know what to expect: quirky characters with a healthy dose of humor and charm to them. My favorites were probably Lynne, the female detective in the yellow coat, and Missile, the adorably overeager Pomeranian, but every character has a little something that can make you smile — even the poor old rat that makes an appearance here and there, or the cute pigeon nesting atop a certain dude’s head. From Inspector Cabanela’s dance moves to the pigeon’s cute head bobs, said characters are also really well animated, giving everyone that extra boost of individuality and character. And of course, all of the above is topped off by an excellent soundtrack that will no doubt sound very familiar to oldschool Ace Attorney fans (the composer worked on the first AA game, unsurprisingly). I still can’t get Lynne’s wonderfully upbeat theme song out of my mind, and honestly, I’m not sure I even want to.

In conclusion, Ghost Trick is filled with charm and personality: a game that marries inventive (though never overly complex) gameplay with an engaging mystery plot and likable characters. It really was a breath of fresh air, and I was very happy I saw its tale through to the end.

3 thoughts on “[Review] Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective

  1. Interesting.

    While current Ace Attorney games weren’t disappointing for me (and three of them are only under Trials and Tribulations in my Ace Attorney ranking, being the second game the worst one in my opinion); and this game, even if I liked it a lot, was the one which disappointed me. Don’t get me wrong, I just expected more from Shu Takumi, and even if the plottwist were some of them pretty good and most of the story gave me a good impresion I just wasn’t so satisfied and think it could be a better game. Somehow, I expected a second Ghost Trick, but seems it won’t happen.

    Overall a pretty good work, and I recommend it <:

    • For me, the newer Ace Attorneys somehow lacked the charm of the old games and their mysteries weren’t that interesting. I’m not sure if it’s just nostalgia goggles on my part, but still. I wasn’t even all that impressed with AAI2, which the community seems to love, and I was so bored of Dual Destinies that I couldn’t even bring myself to finish it, lol.

      Still curious about Spirit of Justice, though, people say it’s better than DD. Although I’ve seen others claim that it’s worse, so who knows.

  2. Since you seem to enjoy this game, I hope you also enjoy Dai Gyakuten Saiban too (that is, if Capcom ever consider to bring it to the west). I haven’t played Yamazaki’s mainline AA yet (aside from AAI), so I can’t make comparisson, but so far some people said it was more satisfying. As for me, who had watched the translated playthrough of it, I can say that I enjoy it too (though it still leaves many things to be desired). A sequel is also on the way.

    Honestly, I think Takumi needs to do more games aside from AA. That guy has many things that can go beyond the franchise, I mean, this one is the prove of that…

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