You'll love it if:
- You like detective games
- You like puzzles
- You like visual novels
Not for you if:
- Your brain is too small to solve puzzles
- You don't enjoy reading
Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective is a puzzle-solving mystery game by Capcom, which recently got an HD remaster on all platforms. This review will be based on my experience with the Nintendo Switch version. As a big fan of detective games like Famicon Detective Club, which is also a wonderful remaster, I can already tell you I was intrigued from the first to the very last minute. Put your detective hat on and keep reading to determine if the Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective remaster is worth your time and money.
Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective’s HD remaster is well worth your time and money. With an amazingly intriguing plot, this detective puzzle-infused game ticks a lot of boxes. The puzzle mechanics still feel fresh and innovative without getting in the way of the story. The game looks more like a visual novel thanks to the illustrations, while also adding depth to characters and scenes with funky choreographies and a jazzy soundtrack.
Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective – Handheld Origins
Capcom released the original Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective for the Nintendo DS in 2010. The scenario for the game had been written and directed by the creator of the Ace Attorney franchise, Shu Takumi. The game sold relatively well in Japan and was nominated for a ton of game awards, praising all the main aspects of the game. The puzzles, the story and the animation. About a year after its release for the DS, the game was even ported to iOS. The only difference from the original was a minigame that allows you to unlock wallpapers.
Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective was developed with two things in mind: a small screen and an international audience. Meaning that artists would limit using writing in the backgrounds, for example, to make localization easier. The characters and background are intentionally culturally and chronologically ambiguous.
The heavy use of landlines does give you a good idea of when the story roughly takes place. For the puzzles, the development team is said to have used this children’s book to come up with objects for the rooms. And while all the characters had been modelled in 3D to accentuate the exaggerated poses and choreography, due to hardware limitations the models had to be rasterized into 2D sprites.
Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective – Spoiler-Free Story
In Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective, you are a ghost. You just died and a desk lamp tells you that you have special powers called ‘ghost tricks’. These powers allow you to move to objects with a core and ever so slightly manipulate them. It’s a bit hard to believe and grasp the situation, but you have lost any and all memories and decide to just believe the talking lamp. You see a dead body and think: is that what I look like?
You don’t even remember your name. Oh yes, and there’s more. If you move into a dead body, you can talk to the recently deceased spirit and travel back in time up to four minutes before their death. Only four minutes though, but you can travel back as many times as you want and try to prevent their death by manipulating objects.
The Clock is Ticking
Not all the dead have these powers, and what’s more, your friendly lamp says the powers will disappear come morning. And there’s a young woman about to be killed by an assassin! You can’t just do nothing. The lamp also tells you that the events that will transpire tonight are significant and that you should investigate this murder. It will reveal the truth about who killed you.
You decide to save her and learn that she’s a detective, called Lynne, who came to this junkyard to get information from Sissel; you. She’s your only lead, so you end up helping her with her investigation. Who are you, and who killed you?
Lynne is trying to delay the execution of Detective Jowd, who’s been accused of killing his wife five years ago. Though she firmly believes he could not have done it, Jowd has requested to be executed. You travel to the prison by phone line to try and prevent it. You also travel to Lynne’s apartment where you save a young girl named Kamila and a courageous Pomeranian called Missile from an assassin.
Lynne is definitely on to something and someone keeps trying to get in her way. On top of that, she comically gets herself killed several times and you wind up saving her again and again. As you get more involved in this case, you meet a bunch of characters and save many lives. Even though your time is running out, you just can’t get yourself to abandon these people and this mystery.
No Spoilers on My Watch, or Are There?
While I’ve barely scraped the surface of Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective’s story, telling you more would defeat the purpose of unravelling this marvellous mystery yourself. I can let the cat out of the bag and say that there are plenty of twists and turns to keep you playing. As you think the story is coming to a close, you’ll quickly find yourself following a new lead or unravelling a new mind-boggler. It may seem like a plain murder mystery, but oh boy, that’s only the start of it.
Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective – gameplay
The gameplay in Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective is uncomplicated yet engaging, which aids the pacing tremendously. When you’re trying to get to the bottom of a mystery, difficult puzzles can make you grow impatient. There are basically only two types of ghost tricks or gameplay elements.
Unfortunately, there will be multiple occasions where you’ll find a fresh corpse on a new scene. Moving into it allows you to talk to the spirit of the deceased, though oftentimes they’ll struggle to remember things or aren’t even awake yet. Since you’re apparently goodhearted, you’ll always travel back in time to four minutes before their death.
You watch their last four living minutes together and try to figure out how to prevent them from dying the next time around. Whether you’re dealing with an accidental death or a killer actually makes a big difference. If you make the killer miss their shot, they could just shoot again. So you need to be a bit more clever if you want to save the victim and change their fate.
Fate changes serve as checkpoints during rewind time. You’re playing with time travel here and a fate change indicates you’re on the right path and your actions have forever changed the outcome of the current events. The four minutes are no joke, you need to move quickly because time will run out and you’ll have to start over. Either from the beginning or from a fate change.
And the time and more specifically timing element is what makes this rewind time so different. You need to pay close attention to how people and objects are moving and how you can make use of a movement at the right time. If you miss your timing; you gotta start over.
But HOW is a ghost supposed to save or help anyone?! By manipulating objects. Some objects in Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective (not all, for the puzzle makers’ convenience) can be possessed, they need to have a ‘core’. Then some of those items can actually be manipulated. Some examples; turning on a light, flipping a switch, opening an umbrella, and rocking objects to make them fall.
On top of that, you can travel to different locations using landlines. Though if you’re in a rewind, you can only travel through active connections i.e. someone needs to be making a call. Your jumping distance is also fairly short, you can only move to cores that are within reach. So sometimes you’ll need to let a scene play out so a core moves closer or line up different actions to create a new path.
Manipulating objects in the correct order at the right time is the key to solving puzzles and advancing in the story. If you’re worried about your puzzle-solving skills: don’t be. While exploring a scene there will be hints in the form of thoughts or conversations that should point you in the right direction. Just pay attention to everything that’s going on and everything that’s being said.
I’ve never really been stuck on a puzzle in Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective thanks to this. The only tricky bit can be lining up different actions and manipulating items at the right time, but you’ll get there after a couple of tries for sure. The game is designed in a way that it introduces new types of puzzles one by one, increasing their difficulty as you go.
Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective – Sound and Graphics
Now that Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective got a remaster, the original 3D characters could finally take centre stage. Though I haven’t played the original game on the Nintendo DS, which surely has its own charm, I like me some current-gen graphics. I’m not wearing prescriptions just to look at pixelated images, thank you.
Based on how Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective looks, you’d think you’re reading a visual novel. The images on the screen look like illustrations but with detailed and colourful backgrounds. Every single character in this game is like a caricature.
Their movements and visuals are peculiar in a way that made me laugh out loud many times. Why is this prison guard dancing? And why does this detective walk like he’s the lead in The Nutcracker? What could have been a serious (and maybe sluggish?) story is elevated by the colourful images and eccentric characters.
Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective is not voiced, so it relies heavily on the soundtrack and ambient sounds to set the mood and keep your attention. Said soundtrack has been remastered by Yasumasa Kitagawa (who composed songs for Ace Attorney). The game includes the original soundtrack, the remastered soundtrack and new original tracks. One of which is a new song by Masakazu Sugimori, who composed the original soundtrack.
He claimed to have been inspired by ‘jazz’ and ‘fusion’. Whatever that may mean, the soundtrack for sure is funky and I found myself bobbing my head to the music at almost all times. In some scenes, the music grows silent to pull attention to an action that’s happening e.g. a car about to crash or a gunshot. It adds to the dramatic effect, making the game really come to life.
Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective – Conclusion
If you’ve made it this far it’s probably clear that I really enjoyed my time playing Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective. I didn’t finish it in one go but played for a couple of hours every night. I was actually surprised when I googled the average playtime, which sits at 12 hours to finish the story, with only a very small percentage of players dropping the game. That’s very decent for a 30-Euro game and a great testament to how engaging the story and gameplay really are.
If you like visual novels, if you like detective games, if you like puzzle games or enjoy a good complicated time travel-infused plot, please just go play this game. It’s so worth your time and you’re honestly missing out. Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective honestly did the trick for me, all puns intended.
Thanks to CDMedia for the review key.