Ghost Trick Review

I don’t often review games that don’t fall into the visual novel genre, but I was motivated to write this one because I just needed to talk about how much I love Ghost Trick. (And really, it has such a great in-depth plot that it could be an honorary VN anyway.) I bought this game simply because it was available on iOS and I wanted something I could easily play a little bit of while on the bus, but I soon found it incredibly hard to wait until my next bus trip to find out what happened next in its wacky, unique, and heartfelt story. This review avoids spoilers beyond a few early events, because I hope to inspire anyone who might have missed this game to pick it up in the near future.

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You can always count on household objects to give good advice.

In Ghost Trick, you play as Sissel, a man who loses his memory but gains supernatural powers after his death. When he encounters other people who have recently died, he can travel back in time to four minutes before their death, and use his limited telekinesis in an attempt to save them. With only one night to spend on the mortal plane, Sissel embarks on a quest to figure out who he is and why he died, and gets tangled up in all sorts of other mysteries along the way. In particular, he keeps getting sidetracked by the multiple, increasingly comical deaths of headstrong young detective Lynne, who has her own case she’s also trying to solve before dawn.

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Sissel can also see people through phone calls, and use phone lines to teleport to places he’s seen that way.

One of the aspects of Ghost Trick I found most impressive was the interconnectedness of  its events and characters. In a puzzle game like this, I think the player is usually prepared to accept that some things just happen as a thin excuse for more gameplay. I certainly wouldn’t have really taken issue with the occasional puzzle that doesn’t have much bearing on anything, or character who just pops up to be amusing. So it was a very pleasant surprise that even some of the “gamiest” elements of Ghost Trick—such as a ridiculous Rube Goldberg machine you have to use your powers to stop early on—actually end up becoming important parts of the plot. I pretty much spent the second half of the game constantly excited about callbacks to the first half that brought everything together into a thrilling and satisfying finale.

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Even the craziest characters have important roles to play.

The only somewhat negative parts of my experience with Ghost Trick were fairly subjective and avoidable. I found some of the later puzzles a bit frustrating, since they started to require more precise timing, and I was really, really bad at pressing the “ghost” button at the right moment. But I’m sure that a lot of other people wouldn’t have that problem, because a lot of other people are much better at games than I am. I also wouldn’t be surprised if it was easier to accomplish in the Nintendo DS version, with an actual tactile button, rather than in the iOS version I played. My second minor issue was that I wasn’t always entirely clear on when saving would let me return to exactly where I was, and when it would send me back to a little earlier in the same segment instead. But that wasn’t really a major issue—just don’t make the mistake of thinking you can save your game in the middle of a four minutes before death sequence, and all other parts of the game either let you save right where you are, or are pretty easy to skip through again anyway.

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And some parts are still hilarious even if you have to watch them twice!

Ghost Trick has the same creator as the Ace Attorney series, and it definitely shows. Each and every one of the characters in Ghost Trick would be at home in the Ace Attorney universe, with their flashy and distinctive designs and their bizarre mannerisms and personalities. But as Ghost Trick goes on, its story starts to get quite a bit darker than most of Ace Attorney, exploring similar themes of murder, the supernatural, and a corrupt justice system in more serious detail. And while you might expect that to make the over-the-top characters seem too out of place, I felt like their absurdity actually worked really well, adding a sort of uncanny element that made the plot all the more disturbing. And none of it took away from any of the more emotional moments either. I had developed a lot of earnest affection for this collection of weirdos by the end, and I think most other people who play Ghost Trick would feel the same way. I would recommend it to everyone who likes games with puzzles and in-depth stories, and probably even to some people who don’t—there’s just so much great stuff in there that pretty much anyone could enjoy.

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