Top positive review
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An adventure game gem on the DS
on January 16, 2011
The premise of the game is fairly interesting: you start off dead and have to use your soul to possess and manipulate objects to accomplish goals. At first you are just trying to find out who you were and why you were killed, but as the story progresses you start uncovering bits and pieces of a bigger plot with national security implications (I kid you not). This game is from the creators of the Ace Attorney series, so people familiar with those games will probably see similarities here, mostly a good story with quirky characters, wrapping humor around a fairly tragic situation.
Story (spoilers will be highlighted): being an adventure game, this is the main selling point of the game and it does not disappoint. Since the game starts off with you dead and witnessing someone about to get killed, you can't say this is a slow starting game. The sense of urgency is also highlighted by the fact your soul will dissipate at dawn, so you really have one night to figure things out. As you go from chapter to chapter meeting more people and changing their fates, you slowly uncover a plot that can have national security implications for your country and you slowly change your motivations and your initial assumption of who you might be. The game even throws a little mystery along with its tutorial (who is the soul that is teaching you about your abilities?) that is revealed at the end of the game.
*** Spoiler alert ****
This is where the game will remind you of the Ace Attorney series. Everyone is connected to each other somehow, by an event that happened several years ago and that still has consequences on the present. In this case, it was a meteor fall that occurred 10 years ago and prompted someone to seek revenge over everyone else involved on the story. This meteor's alien radiation is also the games explanation to some ghosts having powers and others not and the object of desire of the foreigner country involved on the plot (the bad guys that are the "national security" threat. They are all blue, Capcom must have been burned by the racist allegations on Resident Evil and picked a non-realistic skin color this time). The final chapter is fairly epic, with you and your friends stuck on a sinking submarine and the final fate change (for everyone really) taking you to 10 years ago, to the moment of the meteor fall. The final explanation of who you are and the reveal of the soul that was helping you in the beginning is Capcom's signature tear jerker before the happy ending.
*** Spoiler ends ***
Game mechanics and controls: your initial ability is possessing objects and manipulating them in a limited fashion. You also have limited range, so several times, to cross a room, you have to mess around with objects to create a path. This takes care of the puzzle portion of the game and at least to me, it actually seemed more logical than most adventure games (I love Ace Attorney, but sometimes the puzzle solutions made no sense at all, I did not find an instance on Ghost Trick that made me feel that way). You also can travel over the phone (the equivalent of long range transportation in this game and on some chapters, a decision point as well - "Should I stay or should I go?") and the most important one, story wise: when you get in touch with a recently deceased person, you can travel back in time, to 4 min before their death, and change their fate by manipulating objects in the past. It's a limited set of abilities but the game developers use it in very creative ways. At a later point on the game, another ghost is introduced with the ability to swap similar objects and you tag-team with it on several chapters to solve puzzles. The DS touch screen and stylus are a great fit to control the game and you can rewind time an unlimited amount of times, allowing you unlimited chances for trial and error.
Characters, art style, animation, etc...: the game is full of interesting characters, like the dancing detective or the singing fried chicken restaurant chef, my favorite being Missile the dog (yep, a dog is one of the main characters). Even minor players, like generic guard A have lines delivered with personality and actually makes you wonder what is their background (Panic Dancing Prison Guard comes to mind). The art style is very unique, all angles and strong colors, which I really enjoyed. The game looks great in motion, by the way, the first time I saw the Dancing Detective, I was surprised at how fluid the animation was. Music is very good, just like in Ace Attorney, it fits the mood of the moment and builds up the pace when things are getting serious. Even the save game melody reminds me of Ace Attorney :)
Final thoughts: Ghost Trick is a very good adventure game and any fan of the genre should give it a try. It has a great story with great characters delivered in a very unique package. At this moment it seems my review is the first one (almost 1 week after the game released), which makes me a little sad that the game is not selling well. I really hope that, like Ace Attorney, this game is slowly discovered by adventure game fans and builds up sales overtime.