Ghost stories often offer an air of mystery and suspense. It starts off with the weird and inexplicable until it gradually builds toward unraveling long kept secrets with a surprising revelation tossed in. When these stories invite you to dig a little deeper and do a little detective work of your own, it creates a particularly immersive experience. The final week of October has arrived with Halloween fast approaching this weekend. It’s time to see if I wrapped up the case with this month’s video game challenge.
When I started playing Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective a long time ago, the game quickly jumps right into the story. You play as Sissel who wakes up as a ghost and discovers he’s dead. With only his name and strange powers of the dead that allow him to do ghost tricks by manipulating certain objects in his surrounding environment, Sissel begins his quest to recover his missing memories of his previous life. As Sissel grows accustomed to his new powers, he discovers that isn’t all his powers are capable of––he can rewind back time to about four minutes before a person’s death to save that person. Anyone who has died and Sissel successfully brings back to life are able to see and remember who Sissel is. This gives Sissel many allies to help him figure out who he is, which as ghost stories go, reveals surprising connections he has to certain individuals in the land of the living.
As I’ve mentioned in my previous post, this game is similar to how the Ace Attorney games are structured. There are off the wall characters, a level of investigative interaction in the game, and it’s a story/dialogue heavy game. What makes the game fun to play is how each chapter involves a sort of environmental puzzle you have to solve in order to prompt an action from someone or figure out the best way to avoid someone’s death. The puzzles aren’t really too difficult to resolve. It does involve a lot of trial and error to see what works or what doesn’t and it’s more intuitive thinking than anything. The game does turn the pressure cooker up when you are trying to save someone from dying. An hour glass ticks away the amount of time you have to save someone from their gruesome fate. This adds to the quick thinking and action you have to do in the game. If by some chance you do fail at saving someone, like I have, you can always start again. There’s even a sort of midway starting point in some of these chapters where you temporarily change the fate of a certain situation from happening to give you a little more time to resolve someone from dying completely.
I personally enjoyed the time travel power Sissel has to avert someone’s death. It adds a level of excitement to the game and I sometimes find these puzzles a little more challenging than the ones involving ghost tricking a room to get someone to pay attention to key information to prompt action. Going back in time to four minutes before someone’s death also reveals the unique ways someone dies in each scenario. Some can be pretty tragic and others may actually be funny, if you can find humor in death that is. You’ll also find yourself saving people more than once in the game. Lynne, a young detective and one of the key characters in the game, has the nasty habit of finding herself dead. Yet, despite having the misfortune of the Grim Reaper constantly being out to get her, her optimism in Sissel’s abilities is infectious and I thoroughly enjoyed her interactions with Sissel.
While the game itself and the characters are entertaining to experience, I did find the story a bit weak. Without going too deep into spoilers, the twists and turns this game navigates through is too far-fetched to wrap my brain around and maybe too nonsensical. The big reveal of Sissel’s true identity was also a big letdown for me. The game is created by the same person who did the Ace Attorney series, but while things can get pretty wacky in a Phoenix Wright game, I always found the stories and their big reveals to be better written, plausible, and cohesive storytelling. I felt the story in Ghost Trick, once you speed towards the end, meanders too much making the ending much more weak and less satisfying to get to. I honestly would have been okay with Sissel never knowing his true identity. The reveal was more disappointing than I thought it’d be.
The story of Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective may have left much to be desired, but I think the game is still worth playing. If you want fun and unique gameplay that involves a different kind of puzzle to solve, you won’t be disappointed with this one. Just keep expectations low for the story when you play. It has been fun Ghost Trick, but your story is more trick than treat.
Find out what I’ll be playing in November next week!