Last month, I got to play the first couple of chapters of Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective, and having never played the original, I found that it stood on its own in today’s era of gaming as a strong puzzler with bold and colourful visuals. Now I’ve played much more, my feelings have changed a little, however, I still enjoyed the majority of the surprisingly long murder mystery involving a dead man and the search for how he met his grisly end. Its bonkers and inherently Japanese in its humour and flamboyancy, yet a lot darker than I thought it might be.
After finding yourself dead in the middle of a junkyard, you play as a spirit with no memory of who you were or what happened to you. It’s a simple premise at first, but one that grows into a much bigger conspiracy that has you hooked throughout. While some of the gameplay can drag due to its linear nature of solving puzzles and tons of dialogue, it was still enjoyable, and the various people you encounter along the way are full of surprises. In order to complete certain puzzles, you must possess different objects during ‘Trick Time,’ and these can range from a spinning Christmas decoration to a screwed up piece of paper.
Each area is self-contained in Ghost Trick: Phantom detective, and you can travel to a new location through the phone wires. At each area or chapter, you’re tasked with solving a certain puzzle. I’d have liked to be able to try different methods in order to do so, but it’s more a case of finding the one way to solve whatever your presented with. Thankfully, they’re varied enough, keeping things fresh as you press forward. Some are much more complex than others, and some are as simple as knocking a pair of headphones into a fish tank.
Other puzzles join together to create longer conundrums to solve. One had me trying to get a rat from the attic to fall down to help a posh, terrible mother find her dictionary that you need to possess. As she moves you over to her table, you can then take control of a desk lamp that makes her mess up her typing (she’s writing a smutty novel, obviously) and throw a piece of paper into a bin, with you having to possess the paper at the right time so you go flying across the room with it. Some objects can’t be used, acting as a pathway to a more useful one, however, there’re plenty of ways to get the attention of the living and complete these puzzles.
While most of the challenges give you as much time as you need, there are specific sections that rewind back to four minutes before a death (and there’s a lot of dying), where you have to find the solution quickly or else you’ll fail. You can of course replay these until they’re solved, yet they offer a nice bit of pressure in order to progress. As you get used to moving around the screen and switching between Ghost mode (the time when you can move around as a spirit and possess objects) and the real world, Ghost Trick: Phantom detective is at its best.
One of the biggest downsides for me was the amount of dialogue you have to read in order to actually play. This could be story-building, or it could be a conversation, a thought going through someone’s head, or even Sissel’s (that’s you!), always popping up when you’re eager to start solving the latest puzzle. While some of the writing is funny, it’s also unintentionally so, however, there’s just too much silliness, even for me. If you can get past these awkward moments then there’s plenty of enjoyment when it lets you play.
Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective is gorgeous to look at, and every environment is packed full of detail. The character animations are smooth, and while this is a HD remaster of a Nintendo DS title, it looks great on a PS5. The music is always funky and upbeat, with a vast soundtrack for you to enjoy as you play. You can check out a fancy gallery to listen to the excellent music, as well as unlocked artwork. It’s presentation is one of its biggest plus points, and I never grew tired of the visuals or the score.
If, like me, you never got to play Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective back in 2010, then now is a great time to experience one of the most inventive point-and-click puzzlers ever made. While there’s plenty of dialogue and little freedom, the variety in how to solve puzzles and get through the story is varied enough to hold your attention, and with a killer soundtrack and beautiful visuals, it still holds up almost 13 years later.
Puzzles are fun to solve
Too much dialogue
Some dialogue in awkward