Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective Hands-on Impressions

Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective Hands-on Impressions
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Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective Hands-on

In January of the coming year Capcom will be releasing a bizarre puzzler titled Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective. Led by Shu Takumi, creator of the famed Ace Attorney series, Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective will be a fresh take on the crime drama genre, and it will be very different from the popular courtroom puzzle series. Set in a colorful world full of eccentric characters, this comedic noir tale will tell the story of a dead man whose main priority is to figure out who killed him and why.

I spent some time with a playable demo of the game, and I got a good sense in terms of what to expect from the game when it launches on the Nintendo DS next year.

Colorful Noir… If That Makes Any Sense

Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective takes a unique stab at the film noir genre. Instead of featuring a brooding plot of despair and lost hope (think Max Payne), Capcom decided to make Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective a lighthearted game with serious overtones. Though the game does deal with death and despair, the manner in which the storytelling is carried out doesn’t take itself too seriously.

The demo started off with Sissel, the game’s main character, having a bit of an out-of-body experience. To put it plainly, he was dead, but his spirit continued to float around trying to make sense of everything. A woman appeared onscreen, and a classy thug (who is linked to the one responsible for Sissel’s death) was pointing a golden rifle at her. Distraught, our hero wanted to do something but knew he couldn’t save her in the state he was in. Or so he thought.

Out-of-Body Puzzle-Solving

You have to love an old-school mobster.

Sissel was just about to give up hope when a voice contacted him and started giving him instructions. It turns out that Sissel may not be able to do much with his deceased body, but his spirit can definitely function and solve puzzles. By selecting different objects on the screen, I was able to transport Sissel’s spirit to nearby objects and trigger different actions or “ghost tricks”. For example, possessing a guitar allowed me to create a strumming sound, distracting the thug in the process. This allowed the damsel to run away from the villain. Sadly, he caught up with her and ultimately filled her with lead.

Time Travel

As a ghost you can go back in time and prevent people from meeting with an untimely death.

I was then taught something I never knew before: Ghosts can travel back in time up to four minutes before any person’s death in order to save them. I read some brief tutorial text boxes and learned the basics of time travel, so it was now my time to save the charming girl by figuring out a solution to this timed puzzle.

Because the scenario of the crime was in a junkyard, I had access to loads of different objects. I possessed a bike and made it move a few feet to the left (Sissel can only possess items that are in his range). From there I jumped to a lever that positioned a wrecking ball right above the assailant’s head. I moved from the switch to a ladder, and from there I possessed the wrecking ball. Though I couldn’t do much as a wrecking ball, I was able to send Sissel’s spirit up to the wrecking ball’s clasp. I unhinged the clasp and the wrecking ball crushed the armed gangster, allowing me to save the girl in the process.

Visual and Audio Presentation

The demo ended there, but I managed to get a pretty good understanding of the game. I also got a good look at the visual design in Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective. The whole thing looks pretty clean, with solid colors decorating the backgrounds and character close-ups featuring bold hues. It’s nothing overly complex, but it is aesthetically pleasing. And Capcom managed to give the game a semi-noir look even despite its quirky visual nature. The sound design was right up there and featured some pretty enjoyable tunes that sounded like they came out of a 1970s mystery cartoon.

Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective Hands-on Impressions

It’s a lot less confusing than it seems.

Though my time with Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective wasn’t especially lengthy, I got a good sense of how the game plays. The time travel aspect of the game is interesting to say the least, and floating to different objects to experiment with them is definitely fun. If you enjoy puzzlers, watch out for Capcom’s upcoming Nintendo DS title. Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective will arrive to Nintendo’s dual screen handheld on January 11, 2011.