You’re at a junkyard at 7:02PM. You’re not alone, there’s also a red-headed girl in distress. In front of her, a stylish gangster is pointing a gun at her. You’re right in the middle. There’s no question as to what you have to do: stop the gangster from pulling the trigger and killing the girl. There’s just one problem. You’re already dead yourself.
Such is the beginning of Ghost Trick. You, the main character, are already dead. You’re a ghost with absolutely no recollection of who you are. It might sound like a typical amnesia plot that games tend to use too much to explain the game’s mechanics, but it’s a bit more than that. The situation isn’t as hopeless as it sounds. For some reason unknown to the main character he has been given a special ability. A Ghost Trick. After an introduction to these powers from a friendly desk lamp (no seriously), you head into the night, hoping to find out who you are and why you died.
Your ability, the Ghost Trick, allows you to enter the Land of the Dead in which you can haunt inanimate objects. As long as you’re in the Land of the Dead, time stands still. Not only that, you can move from object to object as long as they’re in range from each other. To move around you often have to manipulate items back in the regular world were time functions normally in order to get them to move them within range from each other, making the exploration of the game’s areas a puzzle within itself.
That’s not the only power you have got at your disposal either, when you possess the body of a dead person you’re allowed to go back in time to 4 minutes before that person died. You don’t just get to witness the death, you get a chance of stopping it from having happened. Averting the fates of the characters who were supposed to have died. There is one catch though, this power only works with people who died within the last 24 hours.
Your third and last power is long distance travel over telephone lines. This power only works so long as you have had a previous connection to the the phone you are traveling to. You usually get this by possessing a phone while someone is making a call and eavesdropping on the conversation.
Armed with these three powers, you try to find out who you are. Why you were killed. What the truth is behind everything that happened at the junkyard. To make matters more pressing, you only have until next morning to figure all of this out. After that you will disappear, and that would be the end of your investigation.
A Truth Without Courts
Just like the Ace Attorney series, the main focus of Ghost Trick‘s story is the search for the truth. It’s no surprise that the lead developer and writer for this game is none other than Shu Takumi, the man who was also in charge of the first three Ace Attorney titles. There’s more very strong hints at his involvement as well.
Despite the grim nature of Ghost Trick‘s story, a story filled with deaths and dramatic backgrounds, the tone of the game is a lighthearted one. Mixing dramatic story-telling with a good sense of humor. Not to mention style. The game is incredibly stylish, almost looking like a much more polished version of Exit. Everyone moves in an extremely exaggerated way, which the game in turn parodies itself early on with the introduction of Inspector Cabanela. It absolutely helps that the graphics of the game are simply gorgeous, making the game a perfect piece of handheld eye-candy.
My only real gripe with Ghost Trick is its length. The game is short. Very short. It’s understandable considering the nature of the story, there’s only a single night for the main character to find out who he is and what happened. Even though the game isn’t a long one, it still manages to explore its ideas and story quite well. There’s enough twists and turns right until the end of the ride, and after a while it makes you feel like you must keep playing just to see what happens next.
Verdict for the Dead
Ghost Trick is a fantastically well put together game. Although it feels a bit on the short side and is strongly lacking in replay value, it’s one of the more memorable titles I have had the pleasure of playing on the DS. It may not your typical point and click or adventure title, but it knows what it is and works at it very well. If you’re a fan of the Ace Attorney series, this game is a must. If not, it’s absolutely worth checking out.