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Critical Reception: Capcom's Ghost Trick

This week's edition of Critical Reception examines online reaction to Capcom's Nintendo DS adventure game Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective, which reviews praise as being "exciting" and "well-written."

Danny Cowan, Blogger

January 12, 2011

5 Min Read

This week's edition of Critical Reception examines online reaction to Capcom's Nintendo DS adventure game Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective, which reviews praise as being "exciting" and "well-written." Ghost Trick currently earns a score of 83 out of 100 at Metacritic.com. Joystiq's JC Fletcher gives Ghost Trick 5 out of 5 stars. "A pill bottle is knocked off of a table, and you have to get it back within the reach of the man in the throes of what appears to be the thrashing precursor to a heart attack," he describes. "It would be easy to pick it up and walk it over to his desk, except you don't have any legs. Or hands. Because you're dead." "Luckily," Fletcher continues, "you've been given the mysterious power to inhabit and manipulate inanimate objects. And so what would be easy for a living person, but impossible for, you know, a corpse, becomes merely ridiculous, as you jump from decorative armor to curtain rod to urn, tweaking every variable to create the perfect chain reaction in order to get that pill bottle where it needs to be." "That's Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective. It turns fetching a bottle into just as heroic an effort as preventing a hitman from reaching his target. And I don't think I've had a better time doing either elsewhere." Fletcher finds that Ghost Trick's novel gameplay remains compelling throughout. "Ghost Trick combines this puzzle gameplay with a complex, layered storyline," he notes. "If you've played any of the Phoenix Wright games, which were written by Ghost Trick director Shu Takumi, you'll pretty much know what to expect: flamboyant, bigger-than-life characters, all connected by mysterious unsolved crimes, involved in a story too full of insane twists to predict." The heavy focus on narrative hurts replay incentive, however. "Upon completing Ghost Trick, I was immediately saddened to be unable to play it again (for a while, at least)," Fletcher writes. "There appeared to be only one way to solve each puzzle, so after all the plot points unwind themselves, and all the solutions to the puzzles are revealed, you'd just be going through the motions if you go back into the world." "I'm kind of hoping I can lose my memories of the game over time," Fletcher says, "so I can play it a second time." AJ Glasser at GamePro scores Ghost Trick at 4 out of 5 stars. "The premise sounds silly," she admits, "but once the story gets going, Ghost Trick gets pretty exciting, and the solid gameplay backs it up." "Each 'chapter' involves one to three 'Ghost Trick' puzzles where Sissel must move objects in order to reach an objective or trigger an event that reveals another tantalizing clue, plus several explanatory cutscenes introducing him to new characters in the plot," Glasser explains. "Nearly everyone Sissel meets is somehow a part of the big mystery, and most of them have well-written dialogue that keeps things interesting -- even when you have to repeat a puzzle or six." Glasser warns that patience is required for some of the game's more difficult chapters. "Many of the more advanced puzzles in Ghost Trick after about Chapter 5 require you to either fail completely or come right down to the wire to find the right timing of events in order for Sissel to execute a life-saving Ghost Trick," she writes. "Even then, an early mistake in your puzzle-solving might blow an entire sequence of events and you'll have to hit the hourglass icon to reset the puzzle back to the beginning -- which gets old if you've worked yourself into the same dead end of a puzzle more than twice." "This is probably Ghost Trick's worst weakness: Unlike the Phoenix Wright games where you can rely on the process of elimination, or the Professor Layton games where you can pay for clues, Ghost Trick puzzles have only one solution -- and until you find it, you're doomed to fail a puzzle over and over again." "Fortunately, the game only has about three hair-pulling puzzles where you might find yourself rage-quitting," Glasser assures, "and if the mystery hooks you like it hooked me, you'll stick around until you figure them out. The conclusion the plot hurtles toward you may not be one you saw coming (I didn't), but the satisfaction of getting there cancels out all the tufts of hair you ripped out along the way working out the tougher puzzles." Game Informer's Joe Juba rates Ghost Trick at 6 out of 10. "Because they're light on traditional gameplay, interactive adventure games need compelling stories, characters, and puzzles in order to work," he begins. "Getting this formula right is what made the Ace Attorney series successful, and getting it wrong is what makes Ghost Trick a failure." "The concept is cool, but I was disappointed to discover that Ghost Trick doesn't have nearly the same charm as the Ace Attorney series," Juba writes. "Sissel falls flat as a hero, the story uses convenient amnesia as a constant crutch, and a series of predictable twists deflate the overall mystery. In a game that depends on a strong narrative to keep players engaged, these shortcomings are difficult to forgive." Juba warns that Ghost Trick's puzzle design is similarly troubled. "Instead of allowing for the trial-and-error that leads to 'ah-ha' moments of discovery, many situations have rigid solutions that you must execute with precise timing," he claims. "The checkpoints aren't well placed, either; expect to re-watch scenes (though you can skip through dialogue) and repeat actions just to get another shot at the problem areas." "Though the game misses some important marks, it isn't a completely lost cause. The character animations are incredibly fluid and impressive, and several of their conversations are good for a chuckle," Juba concludes. "Unfortunately, these scattered bits of life aren't enough to bring Sissel's adventure back from the dead."

About the Author(s)

Danny Cowan


Danny Cowan is a freelance writer, editor, and columnist for Gamasutra and its subsites. Previously, he has written reviews and feature articles for gaming publications including 1UP.com, GamePro, and Hardcore Gamer Magazine.

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