Ghost Trick Goodness

In 2011, IGN gave Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective the award for Best Game No One Played, which gives you an idea of the game’s commercial success (or lack of it). Despite positive reviews, the Nintendo DS game quickly dropped out of the Japanese charts just weeks after its release in June 2010, and Capcom cited the game’s disappointing sales as contributing to the developer’s 90% fall in income in the first fiscal quarter of 2010. Capcom have obviously decided to see whether they can claw a bit of their money back by re-releasing Ghost Trick on iPhone, and considering the price they’re charging for it, they obviously rate the game extremely highly (or they just really need the money). The initial two chapters are free, but then you hit the paywall:

  1. All Chapters: £6.99
  2. Ch. 3 – Ch. 7: £2.99
  3. Ch. 8 – Ch. 13: £2.99
  4. Ch. 14 – End: £2.99

Yowch. This seems particularly expensive when you consider that most games on the App Store are between 69p and £1.99, and it seems even more extortionate when you consider that Capcom’s own Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney – which is of a similar length and is even designed by the same team – is priced at £2.99. It seems Capcom are really struggling to bite the bullet and just charge sensible prices for their games, even though the increased sales volumes should actually create more profit overall – witness this article by Stuart Campbell where he reveals what happened when Capcom slashed the price of Street Fighter IV from £5.99 to 69p. Of course, compared to the price of a new DS game, £6.99 is pretty cheap, but in the impulse-buy world of the App Store, it’s an aberration.

But despite all this moaning about Capcom’s pricing structure, I have to say that Ghost Trick was worth every penny. In fact, I would have paid even more for it, it’s that good.

The basic gameplay is similar to the Ace Attorney games in that there are long sections of dialogue interspersed with puzzle sections. The set-up is that your character has recently been murdered, but the trauma of death has caused your spirirt to lose its memory, and the game sees you pursuing clues in an attempt to find out who you are (or rather, were). A woman finds your body, but soon afterwards she’s killed by an assassin, and it’s at this point you find out you have the ability to rewind time to 4 minutes before a person’s death in an attempt to change their fate. Unfortunately, you have no physical presence and can only manipulate certain objects in certain ways in your attempt to prevent the murder, so the game basically comes down to choosing the right objects to move at the right time (for example, causing a heavy weight to fall on the assassin’s head just as he walks under it). As the game goes on, the situations become more and more elaborate, and the solutions begin to take on a real Heath Robinson-esque feel as you set off series of chain reactions.

The big difference between this game and the Ace Attorney series is that there’s no wandering around from location to location in an attempt to find a use for the objects in your possession: everything is already there laid out for you to use, and it’s just a case of working out how. This makes for some brilliant ‘eureka’ moments when you finally work out how to solve the puzzles, and I’m pleased they’ve managed to eliminate tedious back and forth wandering from the formula.

But the main draw is the brilliantly bizarre characters and twisting, cliffhanger driven plot – like the Ace Attorney games, the designers have gleefully ignored realism and just gone with the craziest ideas they could think of, and it all works beautifully. The plot kept me hooked in right up to the satisfying denouement, which incidentally doesn’t disappoint. After experiencing so many lacklustre game endings, it’s wonderful to come across a game that really delivers. Buy this game, you won’t regret it.

One last thing though: special mention also has to go to the animation, which is astonishingly fluid – have a look at the video below to see what I mean. Disney, eat your heart out.

Penned in admiration by Lucius Merriweather