Stylish, smooth animation; engrossing story with rewarding conclusion; wonderful touch-screen controls; diverse and memorable characters; and clever puzzles
Linear puzzle formula; watching the same scenario over and over until puzzle is solved
Waking up dead is a contradiction. But that contradiction serves as the starting point for Ghost Trick‘s main character, Sissel. The amnesiac hero finds himself in a truly out-of-body experience — as a ghost with powers to manipulate, move and activate inanimate objects (the eponymous “ghost tricks”). And things just get weirder and better from there.
Ghost Trick starts as a simple whodunit story, with Sissel attempting to find out how and why he was killed. But as players progress, the plot twists and turns back again (with 18 chapters), all the while dealing with heavy material like conspiracies, kidnappings and death. The title handles the setup well and impresses with its ability to mix in funny dialogue with emotionally heavy situations. For example, Sissel teams up with a Pomeranian puppy named Missile to save the life of a young child in one scenario. The situation is ridiculous, but the atmosphere is still tense because an assassin is attempting to murder a helpless child.
Thankfully, Sissel’s ghost abilities serve him well in dealing with sticky, death-filled situations. For starters, he can go back in time four minutes before a character’s death. After time is reverted, Sissel must manipulate the environment to hopefully alter the fate of the victim. For instance, the ghostly hero may unhinge and drop a wrecking bowl onto an unaware killer, thus saving the victim in the process. These environmental puzzles act as the crux of the game. The stylus and touch screen work wonderfully, allowing Sissel to traverse the layouts in a method similar to point-and-click adventures.
But changing fate proves to be rather difficult. To solve each puzzle, Sissel must set up a multilayered mousetrap by moving certain things at specific times– things which are usually the killer and victim. Problems arise when players miss a part of the puzzle because there is only one solution for each brain-buster. The developers constructed the mysteries with a domino-like mentality. Each domino must hit the next in sequence at a precise moment to eventually reach the correct conclusion. If one domino is removed or tinkered with, the whole scheme fails to work.
Luckily, Sissel’s powers allow him to retry as many times as possible. But this comes at the cost of players’ tempers and patience, as sitting through the same dialogue and scenarios over and over again becomes a bit maddening. The developers do throw a bone to players, as the B button fast-forwards text and there are a few checkpoints for the more devious puzzle schemes. When things work, though, the domino effect is fun to watch and rather rewarding.
Part of the reward is the aforementioned moving pieces. The cel-shaded game utilizes rotoscoping animation to great effect, with characters smoothly and seamlessly interacting with one another and the environment. In fact, watching characters react to Sissel’s tricks is a pleasure in itself. But the developers did not stop there.
With the fantastic animation, the developers capitalize on the fluid motions to help define Ghost Trick’s cast. Inspector Cabanela dances around the screen with Michael Jackson-like moves, highlighting his cool and composed countenance. On the other hand, the stressed-out justice minister flails his arms spastically, showcasing his uneasiness with the events transpiring. Not only does the top-notch animation please the eye, but it helps give realistic and imaginative life to a truly diverse set of characters.
The soundtrack is icing on the cake. The music sets the mood nicely, especially with some intense themes to elevate tension during last-second puzzle solutions. Sound effects also play a crucial role, emphasizing character’s reactions to Sissel’s ghostly superpowers and underlining important timing windows for problem solving.
Ghost Trick also proffers a satisfying and rewarding conclusion, wrapping up quite nicely, even with a complex plotline (a rarity in gaming). Sissel and the rest of the cast leave a memorable mark, too, thanks in no part to such superb animation and characterization. But the puzzles, while fun, do not allow for any creativity and lead to a lot of repetition. This minor hang-up aside, Ghost Trick is a stylish and novel title that features plenty of spirit and satisfaction.
Nintendojo was provided a copy of this game for review by a third party, though that does not affect our recommendation. For every review, Nintendojo uses a standard criteria.