Ghost Trick Review «

Ghost Trick isn’t the first story to start off with a dead protagonist; but instead of reliving the events that lead up your death, you’re taken on a journey to find out why you’re dead, who killed you, and to save several other people along the way. The friends you meet have a proclivity for dying (sometimes over and over again), but your central spectral character not only has the poltergeist-like ability to knock over glasses and turn on sprinklers, he can travel back in time (four minutes to be precise) to before somebody’s death in order to change the past.
Aside from the paradoxes and occasional plot holes this conceit creates, Ghost Trick presents a story that feels more like a television sitcom than a game. The chapters pass by quickly, the dialog is snappy, and the plot twists and cliffhanger chapter endings effortlessly pull you along the convoluted (but easy-to-parse) plot. Though its a very different title from creator Shu Takumi’s work on the Ace Attorney series, its easy to see how his earlier efforts have helped shape and refine this current project. As always, his plot juggles a wide variety of over-the-top characters, but this time nobody has a ridiculously punny name. They’re still instilled with exaggerated mannerisms and stylized costumes, but all of Ghost Tricks’ personalities are comparatively toned-down and tempered by the gorgeous world they live in.

Click the image above to check out all Ghost Trick screens.
When characters speak, you watch static (but still attractive) anime-style portraits, but when those same characters move through the world, they’re presented using the same rotoscoping technique reminiscent of Prince of Persia or Out of this World; the 3D models on 2D backgrounds are fluid, realistic, and graceful. And the long dialogue sequences of straight narration are few (but engrossing), and you’re able to quickly fast-forward through any dialog you’ve previously read.

The only time you’ll have to repeat dialog, is when you fail to save someone on the first try (and even then those conversations are mostly optional). The “four-minute” time limit on rewriting someone’s history mentioned earlier is more a plot device to ensure you’re never staring at the screen without doing anything — small events you change in the past can buy you more time, and you’re able to restart as many times as you need to to get it right. You’ll rarely stare blankly at a screen figuring out what to do anyway — the linear story always leads you exactly where you need to go and puzzles take the place of vainly clicking around on the screen to find that single clue you need to proceed the plot.

Ghost Trick’s clever puzzles require manipulating the environment in increasingly complex ways and through larger and larger areas; knocking over a glass might draw some character’s attention to a clue hidden on the floor, or opening a fridge door might allow you to creep further across a room. As a ghost, your reach is somewhat limited (despite your spectral form, you can only move by tethering yourself to an object); sometimes you have to get your timing just right in order to make the leap between two objects while other puzzles require you to interact with objects in a specific order. The concept is novel and fun, though you might feel occasionally frustrated by the trial-and-error process to get at a solution. That stress should be quickly dissipated, though, by the fact that you can restart stages at any time without penalty, and you’ll almost always hit an automatic save point after any more complicated coordination of the environment.

The larger sin is that, though the puzzles involve wide environments and a roomful of potential objects to interact with, there’s never more than one solution to a problem. Creativity and exploration aren’t as important as just experiencing the story laid out; more like an Ace Attorney title, you’re meant to find one prescribed path (though things never get as obtuse as the worst of Phoenix Wright’s adventures). Regardless, Ghost Trick lays out a twisting, fun tale that (while you might be able to guess several of the plot twists well before the end) provides a slew of out-of-nowhere revelations to help you overlook the strict linearity.

 

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