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Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective

Platform(s): Nintendo DS, Nintendo Switch, PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One
Genre: Adventure
Publisher: Capcom
Release Date: June 30, 2023

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PS4/XOne/PC Preview - 'Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective'

by Andreas Salmen on June 13, 2023 @ 12:45 a.m. PDT

Ghost Trick blends fun logic puzzles with the world of the supernatural, making for an entirely new and unique experience in the handheld gaming space.

Shu Takumi fans, rejoice! Not only have we seen quite a few Ace Attorney ports in recent years, but one of the creator's DS-exclusive franchises is also making its way to all major platforms as an HD remaster at the end of this month. Capcom is finally bringing back Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective, and it's quite an overdue port. We had early access to a demo of the HD remaster and played the first two chapters of the adventure on PS5 (PS4 version running on PS5), and the demo has me excited for the game's full release at the end of June 2023.

Ghost Trick is a narrative puzzle game that weaves environmental manipulation, alternative timelines, and a goofy crime story into a colorful adventure mix. It was exclusive to the DS and, later, iOS devices. It may be 13 years old at this point, but it hasn't lost any of its appeal. The game is noticeably made for smaller screens, but we found the gameplay in our demo to hold up remarkably well after all these years, mainly due to its distinct genre mix.

In Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective, protagonist Sissel doesn't have the most encouraging start to his adventure. Gunned down by an unknown hitman, he finds his soul expelled from his lifeless body, but he has not yet perished. Instead, his ghostly remains seem to cling to inanimate objects that he can manipulate in certain ways. It's an odd predicament, but it's certainly not the end of our troubles. Wiped of all our memories and faced with the prospect of permanently moving on from this world by the morning, we set out to solve the great mystery of our own demise. Were we at the wrong place at the wrong time, or was there more to our untimely end?

Ghost Trick is divided into chapters, starting with the scene of our own murder, which functions as the tutorial section of the game. The goal of each chapter is to prevent a certain outcome, which could be as grim as a matter of life and death — or avoiding a certain outcome to influence the story progression. Each location is connected via phone lines, which Sissel can move through in his ghostly form to reach a new area, solve the puzzle, and move the narrative forward.

While in a puzzle space, events usually unfold in real time. First, you'll observe everything unfold uninterrupted so you know where things are going. Then, it's your turn to throw a wrench or two into the proceedings to disrupt the events on-screen, which can involve some trial and error. Sissel can inhabit objects in "trick mode" if they are close enough, and he can use some of those objects, depending on their function. For example, he can raise the flag on a flagpole to reach higher ground, use a bicycle to move to an adjacent area, or trigger an object to manipulate another. It's a system that lends itself to a variety of puzzle setups and solutions, and Ghost Trick uses it in interesting ways.

The ever-evolving story unfolds around the puzzle-heavy gameplay. As each scene unfolds, our time ticks down. As we change the timeline of events, we regain the time, but the situation and our next steps may have fundamentally changed. On the other hand, certain events, such as the death of a character, may even prompt us to move back in time to prevent their demise. We move back and forth in time until we reach a conclusion that unlocks the path forward to the next puzzle.

If you've played Ghost Trick either on DS or iOS, this is exactly what you remember from those versions, except in greater fidelity as expected from a remaster. This is certainly not a remake, as you'll immediately recognize due to the 4:3 screen ratio, but based on my time with these very early sections, it's a capable remaster that seems to check the necessary boxes. It ran without issues, bugs or any other noticeable technical issues during our brief playtime, but we'll have to see if that is true for the full release on June 30.

As it stands, Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective has lost none of its charm or cleverness, and the animation and presentation are as fluid, colorful, and full of character as they've always been. I don't expect Ghost Trick to be much more than a simple remaster, similar to recent Ace Attorney releases, but one of my favorite Capcom DS gems will finally be accessible to everyone, and that is definitely good enough for me.

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