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Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective Review - Decent Puzzles With Room For Improvement

EDITORS' RATING : 6 / 10
Pros
  • Intriguing mystery narrative
  • Groovy soundtrack
Cons
  • Stilted dialogue
  • Graphics often stuttered

A PS4 code was provided to Zaaz for the purpose of this review. "Ghost Trick" will be available on June 30 for Xbox One, PS4, Nintendo Switch, and PC via Steam.

If you had the opportunity to solve your own murder, would you? But what if, along with your untimely demise, your memory was wiped clean of your past, your identity, and even the face of your killer? What if the only way you could hunt the slayer and bring justice to yourself was by animating a random nearby object such as, say, an old desk lamp with your spirit? And what if you only had one night to uncover your murderer before your ghost is evaporated into the ether forever?

Then you might be the protagonist of "Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective," a mystery puzzle adventure coming to PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, and PC. Your city is suddenly brimming with hulking hitmen, armed foes that are hunting the people down who have answers as to the bullet buried in your chest. "Ghost Trick" was first released in 2011 in the United States as a Nintendo DS title, and has now been remastered 12 years later. Besides new collectible content, the main changes in this remaster are a new soundtrack and refreshed high-definition visuals.

A mysterious death

In the game, you embody a deceased, mysterious, nameless man who was murdered in the lonely recesses of a city junkyard. Despite his fate, the man finds himself conscious and living as a spirit — with one catch. He can't take control of his own body, but rather must possess everyday objects surrounding him, like umbrellas, railroad crossing arms, fans, and blenders, in order to move about the world and influence the people around him. Only certain objects, the ones with glowing spheres referred to as cores, can be possessed — which adds in the challenging puzzle element where you must engage the available objects to get around, like opening and closing doors, turning on fans, etc.

Our anonymous protagonist learns, from a sage old desk lamp animated by the ghost of a mysterious narrator, that he has one night — and one night only — to solve his murder and uncover the answers behind the mysterious activity in his city before his spirit is melted into the void. Thus, we embark on a short, but intense journey to hunt for clues, reverse murders, and find answers before the sun rises and time runs out. 

Stale, stilted dialogue steals experience authenticity

The premise of "Ghost Trick" is cute. The oftentimes bizarrely adolescent dialogue in the game is not. Memory of these tiny dialogue details from the original 2011 game is long forgotten, but playing the game again nearly a decade and a half later, there are numerous conversations and tropes the tone of which varied from cringy and overdone, to clunky and staged, to just plain weird — like the detective that's pathetically obsessed with his ex-wife and how much she weighs, or the way that nearly every male NPC in the game is configured to drool and fawn over the one protagonist female. It's weird, to say the least, but perhaps players with stronger attachments to the franchise enjoy the nostalgia of these original dialogues more than someone who only very vaguely remembers the OG game. 

On the other hand, the classic, sort of JRPG-esque elements of the game — exaggerated NPC animations galore, cutesy outfit design, and randomly quirky characters galore! — are adorably nostalgic. The game's new score is punchy and lively, although there's not much standout memory about the original game's music, either. 

Decent puzzle component

To play "Ghost Trick," you have to be a patient puzzle solver. Most often you're faced with the challenge of racing against the clock; when someone dies, our little ghost man can go back in time to save the victim, but he only gets the four minutes leading up to the murder to prevent it. So whether that means scaling a crane to catch a hitman or traipsing across a ritzy alcoholic author's apartment, it's up to you to leap from object to object, completing objectives and battling the unfriendlies as you go. 

The gameplay is captivating in short spurts. With how "Ghost Trick" parcels the campaign out into chapters — 30 minutes of in-game time comprises one chapter, which translates to anywhere from 20 to 30 minutes of real-time gameplay, on average — and save options only being available at the end of a chapter, it's not especially compelling to play another chapter after putting in two or three consecutive chapters. 

Check it out if you liked the original

Overall, you might see a lot of novelty in "Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective." The puzzles, while each is unique in its setting, don't have enough variety in action and challenge to hold your attention for long. The characters that are meant to be eccentric fall a bit flat. The dialogue often follows super outdated tropes — but, this point is made with it kept in mind that "Ghost Trick" was originally written over ten years ago. If the foundational layout of "Ghost Trick" could be applied to a refreshed NPC cast and matured dialogue, it would likely flourish — even if it stuck to the classic JRPC aesthetic that it emulates. 

For $30, are there worse games that you could buy? Yes, certainly. But the remastered "Ghost Trick," even with its reinvigorated high definition and new soundtrack, may only be a worthwhile purchase if you remember playing the old DS game and want to revisit the remaster. Otherwise, look for newer puzzle games with more modernized approaches. 

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