Trial by error
I really liked Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney back in 2005, and was pretty excited to see what that same team could do with Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective. The result is a pair of games that are similar in more ways than they’re not, and you’ll probably enjoy one if you enjoy the other. That being said, Ghost Trick didn’t grab me quite as much as I had hoped. It’s a fun experience overall, but a few frustrating design choices left me wanting.
Phoenix Wright’s biggest strengths were its sharp writing, endearing cast of characters, and intriguing plot. Ghost Trick shares these same strengths, especially in the characters department. It does a great job at quickly building a large cast of distinct personalities, all of which have their own motivations. Better yet, they all have a sort of presence to them that make them feel like real, genuine people (even beneath their anime style eccentricities). That’s in large part due to the stellar writing, which conveys character intentions and plot points in an effective manner. The plot itself is also pretty gripping, as there’s a deep, mature mystery that unravels at a pretty satisfying pace. Every time you think you’re onto something another layer is pulled back, changing the scenario completely. All of these narrative aspects are wonderful, and should be more than enough to endear Ghost Trick to fans of a good story.
Additionally, Ghost Trick looks absolutely amazing. I have no reservations about saying that this is among the best looking 2D games I’ve ever played- if not the best. The animations are incredible, the environments and character designs are full of detail, and the bright color palette is simply gorgeous. Unfortunately, the one part of Ghost Trick that isn’t up to speed is the gameplay. While that may be generally acceptable for a story driven adventure game, it was still a big sore spot for me. The "Mousetrap" style puzzles are interesting in theory, but in practice are very trial and error oriented. You constantly need to find the one object for the given situation, but the objects don’t always work in intuitive ways. There’s also an issue of timing, where if you don’t stumble upon the correct object before certain events occur, you’ll be stuck and probably not even know it. I would play out entire levels after I had unknowingly missed the single opportunity for advancement, only to have to replay the whole thing. The game could do a better job at letting you know when you’ve messed up, and I felt like I fumbled my way through large portions of the game as a result. This was a consistent source of frustration for me, and dragged down the entire experience significantly.
Ghost Trick is by no means a bad adventure game, but it still doesn't consistently pack quite enough of a punch to overcome its lackluster gameplay. Fans of great characters, stories, and visuals should find it satisfying on the whole, but Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective could have easily been so much more.
For additional information on my review style and scoring system, click here.