Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective remains one of my favourite Nintendo DS games and I consider it a must-play for Ace Attorney fans. Not because the two feel similar, mind. Shu Takumi’s supernatural adventure swaps courtroom shenanigans for Rube Goldberg machines solved by point-and-click puzzles, retaining that sharp humour and charming cast. 13 years haven’t dulled this classic. Though it’s better suited for touchscreens, Capcom sets a high standard for future remasters.
Playing as Sissel, Ghost Trick begins with your abrupt death. Waking up inside a junkyard as an amnesiac spirit, Sissel’s journey to discover the truth brings us to Lynne, a young detective about to be killed by an assassin. Spurred on by a wise and mysterious desk lamp, Sissel soon discovers he can manipulate inanimate objects and travel back to four minutes before someone’s death. That doesn’t sound like much, but even minor changes can have significant consequences that ultimately trigger a new chain of events.
What follows throughout the evening is a brilliant mystery intertwined with inventive gameplay. Time flows normally in the living world, but Sissel can switch to the Ghost World at any moment, moving across set objects highlighted by blue cores. If a character has recently or previously died, he can communicate with them by linking to a yellow core, which usually leads to several questions. Objects can’t be manipulated when time’s frozen, forcing your return to the living world.
Ghost Trick creatively uses this manipulation system through objects you wouldn’t normally expect. Sissel isn’t the type to start messing with your fridge or throwing furniture like some aggrieved poltergeist. However, he can rock your bowl of donuts to create a distraction, open cupboard doors, and more. One segment saw me moving a bicycle across powerlines, while another had me setting off a dog barking through a Christmas tree. That’s the level of silliness we’re dealing with.
Sissel’s powers are kept in check through some considerable restraints. He can only move a set distance, so if a core’s out of reach, you must somehow create a way to bridge this gap, like moving a ball across the room by flinging a door open. Phone lines lets him move to new locations if they are powered on or someone’s previously called. If you’re in the past, only phones in active use will allow this. Heavy objects are naturally harder to move and manipulating living people also isn’t possible.
Manipulation creates no end of comedic absurdity yet Ghost Trick always offers a well-considered solution, regularly telegraphed by subtle foreshadowing. Each scene provides all the necessary tools, it’s just figuring out which order to use them and there’s a good chance you won’t get the answers immediately. These limiting factors require you to get creative, so I’d recommend trying all manner of outcomes, if only to see how other spirits chime in.
Discovering the correct approach requires trial and error, some puzzles more than others, and that risks repeated dialogue that gets repetitive after several attempts. At least there’s no consequence for reaching the wrong decision, no courtroom judges to liberally penalise you for minor errors this time. Sissel can rewind time at will and with only one available solution, eventually finding it creates a sense of accomplishment. Easing potential frustrations is a checkpoint system activated by altering someone’s fate before saving them, so a full restart isn’t necessary.
Even now, I remain impressed at how Ghost Trick weaves its plot and gameplay together. Ghost Trick’s sharp sense of humour couldn’t work without a stellar cast and I remain impressed at how it weaves this into gameplay. Lynne remains an inspiringly determined detective that never loses hope despite the seemingly impossible circumstances before her. You won’t find a better Pomeranian in video games than the lovable Missile, and this fiercely loyal dog will do anything to protect Kamila, his owner.
That’s before we get to other eccentric characters, like the junkyard superintendent known affectionately as ‘Pigeon Man.’ Every scene packs considerable character From the main players to even minor NPCs. I’m not sure I needed to know that the Blue detective’s wife left him many moons ago, but watching our Inspector Cabanela dance his way into any scene never ceases to entertain.
For anyone who played the original release, there aren’t any significant changes beyond some usability features. The optimised UI usually works well with a standard controller. Unfortunately, there are odd moments where it’s evident Ghost Trick wasn’t designed for this format. Moving between cores is generally acceptable, but some tighter gaps mean you could accidentally connect with the wrong thing, transferring you across when you didn’t intend to.
These fiddly moments are admittedly rare as analog sticks can’t offer that same level of precision, making this unavoidable on PS4 or Xbox One. Playing on Steam Deck and Switch is preferable as both provide full touchscreen support. Moving from point A to B by moving your finger across the screen immediately feels more intuitive. On PC, clicking and dragging across spheres with a mouse also substitutes this nicely.
You won’t find an expanded story; Ghost Trick doesn’t need it, and I appreciate Capcom’s effort elsewhere. The visuals look crisp on all platforms thanks to a 1080p resolution boost at 60fps, providing customisable background borders to accommodate the 4:3 display. You can switch between the original music or new arrangements anytime and either works when this soundtrack remains this catchy. Several extras like the new illustrations gallery make this package feel complete. Finally, several new ‘Ghost Puzzles’ are available, turning scenes into sliding puzzles. It’s a nice idea, just not a particularly interesting one.
Ghost Trick remains the delight it always was a decade later. Even on a second playthrough, this unique mystery firmly held your interest until the very end. Some occasional puzzle frustrations and control adjustments can’t mask the witty humour, clever premise and unforgettable cast that rivals Ace Attorney. I quickly realised how much I’d forgotten after 12 years, so rediscovering this adventure was an utter joy. Second chances don’t come around often, so I hope it finds that wider audience this time. This remaster is easily the definitive way to play.