Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective on PS4
In the years since its initial release, Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective has remained a special offering even among Nintendo DS titles.
Designed specifically for the touchscreen-centric handheld device, it provided players with inventive and elaborate puzzles galore. Not only that, but it served up an engaging tale of mystery, quirky characters, and inventive gameplay which stood out even among creator Shu Takumi’s other notable titles from the Phoenix Wright series. Most anyone could find a worthwhile experience so long as they were willing to think outside the box and embrace some zanier twists and oddball problem solving concepts.
Now, over 13 years later, the game has received an HD remaster boasting improved visuals, enhanced audio, and revamped controls. And, for better and worse, I can safely say Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective is still the same one of a kind puzzle title even with these changes.
For those who have never played the game before, its setup goes like this: Shortly after his death, a man named Sissel awakens as a ghost with no memory of how he died. A mysterious entity then informs him that he can learn the truth of his demise; or at least, he can if he solves the mystery in the 24 hours before he disappears. He’ll also need to prevent the murder of those who can help him uncover the clues he needs, key among them being that of a red-haired woman named Lynne.
Luckily, he has some powerful tools at his disposal. Thanks to his ghostly form, he can move through time and manipulate objects so long as they’re within his range. How Sissel reaches these objects can depend on the exact moment he interacts with them, manipulating characters into taking certain actions, or enlisting the help of other recently-deceased specters which he might be able to give a second chance at life.
It’s an interesting twist on the usual mystery story framework, and the HD remaster presents it just as well as the original release did. The characters are still just as loveably eccentric as ever, and getting the chance to learn more about them as the story unfolds is a treat. Not only that, but the plot’s twists and eventual climaxes are well worth overcoming the head scratchers one encounters through the various puzzles that make up the gameplay.
Speaking of which: The puzzles found throughout Ghost Trick are wonderfully inventive, and stick to the rules set up at the very beginning of the game. This means that once players have grasped the mechanics they have access to, they’ll be able to solve pretty much everything the game throws at them.
The mechanics in question are surprisingly minimal. As mentioned before, Sissel can move into different objects within a certain range. He can increase the range of objects or attract characters’ attention by activating specific items, and doing the latter can result in characters moving into position for specific scenes or actions to take place; or, in some cases, result in their surviving an otherwise deadly experience.
Tying all of this together is the fact that Sissel can manipulate time by four minutes to retry certain puzzle segments as much as he wishes. This means players are never permanently locked into a bad ending for a character, and can rewind back to the moments before they were killed to give them a second chance at life.
These all come together just as they did in the original to create a worthwhile batch of brain teasers. More often than not, I had a blast experimenting with each level’s objects to see how I could make my way to a given object which would lure a key character away from harm. Even if it took me a while to find a solution, I always had a feeling of satisfaction from arriving at the answer and was excited to see what the next conundrum would offer.
Unfortunately, this also came with the same core issue which plagued the original game: Some of the logic and order of operations for a given puzzle can feel awkward or unintuitive. For example: In one chapter, I interacted with every object in an apartment and managed to set up a series of objects that I figured would lead a character away from an approaching hitman.
However, I still ended up needing to redo the puzzle because one object wasn’t activated at the same time as another, preventing my Rube Goldberg-Ex-Machina from successfully saving my target despite it having everything necessary to do so.
Moments like these were never game-endingly frustrating, and only served to create minor inconveniences early on. Plus, the title features a checkpoint system that negates the need to replay each chunk from the beginning after a restart. All the same, it could dampen the sense of progress and enjoyment that would have been there had the game design been less restrictive.
Past that though, the HD remaster of Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective really sets itself apart from the original — and decisively for the better — in its visuals and audio. As mentioned earlier, both have been touched up and enhanced for the title’s modern re-release, resulting in the clearest look yet at the whimsical world Shu Takumi set out to create within the constraints of the DS’s hardware.
Visually, the character models and backgrounds have been cleaned up and polished, giving the game a sharper and smoother look compared to the original. The eccentric designs of Sissel and his friends, as well as those of the criminal organization hunting them, pop with color and noteworthy designs free of blemishes.
The audio, meanwhile, has been completely revamped. Every track is now available in a fully arranged version complete with clearer sound and new instrumentals. They left me all the more engrossed in each major discovery about Sissel’s fate, and that much happier that I could be immersed in the game’s world all over again.
Both come together to make the game a joy for the senses, and give it a sense of personality even more high-budget titles couldn’t hope to achieve.
When all is said and done, the HD remaster of Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective is an ideal way to check out this fantastic title. Though it might still suffer from some awkward puzzle logic, those who give it a chance will find a game bursting with creativity and originality they won’t soon forget.
Reviewer: Keenan McCall | Awards: Editor’s Choice | Copy provided by Publisher.
- Inventive Puzzles Using Minimal Mechanics
- Engaging Story
- Fun Character Writing
- Excellently Redone Visuals and Audio
- Restrictive Puzzle Logic Can Hamper Progress
June 30, 2023
PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, PC