Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective Review

The trend of putting old games on modern platforms as remasters or remakes has had its ups and downs, but there's no denying there's a tremendous benefit to gaining easy access to classic titles. Whether to revisit the nostalgia of a personal favorite, or to see why they were revered in the first place, such is the case with Capcom's Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective, remastered for release on the PS4, Nintendo Switch, Xbox One, and PC. Almost twelve years after its 2010 launch on the DS and iOS, the game still feels as fresh and vibrant as it did when it was new.

A brainchild of Ace Attorney series creator Shu Takumi, Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective follows the ghost of "Sissel". Awakening to the sight of what could be his own dead body, Sissel quickly learns that not only is he now a ghost - he's one suffering from amnesia. From the rainy junkyard where he died, Sissel needs to go on a journey to solve "the mystery of me," investigating who he was and why he was killed. Along the way, he'll also end up helping others like Lynne, a rookie detective, Kamilla, a precocious young girl, and Missile, everyone's favorite Pomeranian.

An image of Missile, the dog from Ghost Trick, introducing himself.

Ghost Trick's narrative is tight, focused, and escalates continuously throughout its runtime, which should last you about 15 to 20 hours, depending on your reading speed and how quickly you latch onto puzzle solutions. Every character bursts with personality on multiple levels, thanks to the game's timeless art style, which only looks better after being cleaned up and made crisp for high-definition screens. Character animations are also a highlight, with some cast members literally dancing around the screen. All the wacky expressiveness that the Ace Attorney games are known for is present in Ghost Trick and adapted to perfectly suit the propulsive mystery story at its heart. This helps make the game feel fresh and new, despite being over a decade old. At the same time, the look of the game is retained as originally envisioned. Cut off the screen borders that preserve its old-school square-ish aspect ratio, and it would look almost identical, but for some telltale, high-res-friendly font selections.

Mechanically, the game hasn't changed, either. Ghost Trick's gameplay still revolves around moving Sissel through the environment, using the titular "Ghost Tricks" to manipulate objects like a classical poltergeist. Your reach in the world is determined by a little line that stretches from your spirit form, and many of the game's puzzles revolve around you changing the environment to move things in or out of that radius. Later on, you'll gain new powers, like swapping objects' positions under specific circumstances.

All of this happens under time pressure, thanks to time travel. Sissel has the ability to travel backward in time to the four minutes before a person's death, seeing how they died and acting to avert those tragic fates. Thankfully, the time pressure isn't too stressful, since you can freeze time at will before acting. Before long you'll set up Rube Goldberg-like chains of physical interactions, triggering improbable sequences of events to pull off freak accidents or rescues, like a cartoon reinterpretation of key scenes from Final Destination.

The puzzles themselves flow fairly well, though they're not the kind of obstacles that'll leave most players stumped. They operate on fairly simple logic and the game leaves little room for real experimentation or replayability. Even though I had vague memories of my original playthrough to guide me, the only times Ghost Trick challenged me with a puzzle was when the wording of some hints was too vague to indicate the path to a solution.

For better and worse (mostly better, if you ask me) Ghost Trick is the kind of game that you'll play once and remember for a long while after, but feel little need to revisit. This is increasingly rare in a time when multiplayer, DLC, "content roadmaps" and the trappings of endless "value" affect even the most stalwart single-player experiences. Even Capcom made some gestures towards adding more content to this remaster, with a selection of sliding tile "Ghost Puzzles" that are really only there to give you something to do when you've cleared the last stage. There are also some optional "challenges" to earn tied to achievements and trophies, but the ones I unlocked pretty much just amount to "do this stage again and don't make any mistakes" - which you can easily accomplish with the help of our Ghost Trick walkthrough.

Then again, though some players might be turned off by its one-and-done nature, I would prefer to describe Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective as "singular". It's an experience that, once cleared, feels complete from any angle, with nothing needing to be added or cut to be unforgettable. 

Now...can I get another?