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Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective review - A special point-and-click package that still feels original 13 years later

The only thing that Capcom has actually done wrong is not give Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective a sequel.

Image credit: Capcom

Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective was a great game back when it first released on the Nintendo DS in 2010, and it remains one, with its charm not lost to the passage of time. You could pick up the NDS title today and still have a blast with its polished sprites, eccentric characters, and strange goings-on, but this remaster brings the classic NDS game up to speed in 2023.

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Throughout Ghost Trick, you take on the role of Sissel, who is - simply put - dead. This high-spirited protagonist doesn’t remember who he was, or why he died, and his only way of getting some answers are from a talking desk lamp called Ray, and his newfound ghost powers that let him morph into inanimate objects. In between story beats, Sissel will be solving puzzles among the land of the living using his ghostly powers and logic, bringing the dead back to life, and getting closer to discovering his own identity.

Ultimately, Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective is a simple game; it’s much less dialogue-heavy than writer and director, Shu Takumi’s endeavours with the Phoenix Wright series (which is also brilliant), but still remains packed to the brim with simple, albeit incredibly witty, dialogue. There’s no chance of you losing track of the story or sending yourself to sleep, either, as this particular mystery unfolds with perfect pacing and plenty of twists. You can access run-downs of all the characters that you meet on the off chance that you do begin to get confused, but honestly, the characters are so clear-cut and distinct from one another that this shouldn’t be an issue.

Ray, a talking desk lamp, speaks to Sissel in Ghost Trick Phantom Detective
Meet Ray, a talking desk lamp who won't reveal his true identity... | Image credit: Capcom

And let’s not neglect the object-morphing main character, Sissel, who’s capabilities of bringing people back from the dead via some extravagant games of Prop Hunt still feel fresh 13 years later. Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective’s gameplay continues to be special - and more engaging - than any other puzzle-meets-visual-novel murder-mystery out there (and there are many). Honestly, the only thing that Capcom has actually done wrong is not give the game a sequel, but I certainly hope this remaster will make the developer consider it.

On the Nintendo Switch, Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective only gets better. The already impressive sprites and extravagant settings are in high-definition, its playful music is back with better quality, and the charm of each and every character in Ghost Trick lives on. First, we encounter the wise, talking desk-lamp that is Ray, and later, the live-wire rookie detective that is Lynne. There’s also a talking dog, Missile, who is an adorable albeit pea-brained Pomeranian. Then there’s bizarre prison inmates and even stranger guards, and Inspector Cabanela, who is a very peculiar man, but one you’ll no doubt be hypnotised by. Gameplay is great in Ghost Trick, but what really makes it shine is the nuanced and well-rounded characters you get to know along the way.

Sissel possesses the core of different objects in Ghost Trick Phantom Detective
Morph between objects, possessing their cores and taking control of them. | Image credit: Capcom

While I do miss the second screen of the NDS keeping me aware of what object I currently am and the ability I can use (I’d often have to flip between ghost world and the living world to check that I was morphing into the correct item), you’re not missing out on anything by playing on the Nintendo Switch. The remaster utilises the Nintendo Switch’s touch screen, which is something I always long for on the console. I love and miss the Nintendo DS’ touch screen and all the possibilities it opened up, so I’m glad to see that touch screen elements have not been lost in this remaster of Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective.

Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective feels incredibly approachable too; it’s a short game, easily completed in a couple of days, and will only leave you yearning for more. And for someone who gets sore hands when it comes to console controllers, being able to rely on the touch screen when needed (you can do everything via the touch screen if you want), made playing through the game in 1–2 sittings a genuine pleasure in every way.

Lynne talks with a blue stranger over the phone in Ghost Trick Phantom Detective
Phone calls allow you to make your way into different areas, including ones you're not supposed to be in. | Image credit: Capcom

Once you’re a few chapters in, you’ll find Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective pretty hard to put down; as you get closer to answers, you simply end up with more questions, and time isn’t on Sissel’s side (unless he’s in the ghost world, that is, where time doesn’t pass). There is something so amusing about morphing into umbrellas, bicycles, and beyond to aid our allies and uncover new secrets; something that tickles a part of my brain. Perhaps it is the satisfaction of solving puzzles and saving lives, or maybe it is the incredibly touching conclusion that Ghost Trick eventually comes to.

All in all, Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective pairs distinct gameplay with a strong story and characters you will surely become affectionate towards. I can’t recommend it enough, and if you do play it, make sure to stick around until the end. Working your way through to the conclusion and discovering the fate of each beloved character is well worth it. If you give Ghost Trick a chance, I expect that, like me, you’ll be hoping Capcom will deliver a new instalment in Sissel’s story someday.

Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective release on June 30, 2023, for Nintendo Switch, PC, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One.

Code provided by publisher for Nintendo Switch.

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