Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective (Nintendo DS) Review

By Adam Riley 26.01.2011 13

Review for Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective on Nintendo DS

There are many times when a particular film will truly catch the imagination of the world, leaving a strong feeling of wanting more, yet any future output by the same director or creator tends to sadly fall flat on its face. Imagine the trepidation in approaching the new creation from the mind that brought Ace Attorney to the gaming public! Can Ghost Trick step out of the shadow of its older brother and shine on its own merits, or will it forever be remembered as Shu Takumi's failed experiment? Cubed3 goes undercover with Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective.

What would you do if, upon waking up, your memory was gone, you were floating around in non-corporeal form and what could well be your body was lay right there, lifeless? This is exactly what happens to the lead character in Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective and is the premise for one of the most unusual mystery adventures on DS. The basis of the story is to undertake an investigation into various murders, including your own, manipulate objects to move around numerous locations, and eventually change the fate of those met along the way for the better.

As with the Ace Attorney series, Ghost Trick takes a simple idea and builds it up by interweaving a mesmerising tale into the finished product that keeps players guessing right to the latter stages of the journey. Are you really called Sissel? Have you seriously just died at the hands of a freshly appointed detective? Why are you able to manipulate inanimate objects, talk to other dead people, and rewind time to four minutes before their demise? Ghost Trick has a habit of creating plenty of extras questions before the first few have even been answered, yet skilfully latches onto the imagination and keeps reeling you in, balancing out the intrigue masterfully with brain teasing object manipulation and even swapping of item locations later on.

Screenshot for Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective on Nintendo DS

The first two main aspects of Ghost Trick that really hit players, though, are how stunning the soundtrack is, as well as its impressive graphical prowess. Fans of the first Ace Attorney release that were enamoured with its musical score, and the amended permutations of it for future releases, will be pleased to know that Masakazu Sugimori is back on-board for Phantom Detective, offering up some fantastic tunes that challenge the Phoenix Wright classic themes, sounding instantly familiar, as well as mixing in a whole host of truly memorable ditties that are set to become instant classics amongst fans the world over. A brilliant soundtrack can help lift up a mediocre release, yet in the case of Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective it merely adds to the overall superb quality of the product.

The same goes for the gorgeous animation, with the amazingly fluid movements of characters thanks to the highly detailed 3D models that were created by the designers and then shrunk down to fit onto the tiny Nintendo DS screen, whilst maintaining the clarity of each character and the personality of the locations visited. Ghost Trick is an absolute delight to see in motion, and the smoothness throughout makes it one of the best visual experiences on the Nintendo DS. Capcom and the development team have really found a way of exploiting the power of the DS without blowing all the processing power on large 3D polygons. If its approach is to be likened to anything, it bears some resemblance to the classic Another World or Prince of Persia games, or even the more recent Rooms: The Main Building from Hudson.

Screenshot for Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective on Nintendo DS

As mentioned previously, the lead character, Sissel, is dead and now possesses the ability to jump into the ‘core’ of certain inanimate objects and manipulate them. However, his spirit is only able to jump over a certain distance, meaning that not everything around an area is instantly accessible. Therefore, there are many instances where, for instance, Sissel will have jumped into the handle of a fridge, and its door must be opened in order to extend his reach to the next item, which could well be the pedal of a bicycle, which can then be ridden along so that he can leap into something else. This is how the pattern continues, and it is integral to how the story progresses, since there will be times where Sissel can latch onto the ‘core’ of a recently deceased being (animal or human) in order to talk with their spirit and then jump back in time to four minutes prior to their passing.

This is where the player becomes a hero(ine), causing slight changes to the past setting in order to divert fate's path somewhat. It could be a case of blinding an assailant temporarily with a flashing light, or helping a victim escape by hiding from plain sight. There are so many different scenarios, all extremely inventive and creative enough to engage the player each time. There are definite ways to 'fail,' but Ghost Trick encourages the replay factor, sometimes even pushing gamers towards what may appear to be the most obvious route, yet is in fact a path to failure, all for the sake of learning key facts that were otherwise unknown. Sometimes covert operations are the key, moving around a location to get close enough to someone and listen in to their conversations. The script has been constructed in such a fashion that players will regularly want to avoid succeeding just so the complete picture can be uncovered.

Screenshot for Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective on Nintendo DS

During the general puzzle mode, players are given the luxury of taking their time, pacing themselves as they progress through a level, trying to eavesdrop on conversations, jump into phone lines to uncover new areas (travel can only be done via telephones that are active - broken ones are a dead-end), and make changes to situations. Play can be switched between the ‘normal’ and ‘ghost’ world, the latter of which freezes the action during the fate-changing four-minute rewind sections where the objectives must be completed in a set amount of time. However, it is not always a mere race against time, since certain alterations to the timeline can only be instigated by waiting until the exact moment, then setting off a chain of events and watching as the scene unfolds before your next action is required. Should any of your attempts in these sections be met with doom, it’s always easy to rewind back and try again as many times as you like.

There are variations to the theme as well to keep matters fresh, such as the chance later in the game to take control of another spirit with its own special trick of switching items with the same shape (a tennis ball with a large boulder, for example). Between the initial aim of working as a Phantom Detective to determine who murdered you, picking up on the moralistic theme of saving others and eventually teaming with others to bring down the main evil of the tale, Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective serves up a delicious story, an gripping puzzle mechanic, gorgeous visuals and a stunning soundtrack. Capcom and Shu Takumi truly deserve to see massive success with this new project.

Screenshot for Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective on Nintendo DS

Cubed3 Rating

Rated 9 out of 10

Exceptional - Gold Award

Rated 9 out of 10

Initial concerns that Shu Takumi would fail to create something as special as Ace Attorney with his new project have most certainly been completely washed away. Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective is a superbly pleasurable puzzle effort with a wonderfully crafted storyline draped over it. Definitely one of the finest on the Nintendo DS.









C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  9/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  9/10 (9 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   


This game looks really really interesting. It has been on my radar since I saw the first reviews for it. I'd get it in a heartbeat if I had some money to spare right now but as it looks right now, I'll have to wait for an eventual price drop.

With Ghost Trick, Pokémon Black/White and Okamiden, the DS really is getting one heck of a swansong, a well deserved one might I add.

I tried the demo out on the Nintendo Channel and I was awful at it. I kept messing up and just gave up in the end. I loved the originality to it though.

It reminded me of Elite Beat Agents more than the Phoenix Wright games, for some reason.

Might pick it up in the future.

( Edited 26.01.2011 20:55 by Marzy )

Too right, SirLink; the final months of DS are actually looking like some of its finest!

Ghost Trick is an unbelievably great game, and I completely agree with everything here. The animation is absolutely awesome, the writing deviates between the devastating and the hilarious at a moment's notice without compromising either, and there are less leaps in logic than the Ace Attorney series. I'm not sure I'd want to see a sequel, as it works really well as a standalone title, but it truly is one of the best games on DS IMO.

And this guy is brilliant:

Image for

15 hours of content? Well, color me surprised. I figured the game would be 6-7 hours tops!

I think it lasted me 10 - 15 hours. Smilie

AdamC3 (guest) 27.01.2011#6

EdEN said:
15 hours of content? Well, color me surprised. I figured the game would be 6-7 hours tops!

Yup, we're talking going through every permutation, getting every extra bit of storyline to fully appreciate the entire adventure.

Forgot to mention the Phoenix Wright link early on (a detective in blue that bears a remarkable resemblance), and that the story takes a very dark turn in places, rather than merely being a laugh-fest throughout. It even gets emotional at times, with the help of the superb soundtrack.

Highly recommended, but expensive here in the UK since it's hard to find, it seems...

Richard (guest) 27.01.2011#7

Absolutely stunning game! There are quite a few Ace Attorney links, which is great news, but the best bit for me is definitely the AMAZING soundtrack!!!!

Smilie Smilie Smilie

That brings up a very good point: What is everyone's favourite track(s) from Ghost Trick?

Adam Riley [ Director :: Cubed3 ]
Rob (guest) 30.01.2011#9

Would love to see a sequel of sorts - maybe focusing on other characters and different types of Ghost Trick!

Ron (guest) 01.02.2011#10

jesusraz said:
That brings up a very good point: What is everyone's favourite track(s) from Ghost Trick?

I can't remember the names of different tracks, but Lynne's theme is brilliant, as is Inspector Cabanela's (his Jacko spins are so cool Smilie ). I quite like the Chicken place music as well Smilie

JS2001 (guest) 01.02.2011#11

Really like puzzle games, but wasn't a big AA fan. Sounds like this is more puzzle-based. Would you recommend it?

Rob (guest) said:
Would love to see a sequel of sorts - maybe focusing on other characters and different types of Ghost Trick!

Hmm, well, for reasons I won't go into here for the sake of not spoiling the game, a second Ghost Trick would likely indeed have to focus either on a completely new set of characters, or pick out a few key ones from this outing and totally go off on a different tangent. I'd certainly love to see more of the GT theme, though, whatever form it comes in! Smilie

Ron (guest) said:
I can't remember the names of different tracks, but Lynne's theme is brilliant, as is Inspector Cabanela's (his Jacko spins are so cool Smilie ). I quite like the Chicken place music as well Smilie
  • Prologue is menacing and definitely has an AA feel to it;
  • The main theme starts off a bit iffy, but really picks up around the 20 second mark and grabs you with its hook, building up considerably and proving to be one of those tunes that sounds better the more you hear it;
  • 4 Minutes Before Death is another AA-esque inspired theme, using simplistic synth beats that add new layers on further into the track to increase emphasis, then strips them back to keep a certain subtlety - nice, catchy and melodic
  • Lynne: A Targetted Redhead is easily one of my favourites. Instant kick from the start, with clapping-style back beat, rolling into an organ-led section and then going all-out retro with synth bips and bobs, then repeating the delicious formula for 2:42 of aural goodness!
  • Awakening - this IS almost exactly like a track from the very first AA: Phoenix Wright and would NOT be out of place playing in the background of a tense court battle. The light-hearted piano parts, with a dark shuddering undertone and some classic organ parts for good measure, this vibrant piece really does hold itself together fantastically well, offering a great dark edge that makes it irresistible;
  • Complication is yet another AA tune, which definitely falls into the Cross Examination category, where players sit back and ponder over what has just been happening in the story. Masakazu Sugimori masterfully mixes classic themes with a new spin.
  • Sadly not a massive fan of Missile's theme...A controversial view, I'm sure, but I found it too 'twee' and annoying overall. It has small elements that I like, but on the't like it;
  • Chicken Paradise! What a smooth, suave piece of music, with a funky underbeat, light-floaty tweaks over the top, trademark soft organ inclusions and an almost comical side to it throughout - most likely a VERY underrated piece on the 37-track score. Toe-tappingly good;
  • The Imprisoned is another laid-back, cool, calm tune (somewhat like Chicken Paradise), but with more of a swagger about it than a comical nature. One of the stronger tracks by far, even just on the merit of the first 10-15 sec intro!
  • A Dashing Enigma manages to instill a sense of urgency into proceedings very quickly, sweeping your mind away and washing over you with its fast-paced running beat underneath and swathing mass of lilting music of varying styles. Again, the use of retro blips and bloops is expertly mixed together with the undertone and synth tones to sound relevant and fresh to the very end - another very strong track;
  • Cabanela ~A White Lovely Lanky Man is the epitome of swagger, style and has a certain panache that makes it a stand-out track on the album;
  • Trauma is another AA tune, which kind of reminds me of the post-courtroom battle, where everything is being wrapped up and Phoenix Wright is going over the last few details before the Not Guilty verdict appears on screen. A dark, reflective, somewhat 'final' piece of music that haunts long after it draws to a close;
  • I could go on, but I'd be writing all day Smilie

    JS2001 (guest) said:
    Really like puzzle games, but wasn't a big AA fan. Sounds like this is more puzzle-based. Would you recommend it?

    I can see where you're coming from, in a way. For anyone not into long, wordy text adventures, the AA games can be quite a chore. In that respect, you may indeed prefer GT because of its puzzle-driven gameplay, but there is still scope to uncover a large amount of extra story for those that wish to along the journey.

    Adam Riley [ Director :: Cubed3 ]

    I've finally gotten around to playing this game and kept the promise I made three years ago here on this review. I don't typically play games of this kind/genre but that didn't stop me from getting totally hooked and loving every second of it. Smilie

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