Impressions: 'Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective' (iOS)

I'm surprised more DS titles that relied primarily on the touchscreen haven't made their way over to the latest crop of touch-enabled mobile devices. Up-res some of the graphics, clean up the interface where necessary, and throw it on the iTunes store and bing-bang-boom you've got a ready-made hit, right? I'm being straight here—never underestimate the impact of a high-quality port with all kinds of fun touch elements that you can play on the go.

Capcom's unique adventure game Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective is one such case, arriving on the iOS devices with what amounts to a pretty polished experience from music, to graphics, to (most importantly, of course) the core gameplay which will have you possessing objects to find out who killed your character.

But I'm getting ahead of myself. Find out why Ghost Trick is one of the more engaging and quirky titles to hit iOS recently after the jump.

THE BASICS

In Ghost Trick, you play as an (initially, at least) nameless detective who regains consciousness in a graveyard, only to find that he's been murdered by a person or persons unknown as part of some grand conspiracy. Before he can get his bearings, a mysterious redhead girl is about to get killed—possibly by the same assassin who killed you. In the course of the first chapter, you'll learn how to rewind time four minutes from the point of someone's death and then how to possess objects in the environment to change their fate.

Each object potentially has some kind of "trick" that it can perform (i.e. a bike can pedal, a ladder extend) that will in turn interact with some other object in the environment to protect the person whose fate you're tying to change. Oh, and you only have four minutes to figure out how to change your target's fate before they meet their end (again).

It's a quirky mix of puzzle game and adventure game as you examine objects to find out more about what happened to you, and it's this blend of elements that makes the game work.

WHAT'S GOOD (SO FAR)?

Possession is simply a really cool mechanic

There's no parsing it, really. The team behind the game found a few special cases where you have to use your abilities in unorthodox ways, for instance possessing multiple objects in rapid succession or finding additional details about an object before you use it. The environments are pretty much logically littered with all kinds of interesting things to possess, with all kinds of clever effects to them.

A terrific pixel art style

I'm not sure how Ghost Trick looked on the DS, but it benefits from the large iPad screen. You get some extra chunky pixels on the in-game character models, but it kind of adds to the allure. It helps that the characters have so many neat little animations that remind me of 16-bit era cinematic platformers like Flashback.

Just the right amount of eccentricity

Your character is a flashy, pointy-haired detective who can't stand to see a pretty girl get caught in the rain (or killed, of course), chasing after clues involving mysterious, possibly foreign blue guys, and there's an entire section of the game where you've got a Pomeranian sidekick. Ghost Trick never pushes the quirk beyond what's reasonable (that's to say, there was never a point where I felt like the story or characters were nudging me in the ribs as if to say, "See how silly this all is!"). It actually makes the story more accessible and enjoyable, at least in the brief time I was able to spend with it here.

WHAT'S BAD (SO FAR)?

It can get a little chatty

Particularly in the first chapter, Ghost Trick spends a lot of time walking you through how the mechanics work thanks to a spectral in-story guide who knows how our amnesiac detective's powers work and maybe even why/how he died. While the second chapter doesn't have quite as many sequences where you'll go without actually being able to play the game, it's pretty clear that you'll have a little patience for a game that likes to take its time telling its story.

THE VERDICT

Capcom has me on the hook here—I definitely want to solve this mystery, but more importantly, I'd like to spend more time with the clever puzzle environments they've set up with Ghost Trick. While the story is delivered in huge chunks, it's got a character and charm all its own that makes me really want to dive back in and see what else the game has to offer.

The first two episodes of Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective are currently free in the iTunes Store.

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