After bringing the beloved Phoenix Wright Trilogy and Great Ace Attorney Chronicles to PlayStation, it only seemed right for Capcom to follow them up with Shu Takumi's lesser-known work. Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective, originally released on Nintendo DS in 2010, is the definition of a cult classic. Held in very high regard by critics and fans, it's now been given the remaster treatment, soon to be released on modern consoles. We were fortunate enough to gain early access to the playable demo which, while short, is enough to get us excited to finally experience the full game for ourselves.
For those who don't know, Ghost Trick shares a lot of DNA with the Ace Attorney series. Part visual novel and part point-and-click adventure, it's far from the most challenging game, but what it lacks in action it makes up for with its intriguing scenarios and colourful characters. You play as Sissel, a man who has just been killed. In the realm of the dead, he's forgotten everything about his life, but he soon learns about some special new abilities that can help him solve his very own murder mystery.
The game's title refers to 'tricks' Sissel can pull off in his spectral form. Possess certain objects in the environment, and you'll be given the option to activate a trick. For example, strumming the strings on a guitar, or extending a ladder. Using these objects is one thing, but getting to them can at times be a puzzle in itself; you can only possess items within your reach. You'll need to use these tricks to both navigate and interact with the land of the living and, ultimately, get to the bottom of what's going on and why Sissel was killed.
The character's agency in the real world is limited, and it's neatly mirrored in the gameplay. In order to simply get across a room, you may need to shift some objects using their tricks to create a path you can move across. There are just enough objects to experiment with that you'll want to explore your options, but it never becomes overly complex. While this is a slightly more active game than Ace Attorney, it's not by much.
The demo contains Ghost Trick's opening two chapters. This is perfect for setting up the mystery, introducing key characters, and leaving players on a cliffhanger. After finishing the second stage, we're certainly ready to see where the story goes.
At the scene of Sissel's demise is an unknown woman and an assassin who's trying to kill her, too. The bad news is, he does just that. The good news is that, in addition to using your ghostly abilities to manipulate things in the present, you can travel back in time to four minutes before someone's death. During these sequences, your focus shifts slightly — how can you affect the scene and save the victim?
Whether playing these timed portions or progressing the plot in the present, the opening chapters move fairly swiftly, driven by entertaining dialogue and dynamic scenes playing out onscreen. Having said that, the pressure here is low. You can restart those four-minute sequences as often as you need to get the solution, and there's a generous amount of hints available should you want them. It certainly feels like Ghost Trick's priority is ensuring you can get through its story rather than presenting you with tricky, pace-halting puzzles. We've only had a taste of what's in store, though, and we're sure things will get tougher further along.
As mentioned, this is a remaster of the 12-year-old game (running in RE Engine, no less), and it looks great. The image quality is super crisp, and the animations look good with the title running at a locked 60 frames per second. The aspect ratio keeps the action in 4:3, so hopefully you don't mind playing with borders, but it's hardly an issue.
Anyway, what's most encouraging about our time with the demo is that we just wanted to keep playing after it concluded. Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective leaves a solid first impression, setting up an interesting mystery with that familiar Ace Attorney charm. Roll on 30th June.
Thanks to Capcom for providing us the opportunity to play the Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective demo early. The full game releases for PS4 on 30th June, 2023, and the demo version is now available to all. Will you be playing this cult classic? Haunt the comments section below.