Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Ghost Trick Review

Ghost Trick: Phantom DetectiveDeath is a ghoulish eventuality, particularly so in Capcom’s latest pursuit, the aptly named Ghost Trick.  The game features the crimson-clad Sissel, a mysterious man on a quest to find the ruthless miscreants who have done him in, as well as to assist in preventing the untimely deaths of the do-gooders he encounters during his ghostly exploits. I must admit, my initial interest in this title was rooted largely in that the creator, Takumi Shuu, also created possibly my favorite game series, Ace Attorney. The question remains; does this game live up to the  lofty standards that Ace Attorney fans have come to expect of Capcom? Or was I left to fill my whiskers with sighs of disappointment?

The storytelling in Ghost Trick is quite fluid. The game’s clearly defined segments consistently culminate in the revelation of small piece of the overall story.  I rather enjoyed the leisurely pace at which the saga unwound; it added a delightful sense of tension to the gameplay. Many game writers attempt this thematic device only to have it result in much vexation on behalf of the player.  Fortunately, Ghost Trick’s narrative is small enough in scope and robust enough in content to keep one’s interest effectively. This quality is largely the doings of well written, enjoyable characters like Sissel and perhaps the most saccharine character I've ever had the pleasure of coming into contact with: Missle.

For the most part, I found the gameplay to be both original and interesting. Sissel’s specter can maneuver about between inanimate objects when in “ghost mode” and can “trick” objects, making them perform a specific action. Determining the proper objects to use in each situation is challenging, as some objects do nothing at all and others are intended for use in later puzzles. The ability to reuse objects and environments render each task all the more difficult, as solutions the player has previously devised may not necessarily apply in the next puzzle.

The score is not particularly notable. The music seemed to all but vanish as I focused on the tasks at hand.  At times my assiduous mind would briefly stray and I would enjoy a note or two, but I would soon find myself back in a state of focus from which no earthly delights of the ears could tempt me.  It is certainly not a soundtrack I would purchase for my Victrola talking machine, but it does a good job of maintaining the unearthly ambiance without becoming intrusive.

While the gameplay is engaging, it does get monotonous. The moving objects also present a gameplay paradigm that most players are not accustomed to in puzzle games—timing. Oft I knew well what needed to be done, but my timing was ham-handed and I had no choice but to restart the level. At times I was forced to restart a puzzle so often that the game became less of a good-natured challenge and more of a querulous botheration.  My frustration stemmed from instances in which I detected what was to be done only after it was too late and a particular object could no longer be used.  Once the window of opportunity had passed, the player’s only recourse was to begin the level anew and hope to be less clumsy this time around.  Occasionally I would find that I had prematurely used an item, only to later learn that its place in the grand ghostly scheme of things was mere moments after my original placing. The frequency with which events like these occurred likened my anger to that of a frog in a sock.

The very nature of this game necessitates that only one correct answer exist, and even if the player is convinced of the validity of their solution, it simply will not work unless it coincides with the pre-programmed path. These baleful errors in the gameplay were such that even at the conclusion of the trials, the story was just not as rewarding as it should have been.  A minute or two of advanced story after such tiresome and exacting efforts left me at times feeling positively swindled.  Luckily for this old chap the game is on a portable console, thus allowing me to walk away for a bit, perhaps play a rousing game of snooker with the Baron, and return with ease.

Simply put, the game’s linear gameplay and frustrating moments detracted from its innovation and enjoyability. I personally am accustomed to such small impediments, being a devotee of the Ace Attorney series, and thus was expecting to be somewhat frustrated before I commenced this gaming journey. I am confident that my fellow fans of the Ace Attorney series will revel in the story and tolerate the sometimes befuddling gameplay. I fear, however, that some gamers will be unwilling to weather the storm of chagrin in order to unravel the mysteries of this intriguing game. Ultimately I would recommend Ghost Trick to everyone, but not without forewarning them as to the nature of the gameplay.
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