Thursday, February 10, 2011

Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective (DS)

Play Time: 3-4 hours

What Happened:
Ghost Trick is really cool! I found out about this game maybe... 8 months ago when a link was passed around at work so we could discuss the animation. I also played the demo at NY Comic Con in October and was really impressed. The game starts with you discovering that you have recently been killed, and you have no memory of your death. A woman has also been killed, and a 'guide' explains to you that you have the ability to go back to 4 minutes before this woman has died to prevent her death (although unfortunately you cannot prevent your own death). You do this by manipulating different physical objects which you can possess and performing the various functions that the objects are capable of to solve the puzzle.

For example, in one of the first puzzles, you have to make your way across several objects to possess a wrecking ball, which you can then drop on the man who is going to kill the woman.

I've been playing it off and on since last Friday.

What I Liked:

Animation. The animation I saw in the trailer was what first got me interested in this game. It's amazing and there's really a surprising amount of different animations. Every single animation in game conveys a strong sense of character, which is something I have not seen often in games. That being said, this is helped by the over-the-top style - the animators could show a ton of character without having to worry about subtlety.

3d visuals. I really love the style of everything in this game that's in 3D. I think they made some really smart choices which work with the DS beautifully.

Concept. The overall concept is really cool - you are dead and you are trying to save other people from dying by manipulating objects like a ghost. Done. Perfect.

Gameplay. So far, every puzzle has been a unique challenge, which honestly surprised me. There is a huge variety of situations which all call for completely different types of solutions - do I need to drop something on this guy? Do I need to move this guy out of the way? Do I need to stop these objects from moving? You have what, at least for me, is just the right amount of options in terms of different things to try, and you always feel as though you are progressing towards a solution. I love that there is no limit to the number of tries you get to solve a puzzle, because this allows them to be more open-ended. (I would think that with this level of variety, if you had a limited number of tries it would be entirely too difficult to progress in this game.)

Story. So far, the story is intriguing. I am just interested enough that I want to keep playing to find out how everyone is interconnected. Characters are just intriguing enough (and in some cases bizarre enough) that my curiosity has been caught. That being said, I've been playing for about 4 hours and I'm starting to need some more reinforcement... throw me a bone, game!

Characters. I've sort of mentioned all of the bits and pieces already... the character designs are really appealing, character animations are highly focused on conveying specific personality, and the characters are relatively well written. All of this comes together to make for interesting, unique characters - which is perfect since they are the primary focus of the story. Also since you're generally playing to save their lives, it's nice to be interested in them. :)


Time rewind & phone line transitions. Whenever you rewind time, or travel through a phone line, there are really cool motion graphics animations. It's a neat touch of polish that makes both of these actions feel more significant.

Tastefully handled violence. It's a game about murder, but I like it! A bloody mess would be pretty contrary to the overall aesthetic of this game, and I feel that they have handled the violence very well by choosing not to be explicit.

Digestible chunks. It seems like common sense, but I'll keep pointing it out when I notice it - I love that you can play this game for 10-20min intervals and put it back down again. It's a handheld, so it's definitely a necessity. This is how I like to play games.

What I Didn't Like:
Long-winded. I feel that there is a tendency to overstate things in the dialogue. Part of me wonders if some subtlety was lost in this game's translation to English? Whichever way, I was told about 4 times that I really ought to hurry up to save Lynn's life, and there was already a "4 min remaining!" on the top screen, and I knew that she was on her way to being dead... and it just bothered me a bit. There have been several other cases of similar over-emphasis on things. I also don't care for the 'dramatic' (unskippable) narration which served as a recap every time a segment started or ended. The game is in small chunks, so it bugged me - but then it does make sense if I had put them game down for awhile and then picked it back up. I just want it to be skippable. And less melodramatic. :)

Repetition of dialogue. I love that you can rewind time as many times as you need to, but some sections of dialogue repeat every time, which gets annoying when you are retrying a lot.

Inconsistency in puzzles. Not a huge deal, but sometimes I would expect things to be different based on prior puzzles. In one puzzle, the policemen both have nightsticks which you can possess, so you can move with the policemen - so then the next time I saw a policeman in a puzzle, I really expected him to have one too, and he didn't. Overall not a big deal, but it pulled me out for a second.

"Trick Time" and "Fate Averted". This is super picky, but with all of the care that went into most of the visuals, these two bits of text were really poorly done (and they pop up a lot).

2D drawings. Perhaps picky again, but considering how awesome the 3D look of this game is, the 2D drawings did no hold up.

How Do I Feel About Continuing?:

I'm still pretty interested in this game after playing it off and on for the last week. That being said, the frequency that I've been picking it up has decreased somewhat. I think the story is not moving fast enough for me.. and I'm getting closer to losing interest unless they throw me a bone soon.

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