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Ghost Trick, possessed desk lamps, and you

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Nintendo always brings a handful of third-party games into their booth at E3 so that people can see what else is on display for their machines. Capcom's Ghost Trick for DS was one of those titles, also on display at Capcom's own booth; but as those stations were full I decided to head on over and see if the copy at Nintendo's booth was free. It was, and backed up by a guy who was probably the most entertaining demonstrator I had the pleasure of listening to this show. (Give this guy a bonus, Capcom. His delivery was just as good as the game's, which was no small feat.)

   

Ghost Trick is the pet project of Ace Attorney creator Shu Takumi, though I do need to note that apart from the clever and funny writing it's not really anything like that series. For starters, well, you're dead.

Thankfully, you're a dead guy with a heart of gold, trying to prevent others from becoming just as dead as you are. You do this by making use of your power of possession, hopping from object to object so long as it's within the rather short range of your spirit. You can do this by switching into Ghost mode, which pauses the passage of time and lets you move your spirit from object to object so long as none are out of your reach. For some objects, you'll see that you can perform a Trick; making a crossing gate come down, a lamp turn on, a bicycle pedal move, et cetera. You need to get out of Ghost mode to let this happen, which resumes the passage of time—so there's a time limitation in play, though you can always take a breather and think things through by jumping back into the ghost world. Others are objects that already have a spirit, like the recently-deceased or—um—a desk lamp; you will converse with these to hear their stories and get events moving forward.

The levels on display in the demo were both a light tutorial and a much more complicated scenario where I needed to grab a couple hints from the demonstrator lest I monopolize the station all day scratching my head. In both scenes, the events of the death you need to try to prevent play out; you then hop on over to speak to the spirit of the deceased and try to work out how to prevent it. In the first level, this deceased was a young woman; in the second, a Pomeranian named Missile.

The key to solving each level is to use the items available to you to create a sort of Rube Goldbergian contraption and avoid the death in question. To keep Missile from being shot by the bad guy, I had to get him and the little girl who was his owner safely hidden under the couch before the aforementioned cretin arrived. Doing so involved possessing an extending umbrella to knock a pair of headphones into a fish tank, possessing a wheeled cart with a bowl of donuts on top to get it to the other side of the room, leaping into an airplane toy suspended from the ceiling to get over a few more feet, and flinging a cabinet door open to knock a donut out of the jaws of a mouse and under the couch.

And I actually even figured out most of it myself.

   

Every character in this game is truly just that—a character—from Sissel to the nearsighted assassin to Missile (I basically lost it when he recovered his memory and shouted "I'm a Pomeranian!") Everyone's well-written and just as entertaining as the cast of the Ace Attorney games, which should be no surprise; but the entertainment value isn't delivered just from the lines, but plays smartly with the game itself, which should be sheer absurdity but somehow manages to make sense. It's really quite good.

I really need to draw your attention to how great this game looks, too. It's a little hard to appreciate in shots, but in motion it's incredibly cool-looking. I was told that Takumi has wanted to make this game for awhile now, but they spent a lot of time getting the hand-done animation right. It definitely paid off. Ghost Trick is easily one of the best-looking DS games there is, with a sharp style all its own that comes to life with great animation.

Like all the other games I'm looking forward to at this show, Ghost Trick is slated for release this year.