Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective

Preview: Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective

Not your average Ghost Story

Capcom recently appeared out of thin air to grant me a hands-on demo of Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective on PlayStation 4 (though I played on PlayStation 5) before today’s Capcom Showcase. And positively ghoulish that yet another generation of gamers gets to enjoy this uniquely-crafted puzzle game on another generation of hardware.

Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective is an interactive experience that Capcom has refused to give up the ghost on. It originally made its way to North America in January 2011 on the Nintendo DS. It came to us from the mind of Shu Takumi, who has been the godfather of the legal-themed puzzler with Professor Layton and Ace Attorney franchises.

However, Ghost Trick was always just a one-off for Takumi to explore something moving away from Ace Attorney, with a more fantastical story but one that retained the same humour and legal astuteness of the series, as mentioned earlier. And I’m glad to say that nearly 15 years later, Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective’s combination of those elements informs why this game has hung around to be ported on so many independent gaming systems.

The new port will be available on June 30 on Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, Windows and Xbox One. This version retains the original story, Ghost Tricks, and puzzles. However, it includes an unlockable art gallery, the ability to switch between the original music tracks and a rearranged soundtrack by Yasumasa Kitagawa, and some general polish in models, environments and UI that helps the DS’ at-the-time impressive 60FPS and dual-screed layout feel more lively and organized on modern technology.

Ghost Trick On The Shelf

The story of Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective is an entire article. There’s a reason Takumi’s narratives lend themselves so well to Saturday morning animes. There are twists and turns and general “Wait, what?!” Moments in every one of the game’s 18 chapters. The demo (available now) features the first two chapters to familiarize you with the titular Ghost Tricks and introduce you to the leading characters, Sissel and Lynne.


I would hate myself for spoiling the details of an incredible multi-murder mystery. You control the soul of the recently departed Sissel, who learns that he has one day to use the Ghost Tricks bestowed upon him to visit people’s last four minutes of life and attempt to change the outcome. In doing so, he begins to learn about his passing.

This game’s story’s beauty is in its puzzles’ absolute banality. It’s hilarious and satisfying to think of a spirit moving to change the events of history through a bike shimmying down a crane’s wire. Or moving from a lower level to a higher one by having a fan blow a flag up its resident poll. Like in Professor Layton and Ace Attorney, environments are used expertly and comically to be puzzled. 

Shuffle, thy spirit

The Ghost Tricks allow Sissel to move through objects and manipulate them. Inputs are simply a flick of the joystick and, in the case of PS, pressing X to interact with objects and L1 to switch between the real world and the spirit world.

To make things a little bit tenser, the interface also includes a sand timer that counts down the four minutes you have to solve each puzzle.

For the most part, it all worked well back in 2011 and works now. I only have three suggestions that I want to raise.

First, this game was created to use the full real estate of the Nintendo DS’ two screens. Puzzles are laid out to use an upper and a lower screen, and as a result, more inputs are needed to fully move around puzzles now, which is a small inconvenience for able-bodied players. But as someone who has trouble with multiple inputs requiring speed, these new issues caused me a bit of fatigue.


Secondly, visuals can feel busy because things shift from two screens to one screen. But I also think that modern games are quite active in terms of UI, so it’s not an issue making the game unplayable — just slightly more jarring than when I played it originally.

Lastly, considering modern gaming sensibilities, puzzle games almost always come now with a single button input to restart a puzzle or undo a wrong move. Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective instead forces you to open the menu and restart. Like my previous concerns, it’s mild and in no way game-breaking. But Quality of Life updates is something I like to see as part of ports like this one.

My feelings are that in a world where ports are just as prevalent as new IPs or additions to franchises, Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective deserves to call itself a successful part of that world in terms of what I’ve seen so far. It’s a successful one-off that avoided being buried in gaming history next to its longer-running siblings. If it’s a game you’ve yet to experience, this is a must-play. However, if you’ve played before, I’d like to know if there’s enough of a Quality of Life upgrade here to necessitate another purchase.

[This impression article is based on an Early Access code offered by the publisher]