Being perfectly honest, it's been a while since I've been able to muster up any excitement about a DS game. Strangely enough the last game that interested me was Ace Attorney Investigations: Miles Edgeworth, which works as a convenient little segue into the game I spent a good couple of hours playing last night - Ghost Trick.
Ghost Trick is the latest IP by Shu Takumi, the creator of the superlative Ace Attorney series. Ghost Trick, much like Ace Attorney, is a game that primarily utilises a handful of simple mechanics to drive a quirky, engaging story, integrating sharp writing that drives the player purposefully from one scenario to the next.
Thankfully, said writing is sharp - if a little bloated to begin with. The tutorial stage, for example, in which you learn to manoeuvre throughout the environment as a spirit and perform 'tricks', was burdened with a little too much exposition, but loaded with the same quirky charm that made Ace Attorney such a blast to play through.
The character design is unlike anything we've seen on the DS - the protagonist sports a ridiculous haircut (as you'd expect) but that's where the similarities to Ace Attorney end. The slow, lazy precise animation of each character is brilliant in motion, and gives the entire game a real high production feel. The look as a whole seems to mimic a hyper stylised, accessible piece of noir - like someone drenched Sin City in a bucket of technicolour paint and outlined it in crayon.
The mechanics themselves are interesting - possess inanimate objects and use them to manipulate the characters around you. It's shoe-horned into a time-travelling gimmick that allows you to go back and save the victims by rattling a bone or two at the right time. It's different, but it's somewhat satisfying when you slowly start to unravel the plans of a bloodthirsty killer by manipulating household objects. It's clever, if a little linear at times.
We're enjoying it so far - it doesn't feature the same explosive courtroom drama of Ace Attorney, but the writing is equally as sharp, and parodies the noir genre in the same way that Ace Attorney managed to perfectly send up Perry Mason et al. With the 3DS due out in March, it could be the final swansong for what is arguably the greatest handheld console ever made. In that sense Ghost Trick - innovative, fresh accessible - may represent the perfect send off for the Nintendo DS.
Godspeed old buddy!
Just a reminder that we're currently running a competition, giving you guys the chance to win a DSi XL and one of five copies of Ghost Trick. Head here for details.