While game news is light, and we're reminiscing on a gaming year gone by, I thought I'd take the time to write about the games that defined my year. They weren't necessarily classics — some I absolutely hated, some I fell head over heels for, but they're all worth discussing. First up: Ghost Trick.
There's something primal and comforting about the idea of pouring yourself a hot drink and 'curling' up in bed to read a book. Even just that word — 'curling'. The idea that you could be so at ease and content that your body literally curls into itself.
Aaaaaaaaahhhh... to curl.
Bizarrely, video games are never thought of as something you 'curl' up with. They're twitchy, visceral. You very rarely relax with a video game, you engage with it. Sure, games can have a calming effect, but despite the fact that portable gaming is in vogue and it is possible to curl up in bed with a game, to this day I've never heard anyone say that, at the end of a long day, they poured themselves a hot chocolate and curled up in bed with a video game.
So I might as well be the first: in early 2011, my favourite thing to do was pour myself a hot Milo, clamber into my bed, and curl the hell up with my DS Lite and Ghost Trick.
I have the best memories of Ghost Trick as an 'experience' because, in the most interesting way, Ghost Trick is barely a game. Your own interactions with the game are actually limited. Ghost Trick doesn't empower you in the way some games do — on the contrary it's quite a passive experience, and I think that's why it's so 'curlable'. It invites you to relax and go with the flow.
So often video games attempt to be 'cinematic'. Which means, I guess, relentlessly pounding action sequences that drag you kicking and screaming from one set piece to another. The video game as a movie-like experience has always been this pedestal-like target for game developers, and consumers have rewarded such experiences with their hard earned cash, but I've never really seen anyone try and make a video game that's experienced like a 'book'.
And that's essentially what Ghost Trick was to me: the gaming equivalent of a page turner.
I played Ghost Trick on the train, and before going to bed. Like a book. When my wife started reading, I started playing. And Ghost Trick was a humdinger. Book reviewers, had they taken the time to play, may have described the game as a 'rollicking good read'. I was just engrossed.
And as a video game that feels like a book, saying Ghost Trick has great writing almost feels redundant, but it does! Ghost Trick had memorable characters; perfectly executed mini-arcs that somehow seamlessly integrated into the whole. Ghost Trick was an off-the-cuff thriller that felt natural in the most regimented way; a rigorously plotted tale that somehow mustered enough verve to feel spontaneous.
I can't really say that I've ever played a game like it. The Sierra/Lucasarts adventure genre is an obvious touchstone, but Ghost Trick doesn't have the same feel or design, and seems to exist in its own little segmented universe. When I play games, I'm usually primed, on the edge of my seat. I never curl. I don't have a problem with that, none whatsoever, but every now and then it's fun to experience a video game in a different frame of mind.
I love that Ghost Trick made me curl.