2011 In Games: Curling Up With Ghost Trick

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.


    I agree, it was a fresh experience. Though I'll argue that some of the better Phoenix Wright games had the same curl-ability.

    You've captured my experience with this game and others like it perfectly, Mark. I hadn't even thought about it in that way before, but a comparison with a good page-turned is probably the most accurate thing I've seen yet.

      Page turner*

    I found ghost trick had the exact right amount of cinematics, as well as gameplay, it was such an amazing game though :D

    i had the exact same feeling mark!

    in fact, like i book, i plan on re-reading it next year!

    it also had the best twists that you never saw coming in a game, ever.
    and oh damn, that ending *starts tearing up*

    To my mind, Ghost Trick was one of the most compelling games of the year in that the plot got you caring about the characters, it was fun to play and while sometimes was marginally too easy was never too hard or impossible.
    It also had some extremely pleasant "eureka" moments and the best twists of any game I've finished this year.
    It also had the most memorable characters.

    Dammit, I still haven't managed to acquire this game. I think I'll have to get it soon though, should be perfect for my plane-ride to the US.

    Agree with basically everything above.

    The other thing I absolutely loved about it was the neat division into chapters, with the small recaps at the beginning of each one. Absolutely perfect for bit-at-a-time portable play.

    SUCH an awesome game - but the copy i won started glitching at what i could guess was half way through the game and i couldn't play anymore.. sobloody ragggee!!!

    "I’ve never really seen anyone try and make a video game that’s experienced like a ‘book’."

    Er, Mark, clearly you've never played the two Hotel Dusk games then... their mantra is essentially games that play like books, to the point where you play with the DS side-on, immitating a book.

    Also, the Ace Attorney games, also designed by Ghost Trick's Shu Takumi, have a book-style flavour to them. And while I certainly liked Ghost Trick a whole lot, I gotta be honest - preferred most of the main Ace Attorney games, as well as Hotel Dusk. So if you liked Ghost Trick, definitely go on and check out the games listed above!

      Yeah, I've played all of the above (except the second Hotel Dusk). But they have more in common with old school adventure games IMO. I was just trying to grasp at an overall feeling I had playing the game. Sure there are some crossovers with other games and ideas, but Ghost Trick really felt unique in the way I engaged with it.

    Wow, this sounds like me! I had a very similar experience with Ghost Trick, the 'curling' really seems to resonate with me, as I'd experience a lot of joy out of taking my DS to bed each night to finish another chapter or two.


    Ghost Trick was a very enjoyable ride, and it filled the hole of not having a new Ace Attorney game this year. How I wish they'd localise Gyakuten Kenji 2.... T_T

    i remember when you went bananas over this game mark :p i promptly purchased a copy and never looked back

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