Calling a "do-over" is usually the last resort of a sore loser, but the main character in Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective has plenty to be upset about. In only the first three minutes of gameplay, he's shot dead in a junkyard for reasons unknown, with absolutely no memories to clue him in.
Fortunately, Sissel - who doesn't remember his real name, either - has the power to call a "do-over" whenever he encounters tragedy. In the blink of an eye, he can transport himself back to four minutes before a person's death. Then, using his "ghost trick" powers, he can possess objects and manipulate them to break the chain of events that led to the person's untimely end. The problem is that he can't work that magic on himself, and nearly everyone he comes into contact with over the course of the game winds up dead.
The premise sounds silly - especially if you try to articulate it to somebody on public transport who asks you what the game is "about" - but once the story gets going Ghost Trick becomes very involving, and has solid, inventive gameplay to back it up. Each chapter involves one to three "ghost trick" puzzles, where Sissel must move objects in order to trigger an event that reveals another tantalising clue. Nearly everyone Sissel meets is somehow a part of the big mystery, and most of them have well-written dialogue that keep the proceedings interesting - even when you have to repeat a puzzle or six.
That's the thing about calling do-overs: you usually have to repeat yourself. Many of the more advanced puzzles in Ghost Trick require you to either fail completely or come right down to the wire to find the solution. Even then, an early mistake in your puzzle-solving might blow an entire sequence of events and you'll have to hit the hourglass icon to reset to the beginning.
This is probably Ghost Trick's worst weakness: unlike the Phoenix Wright games where you can rely on the process of elimination, or the Professor Layton games where you can pay for clues, Ghost Trick puzzles have only one solution - and until you find it, you're doomed to fail a puzzle over and over again. Patience isn't a virtue normally associated with gamers, but Ghost Trick expects you to have plenty of it.
Fortunately, the game only has a handful of puzzles where you might find yourself rage-quitting - remember to save before you do; skipping cut-scenes isn't an option - and if the mystery hooks you like it hooked me, you'll stick around until you figure them out. The conclusion the plot hurtles towards may not be one you saw coming, but the satisfaction of getting there atones for all of Ghost Trick's sins.
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