Best Console/Handheld Adventure (Exclusive): Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective
When Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective released in early 2011, adventure fans may have initially objected(!) to a new game from Phoenix Wright creator Shu Takumi that didn’t take place in the courtroom, but the unusual puzzler quickly made an impression with its quirky anime graphics, unique premise, and creative gameplay. Playing as Sissel, a spikey-haired man in a bold red suit who has just met his untimely demise, players have only one night to figure out how he met with his fate before his soul ceases to exist. Since he’s dead, the only tools at his disposal are his “ghost tricks”: the ability to possess and manipulate inanimate objects, to communicate with recently dead souls, and most importantly, to briefly turn back time so he can rescue others destined for an early grave. As the hours tick by, Sissel learns more about the convoluted path that led him to this point and the people whose lives are entangled with his own, finally homing in on the answers he’s been seeking – but not without some major shockers along the way.
Most of Ghost Trick’s gameplay involves setting up chain reactions among inanimate objects, Rube Goldberg-style, so Sissel can interact with the living world, glean information about his death, and protect others in imminent danger. Easily played with the Nintendo DS’s touch screen and stylus, for the most part these sequences are practices in logic and patience, though some precise timing is also required. With stylish manga-inspired graphics and memorable characters that boast robust animations, the game makes very good use of the handheld’s relatively low specs. The well-paced story unfolds over 18 bite-sized chapters – perfect for playing in short bursts – but it’s a lengthy game overall, taking many surprising twists and an unexpectedly poignant turn near the end. Unique in many ways and thoroughly enjoyable to experience, Ghost Trick is one of the most innovative games the genre has seen in quite some time, and it needed to be to fend off some tough competition for this year’s “Best Console/Handheld Adventure” award.
Runners-Up: Stacking, Professor Layton and the Last Specter/Spectre’s Call, The Secret of Chateau de Moreau, Red Johnson’s Chronicles
Readers’ Choice: Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective
The clear winner of the reader poll was really “no answer”, proving once again that adventure gamers are an overwhelmingly PC-centric lot. But among those who have branched out into other platforms, the unique new adventure by Shu Takumi proved just as popular as its Ace Attorney predecessors in taking home the best console or handheld adventure award, handily topping an impressive pair of challengers in 2011.
Runners-Up: Stacking, Professor Layton and the Last Specter/Spectre’s Call, 1112: Episode 3, NCIS 3D
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Next up: Best Non-Traditional Adventure... the envelope, please!