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08/08/2011 Artistic Novel Gamer Podcast
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Ghost Trick Phantom Detective DS

Ghost Trick Phantom Detective

Format:
DS

Genre:
Adventuring

Style:
Singleplayer
Thirdperson

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Other GamePeople columnists have reviewed this from their perspective - huh?:
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Reporting Gamer (DS)
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Reluctant Gamer (DS)


Dead Again, and Again - a review in the form of a short story. Going about his daily tasks, one game reviewer finds that sitting down and playing a game can be a tricky - and sometimes fatal - task.

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It was a long, hot and slow Sunday afternoon. I could hear the sound of a chainsaw cutting wood from the lane behind the house.

Since I had the afternoon to myself I was going to settle into an afternoon of quality time with the Playstation. I silenced the kitchen radio, put my mobile onto mute and tidied the lunch dishes into the dishwasher. I opened the cupboard above the sink to grab the tea bags. I noticed in passing that the kitchen sink was full of dirty water. I boiled the kettle, poured the hot water over the tea bag and gave the bag a quick stir before removing it and adding the milk. I made up a sandwich, buttering the bread carefully and routing through the cupboards for a jar of peanut butter.

I walked up the stairs, my tea and sandwiches carefully balanced on a tray. Owing to the tray obscuring my sight, I totally failed to see the cat on the step ahead of me and stepped on its tail. Outraged and incensed, the cat swiped at my ankle in desperation. I yelped in surprise and pain and instinctively leaned down to grab at my ankle. The cup of tea slid off the tray and poured hot liquid down my front. I yelped a second time in surprise and lost my footing totally. I slipped backwards and rolled painfully down the stairs.

I hit the floor at the bottom of the steps headfirst and broke my neck, quite conclusively. As you can  imagine, I was now dead.

It was a long, hot and slow Sunday afternoon. I could hear the sound of a chainsaw cutting wood from the lane behind the house.

Since I had the afternoon to myself I was going to settle into an afternoon of quality time with the Playstation. I silenced the kitchen radio, put my mobile onto mute and tidied the lunch dishes into the dishwasher. Somehow this all felt very familiar. I opened the cupboard above the sink to grab the tea bags, but then noticed something out of the corner of my eye. My cat's favourite play ball had rolled down the staircase, bounced off the skirting board and rolled into the kitchen to come to rest by my feet. I paid it no heed, but as I reached up and made to grab the tea bags once more the cat herself raced into the kitchen and began scrabbling around my feet for the ball. Thrown totally off-balance, I must have juggled the tea bags in the air in comedic fashion for a few micro-seconds before losing the entire package into the dirty dishwater.

I stared balefully at the ruined tea bags in the sink. With some disappointment I realised that tea was off. Perhaps with a small feeling of retribution (and probably staring daggers at her the whole time) I picked up the cat and put her out of the back door, firmly latching the cat-flap so she could not return until I was a little better disposed toward her.

In the end I settled for a glass of tap water and then made up a sandwich, buttering the bread carefully and routing through the cupboards for a jar of peanut butter.

I walked up the stairs, my water and sandwiches carefully balanced on a tray. I made my way to the top of the stairs unhindered and stepped into the games room,  putting the tray down carefully on a small table. I fired up the Playstation and settled in for an afternoon's quality game time.

As you can probably imagine, it came as quite a surprise when a large tree crashed through the window and pinned me to the sofa, killing me instantly.

******

I was dead, that much was apparent. I was just floating without form in a swirly sea of colours.

I didn't seem to be alone, however. There was another voice here, besides my own.

"Hey Chris," came the voice.

"Oh, hi!" I replied, uncertainly. I wasn't sure who it was or if I'd met them before. I was pretty rubbish with names and faces before I died and I didn't fancy my chances with a disembodied voice. "Who's that, then?"

"It's Andy," came the reply.

I said, "oh, hey Andy. You're not dead too, are you?"

He responded sadly, "I'm afraid so. I died this morning, through an elaborate series of events involving a deck of cards, a sawmill, a community support officer on a bicycle and a packet of bourbons."

I tried looking quizzical, but it was difficult without having any eyebrows to raise.

"It's a long story," he explained, "we'll get to that after you take a look at the game I sent you."

I remembered the package arriving. "Oh yeah I didn't get the chance to look at that yet."

Andy stated firmly, "you need to play it today"

I sighed, "really? I'm in the middle of InFamous 2 right now. It's awesome and I totally don't want to put it..."

He interrupted, "it's really important that you play it today. It could save both of our lives."

I was trying to figure out all that was happening, here, "hang on a minute. You're dead. I'm dead. And the last thing you want to do with your consciousness before you pass beyond the veil is remind me to review a game you've sent me?"

Andy was adamant. "It's called Ghost Trick Phantom Detective. It's about a dead guy who can save people from death by manipulating events around them."

This did sound like it could come in handy, given our circumstances. I asked, "so what it is, PS3, Wii?"

"It's a DS game," he told me.

"What, not 3D or anything?" I wondered and I could sense Andy's ghostly form shaking its head. "Old school, eh?"

Andy said, "you'll like it. It's got really nice animation. Really lovely."

Incredulous, I said, "There's just one problem. I'm a little bit too dead right now to be picking up my DS."

Andy explained everything to me. "That won't be a problem, being dead gives me the ability to rewind time to just before your death. I can modify events and make sure you don't die. I've done it once already today."

I murmured in surprise. "Oh! I thought today felt a bit repetitive somehow. I just thought Sundays were always like that. What did you do?"

He said, "well, first time around you died when your cat tripped you on the stairs. I manipulated events by sending the cat's ball down the stairs so the cat would follow. That way when you climbed the stairs with a tray in your hand there was nothing to trip over."

A little aggrieved, I told him, "so it's your fault that all of my tea went into the sink? Why did you do that?"

The spirit of Andy audibly shrugged, "that was unexpected. Sometimes events play out it a way I can't predict. Right now we need to find a way of stopping you putting your cat outside."

I was confused, "and that will stop me being crushed by a tree?"

He explained, "to put it simply, the cat goes into the garden, spots a mouse which it chases to the shed. Along the way it knocks over one of your delightful and thoroughly tasteful gnomes..."

I interjected, "those aren't mine!"

"...knocks over a gnome," Andy continued, unabated, "which turns on the garden hose, sending water into the lane behind the house. In the lane a council worker is felling a tree. The water hits the chainsaw, shorts it out, gives the council worker a shock who falls and knocks against the nearly-felled tree, causing it to tip in the wrong direction. i.e. your house."

I took all of this in. "That's all a bit long-winded isn't it?" I asked.

He replied, "cause and effect is a funny thing. It's also why I want you to play Ghost Trick, because it's exactly the sort of thing that happens in every level."

Not sure I fully had a grasp of things, I suggested, "so you bring me back, I keep the cat in, play Ghost Trick and everything will be fine?"

Andy sighed, "unfortunately it's not that easy. You won't remember any of this conversation, so I still have to manipulate objects to save you. I'm thinking that it's got to be something to do with either interrupting your house's power supply - so that you can't use the Playstation and resort to the DS instead - or, if I can find a route to the cat-flap I can latch it in advance, so that when you think you are locking it, you are actually unlocking it and then the cat might run back into the house."

Concerned, I asked, "so, what if you get it wrong?"

He seem unworried, "then you die again and I rewind time until I get it right."

I exclaimed, "what? You let me die over and over again in order to test out your theories?"

Another shrug, "it's the only way."

"That's grotesque," I said.

"It's laborious," Andy complained. "Do you have any idea how long it takes you make a cup of tea and a sandwich? I've never seen anyone so slow and meticulous. Plus, I have to sit through it over and over again. I can't skip any of it, either!"

It was dawning on me that my fate was out of my hands. "So," I enquired, "we figure out how to save me from being crushed by a tree; I play Ghost Trick and learn all the skills for solving deadly puzzles and then I come and save you from your own complex fate?"

Andy's spirit beamed, "that's about the size of it."

I thought about it for a while. It was an intriguing proposition. It certainly beat the idea of staying dead and I must admit that I was fascinated to see all the different possibilities that would play out as we manipulated the different combinations of objects to steer me and those around me away from a deadly fate.

As time rewound once more, I found myself thinking again that it was a long, hot and slow Sunday afternoon and I could hear the sound of a chainsaw cutting wood from the lane behind the house. I had just one thought as I slipped back into life and I made a desperate appeal to Andy: "Isn't there at least some way you can save my tea?"

Written by Chris Jarvis

You can support Chris by buying Ghost Trick Phantom Detective



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Chris Jarvis writes the Novel Gamer column.

"I write stories to say what I think about games, for me it's the only way I can really communicate what I feel about them. Do you ever have a response to something that's hard to put into words? I find that sometimes I have something to express that can't be communicated by trying to explain how I feel, directly."


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