You can have your Gran Turismos. The GT that I've been anticipating playing again since I first tried it last week is Ghost Trick.
The new DS game comes from Shu Takumi, the creator of the Ace Attorney games, Capcom's chatty and funny courtroom dramas. Our boss Brian Crecente already played it, in Hawaii last month, and wrote a glowing preview. I played it in New York last week. Crecente was right!
The game stars Sissel, a man who begins the game murdered but can possess objects to assist in the solving or preventing of various crimes. In the introductory level both Crecente and I played, we navigated Sissel's spirit through a junkyard, trying to possess the right objects to prevent a near-sighted hitman from killing a lady.
The game's writing is sharp, the graphics vivid and the animations slick, but the way in which Ghost Trick may most successfully surpass the Ace Attorney games is its gameplay. The courtroom exploits of attorney Phoenix Wright seldom required anything more complex than the selection of dialogue or the DS stylus-taping tapping of clues.
Ghost Trick demands of its players a flexible imagination but also forces a gamer to deduce how to move Sissel's spirit to the objects that would best serve him. That adds a geometric aspect to the gameplay. Sissel's ghost can only move within a certain radius from the object it possesses, forcing a player to stare at the screen and figure out how best to, say, move the spirit from the object in the screen's lower right corner to one in the top left... you might have to hop the spirit there by way of something in the top right, finding a decent object within the radius to leap to, then getting there and looking for the next object within range. Think of it as a constrained form of connecting the possessable dots. That's not that hard, but things get more complex: Object that are possessed can be "tricked" or activated. This is essential. To use an example from the demo, I had to posses a knocked-down blender in order to suck in a rope from a flagpole, then possess a fan to blow the flag out, then possess the flag as the blender-blades pulled the rope and raised the flag.
Later, when the hitman in the junkyard was closing in on his victim and a timer was counting down until the victim's death, I had to dash Sissel's spirit from a bike to an extendable ladder then up to a wrecking ball and then drop the ball into the scene to save the day. Success!
The introductory level I played was slick and the game already has the personality of a Phoenix Wright with the promise to have superior gameplay. The full title is Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective. Consider it on my anticipated list for fall 2010 games.