Ghost Trick and the joy of the ridiculous •

Ghost Trick and the joy of the ridiculous •

I recently wrote about my arrival on the 3DS ten years late, and how much I love it now, but the decision to take it in the first place was driven by my desire to play just one game. I have been a known fan of Ace Attorney since playing the collection of trilogy in 2019. I wasted no time getting my hands on the other games, and it quickly became my favorite game series.

This made people tell me about Ghost Trick, designed and written by Ace Attorney creator Shu Takumi. Ghost Trick, my friends would say, isn’t just a good game or a great game, it’s one of the best. Almost flawless. By nature this makes me necessarily suspicious, but when I finally started playing Ghost Trick on a borrowed 3DS, I was mesmerized.

Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective tells the story of Sissel, who wakes up in a junkyard to find he is dead, evidenced by his body lying in the dirt in front of him with his ass up (a scene that has makes the fantastic cover art of the game). Just seconds after this shocking discovery, he encounters a desk lamp that tells him to save a young woman from certain death at the hands of an assassin, when she is already dead. To do this, you can own different objects: at the beginning, I have a bicycle to guide it along a power line by its handles. It’s too risky to say anything else about Ghost Trick without spoiling it for you, but if you’re not intrigued by, and I have to repeat myself, going back in time to undo a death like a bicycle, I won’t. know what to tell you. It’s not even the most ridiculous thing that happens in this game by far.

Ghost Trick made me think about the commonalities between Shu Takumi’s games. After all, people were absolutely convinced that I, an Ace Attorney fan, would love Ghost Trick, and that idea had to go beyond the fact that they were both created by the same person. Something from the same developer doesn’t guarantee you’ll like it. I think it’s fair to call both games comedy games, as long as they are intentionally funny.

But for me, comedy games are not equal. Point-and-click comedy games, or any game inspired by LucasArts legacy, create comedy by showing their ridicule to the player. The characters will recognize that their actions, the other characters around them, even the entire setup, are inherently weird. Then there are games like Saints Row or Borderlands, where the character recognizes the comedy, but is also a part of it, which creates a kind of supercharged vibe. Most games are inherently ridiculous. That’s part of where the discussion of narrative responsibilities for games comes from – if I recognize that nothing in a game is real and everything is comically overloaded, should references to actual people and events? really matter? (The answer is yes, by the way, but that’s a different article.) Games immerse you in fantastic worlds and hope to immerse you in taking even the most unlikely of circumstances very seriously.

Ghost Trick and Ace Attorney fall into a category of their own – they recognize the ridiculousness of their LucasArts-style setup, but they also take it very, very seriously. They’re incredibly serious and full of high-tension moments where you have to decide on life and death matters, and you defuse those situations by owning a pair of headphones or calling a parrot to the bar.

This approach creates a funny paradox – everyone agrees you should be prepared for something ridiculous and unpredictable to happen, but you’re still shocked. In Ghost Trick, Takumi does not solve the mysteries with a deus ex machina, a device suddenly hitherto unknown to you, which he has placed on stage, ready to reveal its meaning when the time comes. The whole story is a bunch of threads that will eventually connect, even in very amazing ways, and it made me feel like inventing something so improbable that you could never guess is just as much a feat, if not more, than to come up with a plausible explanation for a startling revelation.

Even more than Ace Attorney, Ghost Trick anchors certain mechanical constraints in its narrative, making it eerily believable – ghosts can cross phone lines for example, but only if those phones have electricity, a constraint that naturally limits your area. Many things are too heavy for ghosts to move because … they are heavy and would already be difficult for people with bodily bodies to move. Small rules like these make the gaming experience more interesting. It basically comes down to finding a way to move around a room by owning items, but it also makes sense. And that’s even without thinking of the effort that had to be put into designing the rooms and the elements they contain from a ghost’s perspective – what elements don’t seem out of place in an interior, and if j I was a ghost, constrained by the culturally well-established pop-fact that I can only move things a few inches, how would I use them? The thought processes behind Ghost Trick’s design decisions are so thorough.

Speaking of ridiculous, we have to mention the animations in Ghost Trick. The characters were created in 3D, then rendered as 2D sprites, and I’ve never seen anything so smooth like this before. Shu Takumi said the clearly cartoonish way the characters move is of course intentional, like the little Michael Jackson dance that Inspector Cabanela does when he walks into a scene, or the way the Justice Minister anxiously tries to recover the telephone handset after being surprised. . According to Takumi, animating in this way can elevate games above actual performance, as these are actions that feel more natural in an essentially made-up space.

Many games take a different path – Watchdogs: Legion gives you a hyper-realistic London that you can inhabit as grandmas beating people up with their purses, at Yakuza I beat gangsters by the booth of chicken kebabs in Osaka that I visited on weekends. These games embody the eerie thrill of doing something forbidden in what appears to be a real place. Yakuza is actually similar to Ghost Trick in the way he uses comedy: Kiryu, more than Yakuza: Like A Dragon’s protagonist Ichiban, will admit being asked to do weird things – then do them anyway, and with enthusiasm. .

There is a certain magic in this approach – Ghost Trick made me want to believe in ghosts, simply because it made belief so easy. It didn’t give me a hero that exists in an era that I know of or anything else that has existed, but it did make something incredible that seems believable. Maybe I’m surrounded by forces that I don’t see and who try to help in small ways, just like the people I can see. It’s a beautiful fantasy, born from the fact that I’m playing a game that doesn’t hesitate to just ask “what if?”

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