In some ways they're little more than stylised stick figures, with very little facial detail, but the way they move is a joy to behold. It's a lot like Another World and Flashback, Eric Chahi's adventure games on the Amiga, where simple figures looked almost like they'd been mo-capped.
For important dialogue we still get cartoon close ups, accompanied by familiar Phoenix-style sha-ching audio stings for punctuation and dramatic effect. It also helps that Ghost Trick's cast is every bit as memorable as Takumi's previous games, filled as it is with bickering prison guards, giddy pet dogs, pompous wine-glugging authors and exuberant chicken chefs. Special mention must be made of Inspector Cabanela, an unforgettable, preening supercop whose Michael Jackson affectations and Kojak dialogue make him a meme waiting to happen.
If there's any criticism to be made, it's that the game is often incredibly easy. With such a weird premise, Takumi is completely free to invent his own rulebook, but often the restrictions placed on your activities do nothing more than herd you inevitably towards the next solution. With a limited range of movement for your possession antics, and a small number of items available to you, there's only so many combinations to explore. The top screen shows you what your currently inhabited item will do, and there's only ever one function it can perform.
Sissel himself keeps you on track with frequent hints, and almost every line of dialogue during the puzzle segments might as well come with a giant flashing CLUE sign next to it. Lateral thinking is only really tested are during the four-minute rewind sections when you have limited time to work out a solution. Since you can replay these moments as many times as you like, with checkpoints inserted every time you change history, it's still not going to trouble most players for long.
This constant funnelling is more annoying than game-breaking though, and then mostly because it limits how much fun you can have by tinkering with the game's ingenious gameplay mechanics outside of the story. The prospect of playing as a poltergeist is enormously appealing, but there are relatively few moments when you're able to just muck about with the objects in view, or see what reactions you can provoke from the unwitting humans going about their business.
It all comes down to what you expect from your gaming time. If it's all about the challenge, then Ghost Trick may not be the game for you. It's never so simple that progress feels unrewarding, but nor does it demand much in the way of free thinking. This is just one of those games that, by design, would rather spell out its puzzles than risk leaving you stuck and unable to see the rest of its daft little yarn.
If you play mostly to enjoy the experience, however, then Ghost Trick is easy to recommend. It's one of the freshest, most original and genuinely funny games to hit the DS since a certain lawyer raised his first objection.
8 / 10