Capcom’s cult Nintendo DS hit Ghost Trick now haunting iOS devices

Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective is a new iOS release from Capcom. It’s a port of a Nintendo DS game originally released in Japan in the summer of 2010, and in English-speaking territories in January of 2011. The game enjoyed cult success on the Nintendo DS thanks to its stylized visuals, quirky humor and intriguing gameplay mechanics. Now, Capcom has broadened the audience of the game by making it available as a Universal app for iPhone, iPod touch and iPad.

Ghost Trick casts players in the role of a recently-deceased ghost. At the outset of the game, the protagonist (and, thus, the player) is unaware of their identity. They must determine who they actually are, why they were murdered and what a mysterious redhead woman has to do with it all.

Much of Ghost Trick’s gameplay revolves around ensuring that someone important to solving the mystery does not meet an untimely demise. This is achieved through performing the titular Ghost Tricks, where the protagonist is able to possess objects in the environment and then make use of them to perform certain actions. The protagonist is only able to jump a short distance between possessed objects, however, so part of the game’s challenge comes from determining how items in an area can be used to negotiate a path to the one thing that would help change the potential victim’s fate.

To make matters more challenging, the player must find a solution against a clock. If they tarry too long, the person they were trying to save will die. Fortunately, one of the other powers the ghostly protagonist has up his sleeve is the ability to rewind time to four minutes before the victim’s death, effectively allowing the player to try again.

The mechanics are simply executed, using only two virtual buttons — one to possess objects and the other to cause them to perform an action — but the game’s challenge and complexity comes from the increasingly-outlandish ways in which these simple mechanics are applied.

Capcom’s approach to monetizing the game is episodic. The first two “episodes” of the game are available as a free download from the App Store. Following completion of these first two chapters, players are able to purchase the rest of the game via in-app purchase in piecemeal five- or six-episode chunks for $4.99 each, or purchase the entire game outright for $9.99. Yesterday, the company reported mobile earnings of $52.6 million for the last quarter. It was the one bright spot in an overall earnings report that saw sales decline year-over-year by 29 percent as the video gaming unit underperformed. Capcom is counting on mobile to give its older brands new life.

This pricing model is likely a trial run for Capcom’s impending update to its existing iOS port of its other well-loved Nintendo DS franchise: Ace Attorney. The proposed new version of Ace Attorney will apparently be released as an update to the existing app and will incorporate high definition art assets for Retina and iPad displays along with content from the two sequels Justice for All and Trials and Tribulations, available via in-app purchase. Both franchises are built around an episodic model, so this pricing structure makes a lot of sense for Capcom — and even though $9.99 is relatively steep for an iOS game, it is considerably cheaper than a physical copy of the Nintendo DS versions — not to mention the fact that the game’s age and cult status makes it a little harder to find in stores now.

At the time of writing, Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective is placed at No. 116 in the Top Free Apps chart, No. 28 in the Top Free iPad Apps chart, No. 58 in the Top Free Games chart and No. 12 in the Top Free iPad Games chart. iPad users are apparently taking to the game significantly more than iPhone users.

This is a mild surprise, considering the game was originally designed for the tiny screens of the Nintendo DS — a fact which is clearly apparent through a few jagged edges to the visuals at the iPad screen’s resolution. The iPad does, however, tend to attract more in-depth games as the large screen is more comfortable for players to look at for longer periods of time — and Ghost Trick’s narrative-heavy puzzle gameplay is designed for more protracted play sessions rather than a quick level or two during some brief downtime.

To follow Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective’s progress through the App Store charts for yourself, check out our tracking service AppData.