The main character of Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective dies. That's not a spoiler. Sissel is dead when the game begins, but he lives on as a ghost capable of possessing and manipulating objects in the real world. He also has the ability to travel back in time to save the recently departed, but a mysterious character makes it clear early on that Sissel can't save himself. Furthermore, he discovers his soul will depart the physical realm when the evening ends.

Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective

I would never dream of starting a game with a protagonist who has literally nothing to live for and a cast of characters with no reason to fear biting the dust. Ghost Trick makes it work, though, by making death something the player looks forward to.

 

The first few of Ghost Trick's many murders are obvious tutorials meant to teach you how to manipulate the world with Sissel's ghostly powers. Instead of being shocked to discover a main character killed by a Rube Goldberg machine, I was delighted to have a chance to possess the series of moving objects that led to her demise.

Sissel has a very limited reach and can only jump between nearby objects. When you can't find a path to take, you have to create one by setting items in motion. While you're busy freezing time to play with bowling balls and ceiling fans, Sissel makes small talk with the victim's soul. Like the player, neither of them are very concerned with the situation at hand. In fact, they seem to enjoy how each death makes for more and more extravagent puzzles.

Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective

Just when you think you've seen the extent of Sissel's powers, a moment reminescent of Inception shakes things up. No one is shocked when one of the main characters turns up dead for the umpteenth time, but preventing her death in the past involves making a second jump to the moment of an unsuspecting victim's death. Situations like these, where simple mechanics are made deep by throwing in an unexpected twist, keep Ghost Trick interesting.

Later, Sissel has to save a man from the electric chair. Of course, the player has no doubt the man will die because Sissel has already reversed a half dozen deaths by that point.  Instead, the mere mentioning of a prison execution gets you thinking about the obscure way you'll have to travel back in time to prevent it. A similar scene in most games would be a tense affair even though the player probably died dozens of times before that point. Ghost Trick embraces the idea that death rarely has any meaningful impact in games and uses it to add to the fun.