Below is the first post from Noelle Murata, my gaming partner in crime who has spent many many hours with me gaming the nights away. 360, PC, DS and PS2...you name it and we play it. Her first post is about Phoenix Wright, an awesome DS game that I had no idea I was going in to enjoy. Not done yet myself. Yes, Noelle beat me thru. :)
You can check out some of fiveinchpixie's photos if you want to see more of what she does. She will also be on a panel in 2008's South By Southwest. More details on that soon.
By: Noelle Murata
I came across Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney: Justice for All for the DS by complete accident sometime last year. Recommendation of a friend of a friend's cousin, etc. As soon as I picked it up and ran through a handful of the scenes, I knew it was just my kind of game.
I just finished the next installment in the series [4 of 5; but so far only 3 have been released in the United States], Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney: Trials and Tribulations and it was definitely no disappointment.
The premise is that you play the part of a lawyer, well part detective, part lawyer. You start with some part of a story, some fragment and your task is to figure out what happened.
In various parts of the game you are actually a defending lawyer. As in a real trial, there are witnesses called, there is evidence presented (either by yourself - collected during the "discovery phase"). When you present evidence, there are nifty little animated speech bubbles... comic book-y style; like "TAKE THAT!". The campy, old Batman and Robin "POW!"... "BANG!"... made an interesting game dynamic.
Another terribly entertaining component of the game are the characters. The prosecuting attorneys tend to be mysterious prodigy lawyers who are unrelenting, brutal, and scathing. The judges and the cop in charge of investigations are... well, to put it mildly, kind of dumb. Not drooling idiot dumb, but clueless. Nearly every one of the other characters you encounter has some type of wackiness to their personality. If you end up playing the game, I'll leave that up to you to appreciate.
The game has a great story. It's a choose your own adventure where there's times that timing actually factors into the way the game plays itself out. It seriously reminds me of the old text based Infocom games [which, of course, I loved. Spellbreaker on my old Apple IIe... the nostalgia!!].
Six of one... Half dozen of another:
To move ahead in the story, you are required to solve a list of puzzles. Go here, talk to this person, get this piece of evidence. Go there, get more information from this other person... There *is* a logical order to this, but sometimes that logic is not super clear. I'm not 100% sure if this is true for everyone playing the game.
I'm not terribly good at linear problem solving, so some of this was fairly challenging for me. Addicting though - seeing a solution, but putting the pieces together in just the right way to prove your point?
One odd thing about the game is that it revolves around spirit channeling and spirit mediums. I'm not personally opposed to the "the supernatural" in a game context, but it might be something odd to encounter for the first time. It's one of those points, where I'd say... it's your call to say if you like it or not.
It's a long game. If you don't save your status, you could be forced to go through many many pages of re-discussion if you happen to annoy the judge by presenting faulty evidence or not properly using your powers of detection properly (Psyche-lock... I'll explain in a second).
I think what makes this game slightly more interesting than a static "chose your own adventure" or "RPG" game is that you have a tool that will allow you to see into the "hearts" of others. You can "see" if people are withholding information from you. If you ask them a question, and a set of locks/chains appears, you have someone with a Psyche-lock. You don't always know why or what information is being held, but with this, you are able to coerce characters into telling you everything they know about an event. Once you break the Psyche-lock with some form of evidence you've collected, that character will give you more detailed information to possibly help you solve and/or understand the case more completely.
The great part of this particular iteration of this game is that you have to constantly be paying attention. What evidence you've collected, the stories that already been solved, and characters that have appeared and disappeared... In short everything matters in some form or another. You just have to figure out exactly *what*.
Another anecdotal point is that not all puzzles can be solved in the same way. There are patterns in how the story is moved along, but it is NOT at all imperative that any particular point can be resolved in the same way.
To put a pretty little bow on this, I'd say try it for yourself. It's probably not a game for everyone, but it was thoroughly enjoyable for me.
I think this story telling mechanic is used very well in this context. Small scope of game mechanics; broad scope of possible story lines. I'm sure that something similar would work in another framework, but for now, I'm drawing a blank as to what that would be.
... I considered giving spoilers, but I'll refrain. If your curiosity has been piqued, give Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney: Justice for All a shot - and if you like it, go for Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney: Trials and Tribulations.