The Ace Attorney series is back with more of the same for the Nintendo DS.
Alright, alright. Ace Attorney is back, and while there are many familiar elements, this latest addition is a bit different.
For starters, you don't play as series regular Phoenix Wright. Instead, you'll be taking the shoes of his rival, prosecutor Miles Edgeworth. You won't be stuck in the courtroom trying cases, either. You work crime scenes and interrogate suspects in the field. It's like CSI, except it uses real science like an "information reproduction" device that recreates the crime scene so you can investigate what happened when you weren't even around.
Don't worry, even though the newest Ace Attorney takes place outside the courtroom, there's still plenty of exaggerated finger pointing, wacky characters, bizarre crimes and stupendous leaps of logic to satisfy fans. When investigating a kidnapping and murder in a theme park, one of the mascots wanders the park wielding a gun as part of his costume. You know, for the kids. And while trying to clear Miles' name of murder on a flight back from a fictitious country, you'll have to argue with a man who speaks in that weird symbol font no one ever has a use for in Microsoft Word. It's good to have Ace Attorney back in fine form.
Each of the five episodes focuses on a different crime, though all of them tie together in unexpected ways, creating an overarching story. You'll learn all about Miles Edgeworth's past, solving one of his older cases in a flashback and trying some new challenges. The stories are strange, far-fetched and have giant plot holes. In other words, they're great. Even though my brain was shouting, "HOLD IT!" at the suspect logic of the crimes, I couldn't help but be curious about how everything turned out.
To solve these crimes requires some careful reading of the clues you come across. You'll need to walk through different rooms, searching for relevant information on the case. That might mean talking (and even arguing) with witnesses and suspects, but also searching for items that might answer some nagging questions. This is handled with a simple point-and-click interface. As you find new evidence, you'll need to use the Logic button to piece them together. The victim was struck in the back of the head + a souvenir found near the body with blood on the base = the victim was killed with the souvenir.
While walking the scene and looking for clues like Scooby Doo takes up a chunk of time, crimes are ultimately solved by confronting suspects for a verbal sparring match. First, the witness (or suspect) recounts their side of the story. Then you get to jump in as each section is replayed, choosing to either press the witness or present a piece of evidence you've uncovered. This is where Ace Attorney gets a bit frustrating. You have to pick the exact piece of evidence at the right time or else you take a hit to the "truth bar" (which is a health gauge for lawyers). Too often there are multiple pieces of evidence that could easily point to the same contradiction to a testimony, but only one specific piece will work. Other times there seems to be no reasonable solution, forcing guessing to get past a point.
At its best, Ace Attorney Investigations: Miles Edgeworth is engaging, even charming. There are moments when the logic really clicks and the evidence needed to contradict a statement is obvious. At its worst, Ace Attorney is a frustrating exercise in trial and error gameplay, where you have to keep tossing out evidence in the hopes you pick the right one that somehow makes sense amidst a half-cocked story. Amazingly, both the good and the bad are tied to the same system. Sometimes it works great. Then moments later it falls to pieces and makes little sense.
The new investigation aspects of Miles Edgeworth add some variety to the gameplay and the story is interesting even if it sometimes plays out like a bad soap opera. Still, I can't ignore the numerous times I was stumped not because I couldn't figure out the next logical step, but because there was no next "logical" step.
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