One of the few console genres on which gamers have differing opinions is the graphic adventure. PC gamers everywhere have enjoyed this game style, but opinions differ for the console iterations, depending on where you are. In Japan, for example, graphic adventures full of text boxes and stories are not only enjoyed but also very commonplace in the market. In fact, most of their licensed titles usually take the form of a graphic adventure. The United States, however, has a different reaction to a graphic adventure on a console. Not only are they very few and far between, but most of the available ones are below average at best. With the exception of the Phoenix Wright series, the graphic adventure hasn't really resonated with U.S. gamers. Despite this trend, developers are still trying to crack into the market with a hit similar to Capcom's lawyer-based series. Hudson is making the attempt with its latest title, Miami Law, and the result is good, but it could also use a few tweaks to make it stand out a bit more.
The premise is something straight out of a crime novel or movie. You play the role of Officer Law Martin, a Miami cop whose partner was murdered in the line of duty. Swearing vengeance upon those who did this to him, you go undercover to get into the biggest drug cartel in the city, hoping to take down the leader once and for all. A month into your case, you're forced to team up with FBI agent Sara Starling. Together, you work to take down all of the cartels and make the streets of Miami safe from the pushers once more.
One of the game's main hooks is the dual character system. Throughout the adventure, you can take control of either Sara Starling or Law Martin. Each character gives you the ability to try out different mini-games based on his or her personality. Starling, for example, is a character who plays by the book so her mini-games require more thinking and puzzle-solving. If you choose her, activities such as finding residue in cargo boxes and breaking down DNA are the norm. Law Martin, on the other hand, is more of the reckless cop you'll find in action movies. For him, action-based mini-games such as car chases and shoot-outs are what you'll find. The dual-character setup also gives you different perspectives on the story and, depending on the choices you make, different outcomes as well.
The story is Miami Law's biggest strength. At the very least, it's intriguing with many twists and turns happening along the way. The fact that you can help determine the outcome helps move the story along through some of the more predictable parts. The main characters help give the story some meat since you can take different perspectives on some of the story's main plot points. All of this is good, but the problem is that the story is pretty short. The game can be finished in time span of an afternoon, and while it can be played over and over to see the different outcomes and perspectives, the overall experience is definitely short-lived.
The controls are simple, which is perfect for this kind of title. The bulk of Miami Law is controlled by the touch-screen, and it just involves tapping the screen in order to make selections in the game. The mini-games also involve the touch-screen and control nicely, though some of them have optional traditional controls that work just as well. All in all, there's nothing really to complain about with the control scheme.
The graphics are good, but there isn't really much to see here. The majority of the game is spent looking at still illustrations of each character as they go through each line of dialogue. The illustrations change depending on the mood called for by the script, but aside from that, no other movement is seen from them. This is probably the only criticism you can levy at the illustrations since they are drawn rather well and the facial expressions rarely look out of place or degrade the quality shown. When the mini-games appear, the graphical quality takes a bit of a hit, but it isn't drastic. The models used for the games look fine and animate well, but the backgrounds don't feel as detailed.
The sound is there, though it feels somewhat empty. The sound effects are minimal at best, only appearing sporadically during the main portions of the game and as expected for the mini-games. Each effect comes out clearly, and there's nothing really special to any of them. Voices are completely absent from the title. Unlike other games of this kind, where you'll hear phrases or gasps from some of the main characters, both Law and Sara are completely silent no matter what's occurring. What is prevalent through the game, however, is music, which does a great job of setting the exact mood needed for every situation. It's well orchestrated, and there's never a time when it feels completely out of place.
Miami Law is certainly an acquired taste. It's not a visually stunning game and the sound, or lack thereof, leaves something to be desired. Despite being a short game, the story is very good and the multiple paths you a compelling reason to give it a few playthroughs. It isn't a perfect game, but if you like a good story, this will do a good job of tiding you over until the next Phoenix Wright title comes along.
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