Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney Justice For All - Nintendo DS

Objection! Overruled! The plantiff will answer! And so on. Sorry, we’ve been watching too much Law and Order.

Legal games may not be the top of your list, but last year’s DS hit, Phoenix Wright - Ace Attorney sold by the trolley load. While it was Wright’s first time in the UK, the series has been trundling along in Japan for years after making its debut on the GBA eons ago.

So can Nintendo secure another not guilty verdict? Or should we be slapping the cuffs on a few executives and shipping them off to Rikers Island?

Just like past titles in the series, Justice For All is all about the story. You play defence attorney Phoenix Wright and are tasked with finding evidence, questioning witnesses and going head to head with rivals under the watchful eye of a judge and jury.

There’s two games in one here. First, you need to unearth clues and root out witnesses to show off in court. Then you need to come over all master showman by nailing your opponent with a mastery of the law and snake oil style performance.

That’s a tall order for the DS’ stylus, but everything’s controlled by prodding the touchscreen – exactly as you poke a touchy witness. You can start and direct lines of questioning, submit various items of evidence and even summon expert witnesses.

Remember the likes of Dan Dare on the Commodore 64 back in the late-80s? The point and click interface is pretty similar, although you don’t have an overgrown bar of fudge on your lap this time round.

To progress the game you’ve got to field the right question or pick the right exhibit "A". Naturally this makes for a pretty linear story with few ways to win the five cases stored on the game cartridge. The downside is obvious, but it does mean you’ll never come up against a brick wall because you forgot to pick up that rubber chicken at the crime scene.

Sadly, this isn’t the only problem with Justice For All. First, the game could make far more use of the stylus – the game structure has been ported across from Nintendo’s bigger consoles with no thought about how to get the best out of the DS’ unique controls.

Second, they don’t make them like they used to. The cases in this game aren’t a patch on previous versions. OK, so there’s plenty of twists and wisecracks to keep you entertained, but you’ll have forgotten them minutes after you’ve finished.

Last but not least, some of the winning prods are obscure to say the least. You won’t be truly stumped, but may find yourself resorting to web searches to conquer all five cases. So you should present the spanner here? Oh fine. It’s easy when you know how, but frequently irrelevant beforehand.

That said, there’s still much to praise. The returning characters look great and are the brightest buttons in the box, plus there’s more cracking dialogue here than in just about any other game on the market.

Verdict

Justice For All is one for fans only. If you like the sound of the game are new to the series, last year’s DS release is now available at a knock down price. Now, where’s that critical piece of evidence?