Miami Law (Japan title:Miami Crisis)[DS] Review

First of all, you can’t beat the title. Or the concept. A game called Miami Law (or Miami Crisiswhen it gets released here next month) about Cuban drug deals, terrorist conspiracies and undercover police work, wherein a gun ho misogynistic male cop is forced to work with a female FBI detective who has to do everything by the book and learns a little about himself in the process (natch). It could be the elevator pitch for any number of 80s movies or TV shows. Especially ‘Miami Vice’. Or, umm, ‘Martial Law’

Sammo was shocked at the sort of things you can get on the internet these days

Sammo was shocked at the sort of things you can get on the internet these days

Unfortunately, the opportunity to be a slightly tongue in cheek 80s parody in a Vice Citymould, or to be about a fat kung fu detective in a channel 5 mid afternoon drama series is passed up by Miami Law, which takes itself all too seriously from the moment you put the game in. Start the game up, and it begins to aspire to more gritty crime dramas. Like ‘CSI: Miami’, perhaps, if it were written by a team of monkeys locked in a room with typewriters.

Miami Lawis an adventure game broken into episodic chunks.You navigate through the game’s depiction of Miami via a series of static screens which may lead some to think of Capcom’s Ace Attorney (Gakuten Saiban) games, but navigation aside, this is a very different game. The bulk of your time is spent visiting locations, examining objects and talking to people, but the adventure element is completely frustrating. Interaction is limited and done by selecting options from a text menu, so while in Ace Attorney, you’d study the static picture that makes up a scene and point to interesting objects, here you’re reduced to clicking [examine] [trash can]. This is down to the fact that locations are represented by stock art and don’t change to include characters or objects. This can mean you have to go through the [examine] menu in every scene to find the object or character you need  to discover to advance the story. The first episode features a ridiculous fetch quest where you’re told to find and talk to a guy in the police station, but naturally you find he’s gone out and have to go through a chain of people to eventually get  necessary information. Except people don’t show up on screen in each area, so you have to go around every room in the building, choosing examine and then talking to a guy, only to have him tell you to go somewhere else. Maddening.

Not helping is some terrible writing. Although Miami Lawis hitting western store shelves before the Japanese version, Hudson hasn’t done the best of jobs at localization. While there’s not too much Engrish on display, the translation does feature a number of grammatical errors and unnatural sentences, which smacks of laziness, as does the stereotypical characters and hackneyed plot. Again, you’ve seen this scenario before a dozen times, but there’s no attempt in MLto be tongue in cheek with its inspirations or to create any likable characters, with protagonist Law Martin (oh my goodness, his name’s Law! And he lives in Miami!I get it now!) being particularly insipid and two dimensional, brooding over his dead partner (what else?) while thinking nothing of going into buildings guns blazing. Talking to characters occasionally will involve dialogue trees, but rather than being an opportunity to shape the story, there is only ever one ‘correct’ answer, the rest resulting in instant game over, with no warning that this could happen.

Law is able to intimidate non co-operative suspects, but pull a gun on the wrong person and its Game Over. There is little to no indication of whos innocent and whos not however, and with red herrings, the game is usually sitting back and eagerly awaiting your next slip.

Law is able to intimidate non co-operative suspects, but pull a gun on the wrong person and it's Game Over. There is little to no indication of who's innocent and who's not however, and with red herrings, the game is usually sitting back and eagerly awaiting your next slip.

So, the adventuring is a washout, but Miami Vice does have a couple of tricks up its sleeve. The first is the chance to play as two characters. Both Law and his female associate Sara can be switched between at differing points in the story, and each has a slightly different take on things, which encourages you to play through each episode a second time. Whichever path you choose though, the writing stil isn’t up to snuff, and there’s not much new in the way of plot elements you pick up. Rather, your character choice mainly influences what minigame you get to play next.

The top screen usually shows your partners status. Its a nice touch, but a more graphical representation would have given a cool 24 air.

The top screen usually shows your partner's status. It's a nice touch, but a more graphical representation would have given a cool '24' air.

Minigames are Miami Law’s other attempt to distance itself from the adventure crowd, but are a mixed bag. Playing as action loving Law, you’re charged with shooting out enemies in a Time Crisis-esque segment, which includes a cover button and can be quite fun, or taking the wheel in car chases, among other things. Sara meanwhile, is concerned with more scientific puzzle based tasks, as you may expect. The games break up the drudgery quite well, but are often too short, and in the case of the puzzles, insultingly easy. It often feels that if more time and effort went into developing the action, it could just about carry the dismal story and clunky sound novel gameplay, but it doesn’t manage to pull it off.

Car chases are simple, but fun. Most minigame sections are on the short side, and puzzles are often patronisingly simple.

Car chases are simple, but fun. Most minigame sections are on the short side, and puzzles are often patronisingly easy.

Miami Lawvaliantly tries its hand at a number of trades, but at its very best can only manage mediocrity in some. Its chopped up nature of minigame chunks in adventure sauce is strongly reminiscent of late 80s and early 90s videogames licensed from movies and TV shows- Maybe it was premature to throw out the ‘Miami Vice’ analog earlier, but this is closer to the 2006 Michael Mann aberration than the classic show.

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