|+ : Nice look and solid audio; well-written, interesting cases; universal app; court room dialogue branches and objections are engaging|
- : Short; very linear; very little gameplay variety
Bottom line : Great for fans of Law & Order, but a minor distraction for anyone else.
Telltale Games has been busy branching out into popular licenses lately. Their latest is Law & Order Legacies, which puts players into the shoes of the popular shows’ cops and lawyers. As usual for Telltale games, Legacies is an episodic release. The first episode is $2.99 and offers up about an hour or two of murder-solving gameplay.
The episode opens with the murder of a maid at a five-star hotel in New York City. Cops Benson and Curtis investigate this murder-most-foul through a series of interviews with witnesses and suspects. There’s a brief foray into hidden object finding as well, but the bulk of this part of the game is just Q&A scenarios broken up by non-interactive sequences of dialogue.
Interviews are easy to perform. Just pick a topic from the list, and pay attention to the answer. Certain responses add new conversation topics, and there’s always a red herring topic thrown in for fun. Where the real gameplay aspect comes in is when you’re asked to determine if the suspect is telling the truth. If you answer correctly, the game will then ask why. Select the correct answer (based on either evidence previous recovered or past dialogue) and you’ll earn a star.
Answering too many questions wrong merely restarts the interview segment, and these conversations are basically completely linear. Earning full stars for an interview only earns more points, but doesn’t really affect the outcome. Worse, aside from a very brief hidden-object puzzle where you examine the crime scene, there’s no other type of minigame.
The court room drama is a bit more layered, though still it's mired down in the “choose your own adventure” style. Here, players take the role of the prosecution to prove the suspect guilty. This involves examination and cross-examination of witnesses, which is handled in the same manner as interviewing. The differences crop up with objections.
As the defense lawyer questions a person, you can object at certain points. To object, however, you have to select the type of objection (leading the witness, lack of knowledge, being argumentative, and others), and then select the correct reason for the objection. It’s an interesting element that adds a welcome bit of law trivia.
Unlike the cop segment, the ultimate goal of the courtroom sequence is to sway the jury by earning more points than the defense. There’s a score bar that lets you easily keep track of how the jury is leaning. Correctly objecting and asking the right questions earns points, while the opposite can actually cause you to lose the case.
At a certain point, the defense will attempt to plea bargain. Your jury score determines how much leeway you have for negotiations or if you can reject their plea outright and take the case all the way. So, while the courtroom segment still feels mostly linear, there is at least the option for multiple outcomes.
Law & Order Legacies will certainly appeal to fans of the series. Despite the lack of the show’s actors to provide the voices, the dialogue is well written and performed. The almost comic-book style graphics are simple, but work nicely, and the game is easy to play. There are seven episodes due to be released in the next few months, and the stories focus on real-world-inspired cases with interesting twists just like the show.
Just the same, we’d like to see more expansive gameplay with greater variety to make Legacies more appealing to any gamer. The mechanics are simplistic overall, and while the game is interesting enough while it lasts, it’s not likely to stick in your mind (or on your iPad) for long.