If the guys from Miami Vice ever got into trouble they would have called Max.
Max is what you might call a slimy lawyer if there ever was one. He is always right, doesn’t care about what is actually right or wrong and if he can get his client off scot-free he will. Notoriously shallow with a passion for bling, fancy clothes and jewellery he is the epiphany of the kind of people I don’t personally like. So why do I enjoy playing this game then? Because it is so much fun, and the overpowering sleaze of Max McMann is at times ridiculously funny.
Starting up a small time criminal defence attorney Max gets the smaller cases with the least money to gain, but still quite a challenging set of opponents. Like any vain man with a flair for the 80s Max gets his kicks from material belongings. Upgrading his bachelor pad means that he gets more power in any of three categories. Depending on how you prefer to play these affect the different attacks, and abilities of Max. Materialism enhances attack powers, decadence adds more defensive abilities confusing the witnesses and vanity adds better core stats.
Going to court allows Max to select a case, but there is not much reason to browse around as you will face most of them any way. Cases have different rewards, and bonus demands. The usual demand is that you complete the case within a set number of turns. Once a case is selected you get a brief, and often quite humorous conversation between Max, and the prosecutor. All of these small snippets of trash talking have great voice acting, and I can’t help but hate Max even a bit more after his great putdowns.
A case is played out in turns, and the goal is to demolish the witnesses’ credibility, and the evidence value of the physical evidence. The case is lost if your case strength goes down to zero. It could just as well have been translated into health points, and the enemies into ogres and trolls with attack points and health points as well. Basically Devil’s Attorney is a card battle game with a law and court theme slapped onto it. Perhaps that is simplifying matters, but it is the truth after all. Considering how well executed it is the gameplay would have been great in a fantasy setting as well.
What makes the gameplay great is the fact that cases are short, and can be won or lost within a couple of minutes. Often the first turn decides the fate of the case, and just like in chess you have to evaluate the opposition carefully before making a move. Witnesses have different health, and attack values, as does the physical evidence. What makes matters worse is the fact that there are prosecutors with special abilities, and witness coaches that can boost attack and defence values. Who to attack first with what is the question to ask. Or should you try to lower the attack values of the enemy just to be able to survive the first turn?
All these opportunities is what makes the game even greater. With a limited number of action points to use for attack, special abilities and defence it matters greatly how you approach the enemy. Some enemies regenerate between turns, others gain more attack power or health points the more turns they survive. If you get rid of the witnesses the coaches, or prosecutor have played out their roles as support. Be prepared to replay some cases over, and over to be able to crack them. This is especially true when you think you have conquered the game with a great strategy, and all of a sudden the prosecutor introduces a new mechanic rendering my strategy obsolete.
With a presentation almost suffocating me in the worst kind of 80s nostalgia that would make the cops from Miami Vice feel right at home it is easy to love Devil’s Attorney. Just looking at the intro gives me simultaneous feelings of joy, and nausea. On the other hand we are back there in some areas in real life, seen a white luxury car lately? Yes those are back now from the 80s.
The gameplay with short cases gets addictive quite fast, and even those who would not touch a turn based strategy card game can enjoy this. Due in part to the fact that there is nothing random to the powers used, and the enemy always plays with an open predictable force. What might set in after about thirty or so cases is a sense of repetition, and even upgrading to a larger office can’t remedy this completely. I still had that addictive spell going despite the repetitious nature of the game.
I would really like to see the game expand with some kind of online, and offline same device multiplayer. It would be awesome to play as the prosecutor finally getting the chance to take that smug Max down.
Devil’s Attorney has got nothing to do with Phoenix Wright. There I said it in the final paragraph. Many had hoped for a new text based adventure game set in a courtroom, but alas Devil’s Attorney is not it. It is however a truly fun turn based strategy game set in that very same courtroom. I highly recommend it, and if I ever get into trouble with the law I want some smug git like Max McMann to defend me. Up yours Mr. Prosecutor.