Miami Law DS Review

Miami Law, developed by Hudson Soft,is a new upbeat take on the whole Visual Novel style games drawing influence from franchises such as the Phoenix Wright Series. Miami Law, however, moves away from the bunch by presenting a plot similar to a typical 80s American police drama and combining these with a classic option based adventure and action style gameplay. Can this be a completely new take on the formula or should this stay back in the 80s where it belongs?

The story in Miami Law has you following two lead characters which at points allows you to continue the story following one or the other. The first has you playing Miami PD detective Law Martin, who is undercover in a well known drug syndicate known as funny enough, the “Miami Syndicate”. His past however has been shaken up by the loss of his ex-partner Sam Brown and now he helps take care of Sam’s Sister Jessica Brown. The story unfolds as he becomes teamed up with the second lead character, FBI Agent Sara Starling who is also after the same goal, taking down the syndicate. The Story spans across the five scenarios the game presents with a couple of twists and turns making what the game calls cases more similar to “episodes” instead. The issue is that these episodes really makes the entire experience of the game become more like one long dragged out movie. Overall the story does have a couple interesting moments and plot twists but needs more with character development especially with the banter between the two leads.

The gameplay basically follows the standard with all games of this genre. You scroll through lines of text/dialog and travel to locations via menus and can search the environment using the options given to you. Occasionally these segments are broken up with short minigames which are mostly minigames. The problem is that most of these minigames lack depth and control terribly especially with the driving minigame which takes a couple of seconds for the system to recognise you command if you don’t use the buttons on the bottom of the screen. However, the minigames do fit the context of the plot and none ever feels out of place in the narrative.

Presentation wise, Miami Law takes a stylised 2D anime-ish look with nice 2D Character designs. The problem is with the 3D minigames which look blocky and jaggy without much detail. You can pretty much tell that careful attention has been paid to the story and 2D work than the minigames that seem like they were added in after everything else was done. The music in Miami Law is sufficient with appropriate sounds which fit the setting. There is however no voice work for any of the dialogue.

Overall the game isn’t a massive ground breaker but does a decent job in presenting an engaging fact paced police action story with branching narratives and plot twists. The only issues are the low quality minigames coupled with very cliche characters. The game is entertaining and anyone who likes text adventure and action can easily find something to enjoy from this game.

Overall 6.0

DS: Prince of Persia: The Fallen King

Hitting the DS for the first time for the franchise, the Prince of Persia series is back re imagined for the Nintendo Portable. Headlining the DS version is Ubisoft Casablanca responsible for the handheld versions of Rayman Raving Rabbits and while the Next gen versions have been praised highly for it’s reinvented style how exactly has the duel screens re imagined the platform genre for the prince?

The story in Prince of Persia : The Fallen King differs from it’s console counterparts where it begins with the Prince in danger. Whilst seeking sanctuary in a deserted kingdom, he finds that it has been touched by an evil “corruption”. As the Prince seeks a way to protect himself from the corruption, the evil has spread to warp the environment creating obstacles and traps. Along the way,the Prince discovers a creature who is partially corrupted, the Magus. The story is told mostly through stills and text and hence can be easily skipped and overlooked. It never really connects with the audience and Magus who becomes your partner rather than Elika in the console version doesn’t have the same sympathy and emotion as you feel for Elika.

The game is basically broken up into levels containing a number of stages. Each of these stages has various platform puzzles and jumps to get from start to finish. While it is fun to start off with, there really isn’t much to the stages as the top screen basically shows you where you start from to your finish point without much additional exploration involved. Half the time the puzzles will basically “guide” you to the finish. While the classic platform style of the original Prince of Persia is still here, the variety and depth surely isn’t. Half the time you’ll be performing the same kinds of puzzles again and again, only in a different order. To add to the limited puzzles is Magus’s magic which can fire orbs at enemies to knock them back or to grip and move rocks. There are a fair number of these different abilities and they do help mix things a bit but you’ll soon find yourself performing the same thing over and over, either jumping from one thing to another or using corruption. The main problem is in it’s controls. The majority of the game is spent using the stylus and a button to activate magic and while this may sound like it could work well, the execution of it isn’t. Sometimes you’ll find that the controls work well while most of the time it’ll either unresponsive or too responsive. This occurs a lot when trying to jump from platform to platform where you’ll find that you either jumped too late or not even at all falling into a pit below. It just becomes hellish annoying and really ruins the experience as a normal D-pad would have worked much better giving more response. Once you finish the main story, which can be completed in a few hours, there really isn’t anything else to do and you won’t find a reason to go through it again. The boss battles are interesting but a lack of multiplayer or goals and general lack of anything to do after you’ve beaten the game doesn’t help the value of the game.

While visually there isn’t anything that screams out amazing but what is there is solid with the art style having a more “kiddy” feel to them. Not everyone will like it, that’s for sure but we didn’t really mind it. The sound is your regular mix of clashes and grunts of enemies, other than that the music is fine for most part but doesn’t do anything to really stand out.

Prince of Persia: The Fallen King attempts to relive the classic Prince of Persia games and while it is a fun normal platformer which doesn’t do much to expand the genre, it’s annoying controls will probably be a turnoff for many. If you can get past the control issues, it’s an alright game.

Story – 6.0 – okay but can be easily skipped
Gameplay – 5.5 – bad controls, repetitive levels
Video – 6.0 – Decent 2d side scroll.
Audio – 7.0 – Some orchestral tracks
Overall – 6.2

DS: Call of Duty Word at War

First Person Shooters haven’t always been the best on the DS given the hardware limitations but we’re seen a few arising from the pool of new games. In comes, Call of Duty World at War, the latest incarnation from developer N-Space known for the previous Call of Duty DS title and the newest iteration brings many of the same core mechanics and engine that made the previous title so good. Set in the overdone WWII, does the game freshen what already is served in other games or is it already too stale?

The game is back in World War II and with it comes the same old tried and true formula that we’ve all come to expect from a Word War II shooter. You take on the role in 3 factions. The US, British and Russian solders as they each reclaim and conquer over the Japanese Army and the Nazi’s. The plot isn’t very integral to the experience and you’ll soon find that you’ll mostly be diving head first into gunfire without much care about the overall story. What story there is doesn’t really work itself into the game anyway as most segments and interludes are told via on screen text on the top screen and throwing the player straight into the action. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing but we’d love to see more of the quality of the console version’s campaign mode make it’s way into the DS but what already is there is done well. I mean, who really needs a reason to be firing at Nazi’s?. The Gameplay is executed extremely well with alot of the same core design from the last iteration making it’s way into this one. You’ll have a smooth first person shooter that only drops in framerate in a few areas but the underlying core is very well done. Moving is all done via the D-pad while shooting is done by using the touch screen and the shoulder buttons to shoot. Some features are also improved with a single tap of the upper part of the touch screen bringing up sight aim and the guns are now more balanced than before requiring fewer shots to kill. It’s a very streamline experience that works itself well into the overall experience. However, as with the power of the DS, you’ll find some parts where the enemy AI is still pretty clunky as they’ll stand shooting nothing while you mow them down one by one. Utilizing the features of the DS, there are also small minigames here and there with Morse code and healing downed allies. The Morse code is more of a timing minigame while the healing bits feel like a rendition of cooking mama.

Visually, the game is impressive with clear 3D environments and models. It does look abit grainy but it’s normally accepted due to the limitations of the graphic power of the DS but it works. You’ll see impressive battles with bombers and tank missions that requires blowing up houses and soldiers. All the environments are also well done with the temple of the Japanese and the lush environments of the jungle and chaotic Berlin. Guns are also very well modeled with actual 3D aim lock using the 3D gun rather than a static 2d image. It really makes the guns feel realistic.

Also up to scratch is the Audio. Music is very well done with the ambiance of going through caves and ramping up for more intensive moments. The Voices however sound scratchy and probably could use a better sample rate.

The game also includes multiplayer both online and local for 4 players with team modes, CTF and death match options. though 4 players is very lacking, what it has is very well implemented. There are also titles and collectibles scattered around the missions for players to collect but most likely players won’t ever get around to them.

The return to WWII is a good one but the concept is aging and I hope the next series will take this to another setting. The gameplay plays well but the random minigames still need refinement and the sound quality is abit lacking. Online play is a start but very limited compared to the console counterparts. With other ds titles being able to support up to 8 players, I hope we’ll see more players on multiplayer. Overall the game is a good step up from the previous entry but there are still areas to improve.

Story: 5.5
Gameplay: 8.5
Overall: 8.0

DS Copy Protection??

Alot of DS owners who obtain DS games from the internet for playing in flash carts, now have something to worry about if it becomes standard in new releases. Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles:Rings of Fate hit US stores on Mar 11th and subsequently pirates hacked and produced a ROM image for distribution on the Internet. Soon enough they were hit with what they feared 20 minutes into the game. Square-Enix has adopted a new copy protection scheme which allows the unbeknown player to play for a random interval before locking them out and presenting them with a “Thank You for playing screen”. This has hit alot of flash cart users and currently seems to be related to a firmware problem. Many users have speculated that the ROM does a CRC check sum to test whether it has be patched to run on unauthorised hardware (ie. Flash Carts).

Of course this wont deter pirates from cracking this protection scheme and I don’t expect this new protection to appear in mnay DS games.