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Review: Miami Law (DS)


Hudson Soft's Miami Law isn't a perfect adventure game by modern or classic standards. Gamers born after the era of floppy disks may find the menu-driven presentation archaic, and adventure devotees may take issue with the game's logic, and dismiss its minigames as pointless distractions from the story.

However, Miami Law succeeds in the one aspect that an adventure game really needs to: the story. While it may cover well-worn buddy cop territory, Miami Law's storyline was gripping and well-told enough to keep me playing through the trial-and-error annoyances.


Miami Law is a graphical text adventure about a defiant Miami police officer named Law Martin and the FBI agent with whom he is forced to work, Sara Starling. Emphasis on the text -- the main game is entirely menu-based. Want to look around? Tap "Look" and then "Around." There's no searching of rooms with the stylus here. In fact, you could basically play the game the same way if it didn't have graphics. If you've played Hideo Kojima's Snatcher, you'll be familiar with this interface.

Most of the "action" in Miami Law consists of dialogue sequences between the cops and supporting characters. You move from location to location, "look"-ing at everything and "talk"-ing to everyone to move the story along. Occasionally, you'll be asked to make a choice about the cops' course of action; whether to follow a fleeing suspect or try to stop her car, for example.

These decisions are actually the game's greatest flaw. Rather than leading to branching paths, these decisions have right and wrong answers, and the wrong ones invariably lead to death. It may occur after a few minutes of story, and there may even be more decisions presented in the intervening period, but once you've chosen the wrong option, there's no escape from death. And paging through five minutes of story to get back to that one pivot point can be a chore.

The other way you'll face death in Miami Law is its minigames. Occasionally, you'll be given a task to complete as a touch-controlled minigame; if you're playing as Law (you can switch characters at several points along the story) these are shooting and driving segments; if you're playing as Sara, these are various puzzles. All of the minigames are laughably easy -- Sara's "type the encryption code someone tells you" puzzle is the worst offender -- but they're also fun, and they add variety to the game while helping immerse the player in the story.

As for the story: it's by far the best part of the game. While it may not be the most realistic crime story, it's surprisingly mature subject matter for a cartoony DS game: it starts off with Law undercover in a drug syndicate, and escalates to a ridiculous degree by the second of its five cases. As they work together and separately to solve the rapidly worsening case, Law and Sara begin to understand each other's methods. And the case just keeps spinning more wildly out of control, involving a massive terrorist plot and a conspiracy theory. The writing, by Victor Ireland's Gaijinworks, shines; the dialogue is sharp and often funny, and I grew to like the characters despite their status as total retreads of cop movie tropes.

Like most adventure games, Miami Law doesn't last too long, and isn't going to stand up to replaying; once the story is done, that's it, unless you decide to put some time into the optional poker and sudoku minigames unlocked when you complete the game. But for the time I was playing it, I was hooked.

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