Game Reviews

Phoenix Wright

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Phoenix Wright

The US Constitution forbids multiple trials and punishments for the same crime. The rule is called double jeopardy, and it means you're guaranteed never to be charged with the same crime twice.

Yet here we are putting Phoenix Wright on the stand to face new jurors on iPhone and iPod touch.

While you might object to such a hearing under grounds of double jeopardy, under UK law - the Criminal Justice Act of 2003, in fact - a retrial is permissible if compelling new evidence brings renewed relevance to a case.

Sounds unfair to an American such as myself, but I'm happy to employ such a backhanded law for the purpose of a game review.

Exhibit A

Enter Phoenix Wright: a faithful rendition of the Nintendo DS original that boasts an interface slightly modified for iPhone.

There's plenty of character witnesses to back up the game's claim to fame. To begin with, all five cases from the original 2006 release have been included here at a fraction of the price.

As the titular lawyer, you begin by tackling the case of "The First Turnabout." Presenting evidence, cross-examining witnesses, perusing court records - it starts off easy.

Moving from your introductory assignment to later cases, things become tougher with investigatory work required and more challenging mysteries needing to be solved.

None is so difficult that it will halt your progress, and likeable characters coupled with witty dialogue soften the edges anyway. More than anything, it's the writing that keeps you going. Phoenix Wright isn't so much a game as it is an interactive detective novel, and a fun one at that.

Exhibit B

The hilarious legal legwork and investigative adventuring remain intact, yet something has gone wrong with the interface in the transition to iPhone.

Capcom has squeezed the original dual screen setup onto iPhone in portrait mode, which actually looks great. The controls, however, are another story. Dialogue moves forward with taps of the bottom-half of the screen, while evidence and other actions require swipes and taps. Neither is at all intuitive, and both are infinitely clunkier than in the primary release.

Text, for instance, moves forward at an agonisingly slow rate. This clearly is a holdover from the DS version: but why wasn't an option included that allows you to skip forward or speed up the text? Watching the letters pop onto the screen can be excruciating, particularly since 75 per cent of the gameplay is based in text.

Closing statement

When it comes to sifting through menus, this iPhone port doesn't even retain the same controls. For instance, pulling evidence from the court record during a trial requires holding down a finger on the icon to prompt the menu. Tapping the icon doesn't open the menu - you have to hold your finger down and slide to the desired option. It's completely unintuitive.

Other menus demand confirmation multiple times for mundane tasks. Why do I need to confirm that I want to select a piece of evidence when I've already highlighted it? Cleaning up menus to ensure they operate with taps would at least put Phoenix Wright in line with the original.

Better yet, rework the interface to function as one single screen held in landscape mode with evidence inventories and menus toggled from the side.

This iPhone and iPod touch version feels half-hearted. Instead of seizing the opportunity to provide a compelling update to this charming adventure game, Capcom is relying on fan fervour and a cheap price to sell what is truly a mediocre adaptation.

Despite his charm, this is one legal eagle whose technicalities prevent him for soaring high.

Click here for the Phoenix Wright iPhone game video review.

Phoenix Wright

Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney retains the wit and charm of the original release without much needed tailoring of the controls and interface to fit iPhone and iPod touch