|System: DS||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Hudson Soft||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Hudson Entertainment||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: Jun. 9, 2009||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Teen||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Nathan Meunier
Anyone who watches TV can attest to the fact the dual good cop/bad cop approach to law enforcement is a staple plot element torn straight out of the pages of police drama 101. Hudson apes this and many other familiar crime show shticks in its new action/adventure hybrid on the DS.
With a cheesy title and appropriately matching subject matter, Miami Law could easily be mistaken as a handheld adaptation of a long-forgotten TV drama from the 80s or early 90s. Being built on a foundation of numerous cop show clichés strung together doesnt do much to help the game shake this designation.
One thing that can be said about adventure games particularly those of the point-and-click or menu navigation-laden variety is they commonly lack action and excitement. Though Miami Law is a basically a glorified choose your own adventure with some added investigative elements, it does succeed in infusing the antiquated formula with enough energy and momentum to keep you from dozing off. In fact, despite being predictable, unoriginal, and over-the-top at various moments, this detective drama manages to be unexpectedly engaging at times.
With his partner recently gunned down in the line of duty, Miami PD detective Law Martin will do just about anything to exact revenge on the drug dealers responsible. His reckless shoot first, ask questions later mentality contrasts sharply with that of his new cool-headed FBI partner, agent Sara Starling, whos called in to assist in bringing a major drug ring syndicate down. Together they venture deep into the seedy underbelly of Miamis gang-run drug underworld, following a trail of bodies, double agents, and close calls to the source of the trouble. In the process, they uncover a convoluted terrorist plan involving bio-chemical warfare that threatens the shores of Florida and beyond. The story progresses over the course of five cases packed with enough wild twists to pull you along for the ride.
The entire plot is delivered through text dialogue accompanied by still scenes and slightly animated character portraits. In that way, it closely resembles the formats of interactive fiction games like LifeSigns and Hotel Dusk, where much of your time is spent poking around different menus options and scrolling through reams of text in order to figure out the correct options for advancing the story. Though moments of cheesiness creep in here and there, the writing and dialogue are well done and mostly interesting to read a good thing considering youll be doing lots of that.
Miami Laws has you playing as both protagonists at different times in the adventure. The action in each case ebbs and flows; there are dull moments where youll be tediously tapping your way through incessant menus to scour different locations for particular items or people and other times where trouble boils over, giving you the chance to send bullets flying or dabble around in computer wizardry. At key moments in the case, youre often given the option to branch off to follow Law or Sara. The character you choose affects how the story progresses and what obstacles you wind up tackling. These selections also typically culminate in one of many mini-games tied into the plot. Pick Law and youll often wind up in car chases, shooting-alley style gunfights, and other action-heavy games, while the brainy Sara engages in more puzzle-oriented endeavors.
The mini-games serve a dual purpose. They help distract you from the fact the rest of your time is spent reading and hunting through menus, and they provide brief but much needed breaks from the aforementioned tasks. Shooting games have you tapping the screen to pump bullets into your target while alternately ducking and reloading with vertical swipes on the screen. Stylus controls are not always as fluid or responsive as they could be in some games, but this is more of an issue during Laws mini-games than when dealing with Saras puzzles. The variety found in the mini-games themselves, even if theyre not revolutionary, is appreciable. Far from being simply tacked on as gimmicks, its nice to see these action vignettes are appropriately integrated into the general flow of the game to actually enhance the drama.