Miami Law Review for Nintendo DS

Miami Law Review for Nintendo DS

Fit For TV

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.

Miami Law screenshot

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 doesn’t 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, who’s called in to assist in bringing a major drug ring syndicate down. Together they venture deep into the seedy underbelly of Miami’s 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.

Miami Law screenshot

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 you’ll be doing lots of that.

Miami Law’s 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 you’ll 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, you’re 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 you’ll 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.

Miami Law screenshot

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 Law’s mini-games than when dealing with Sara’s puzzles. The variety found in the mini-games themselves, even if they’re not revolutionary, is appreciable. Far from being simply tacked on as gimmicks, it’s nice to see these action vignettes are appropriately integrated into the general flow of the game to actually enhance the drama.

Beyond these brief moments of intense activity and long bouts of menu clicking, much of the interactive portion of Miami Law comes in the form of branching option trees – like a choose your own adventure book.

Miami Law screenshot

Often during tense points in the plot, you’ll be forced to make split decisions about whether to trust certain characters, whether you should take certain actions, and what you should say in specific situations. Sometimes your selection doesn’t seem to really have much of an impact either way, besides tweaking how the story branches slightly, but there are frequent instances where picking the wrong choice leads to a hard and fast game over. While you’ll usually start back up at the point just before you made the bum decision, it’s irritating to have to go back because you arbitrarily picked a wrong choice.

Miami Law has a major quirk in its presentation that will either enhance or detract from the experience, depending on your individual tastes. Oddly, almost all of the male characters, including Law, have a distinctly feminine look to their appearance. It’s not the fact they look like ladies in drag that’s the main issue; it’s that this visual inconsistency occasionally hampers the otherwise spot-on cop drama vibe. Beyond that, the game generally does a decent job of immersing you in the admittedly outlandish plot with sound storytelling, swanky music, and well-timed action-heavy twists.

Breaking Miami Law down into its individual parts reveals minor design flaws across the board that whittle away at its overall stability. Some players will take issue with a few of the more glaring deficiencies, but the game as a whole isn’t a complete throwaway. The plot delivery is paced perfectly – with a good mix of action and mystery – to keep you interested and plodding through the slower moments. Miami Law isn’t the best cop drama gaming on tap. However, it does the trick after a while.

Reasonably good characters and backgrounds that do the trick without wowing us. 3.3 Control
Tons of hunting and pecking. Mini-game touch controls aren’t so hot. 4.0 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
Slick music enhances the crime drama vibe. 3.4

Play Value
Five missions offer a solid amount of play time, but you won’t want to be revisiting this drama when it’s all said and done.

3.4 Overall Rating – Fair
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.

Game Features:

  • A story worthy of a TV series. A shadowy terrorist conspiracy involving revolution, nerve gas, a time bomb, and even a takeover of a US Navy missile cruiser.
  • Action and crime-scene investigation. Survive event sequences such as furious shoot-outs in abandoned warehouses or tax your brain with analyzing mysterious evidence.
  • Choose your character and change the story. Pick from Law Martin and his action-oriented event sequences or Sara Starling and her puzzle-solving challenges
  • Unlockable extras. Once you complete the game, you’ll unlock several additional games and event sequences 50+ mini-games.

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