Review: Phoenix Wright, Ace Attorney: Trials and Tribulations

System: Nintendo DS
Score: 4/5 4 (Good)

There's really only one thing to say about Phoenix Wright, Ace Attorney: Trials and Tribulations: it's just like the previous two games.

Honestly, that's really the only thing worth saying. If you've played the previous games, it plays just like them. If you haven't, you should start with the first game. Either you'll enjoy it, and will want to play the other two games, or you won't, in which case you needn't waste your money on this game.

In fact, since this game contains some spoilers about the previous two games, it's almost required that new players not start with it. It continues some story lines started in the second game and brings back quite a few characters and elements from the earlier games.

The game play is simply identical to Phoenix Wright, Ace Attorney: Justice For All. There are no new features, and none of the game elements have changed. It could almost be called an expansion pack. The only new thing are the new cases.

This isn't necessarily a bad thing, though. The new cases are as fun as the previous cases and the trademark Phoenix Wright wackiness is kept.

In fact, my only real complaint about the game is the stupid life bar, a game element introduced in the second game as an expansion of the annoying "five strikes and you lose" policy in the first game.

The life bar is an attempt to bring risk into a game that otherwise really has no risk involved. It's an attempt to prevent people from simply trying everything at their disposal to get complete the game.

When the life bar empties, the game ends and you have to restart the case over from the last save. There are numerous problems with this. First, it's a completely linear game. Once you've figured out how to get to a point, you'll be able to get back. There's no reason to force the player to go through the agonizingly slow text display, they might as well restart where they went wrong.

Secondly, there's no good reason to prevent someone from trying everything. If someone is well and truly stuck, why not allow them to get unstuck by systematically attempting everything they can think of? They can do it anyway by saving the game and then reloading until they guess the right way to proceed.

Finally, it ignores one of the fundamental problems with adventure games: communication between the player and the game. I have, on occasion, presented something that was the "wrong answer" which turned out to be the "wrong answer" solely because I was thinking too far ahead. You had to lead the character to that answer before you could present the evidence as an answer.

If they removed that element, then I would probably increase my score.

A final note about the score: originally, I was going to score this as 3/5 because I don't think it's a game that will be enjoyed outside its niche. However I've revised my scoring method, and the score now reflects how well the game plays within the niche it's attempting to fill.

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