You might not know it by looking at the App Store’s “adventure” category, but Apple’s iOS marketplace continues to be a popular landing point for adventure ports and new releases. Developers are also getting creative with pricing, with many games now boasting in-app purchase (iAP) pricing models. In this Eye on iOS, we take a look at several ports of fairly recent adventure games, along with a couple iOS exclusives.
Law & Order: Legacies
With Law & Order: Legacies, developer Telltale Games broke with their usual release pattern by putting episodes out on iOS first, with PC and Mac versions following shortly after. Adventure Gamers will have full coverage of the PC games coming soon, but for now here are my impressions based on the first episode, entitled “Revenge.”
Legacies follows the Law & Order TV format faithfully by starting with a murder investigation where you control the police, followed by a courtroom sequence where you play as a lawyer. Before its 2010 cancellation, the show had a two decade run with a revolving-door cast, and rather than sticking to any one particular time period, Telltale has chosen several fan favorites as characters in this series. In “Revenge,” detectives Rey Curtis and Olivia Benson (crossing over from Law & Order: SVU) investigate the “ripped from the headlines” case of a maid at an upscale hotel who was murdered after a sexual assault. Once their work is done, it’s up to attorneys Abbie Carmichael and Mike Cutter to bring the suspect to justice. The game’s voices are not provided by the original actors and some of the likenesses fall short—Lt. Van Buren is the biggest casualty, on both counts—but the writing, storyline, theme song, and dun dun sound effect do a decent job of conveying an authentic L&O experience nonetheless.
With the exception of one crime scene investigation, all of the gameplay in the first episode is dialogue-based. You question witnesses and suspects by selecting topics from dialogue trees, and try to catch them in contradictions like in a Phoenix Wright game. In the courtroom scenes, you’re taught some basic objections such as “speculation” and “hearsay,” and must use these appropriately to sway the jury’s opinion of a witness’s testimony. The trial gameplay is somewhat more realistic than in Phoenix Wright, but it’s still streamlined to the point that it’s probably laughable to real lawyers. (Then again, this may also be true of a Law & Order TV episode!) Even so, it’s an enjoyable if simplistic mechanic that’s unique to this game and true to the source material. In general, the interface that accompanies the various dialogue puzzles works well on the touch screen, making these portions of the game perfectly iOS-friendly.
I found the one investigation sequence less so. It’s set at the murder scene, and you need to find four items that Detective Benson has helpfully, if somewhat unbelievably, listed as items that are typically present at a crime scene. You’re not combing the scene for forensic clues, like in a CSI game, but instead looking for personal items like the victim’s cell phone, day planner, and purse. The presentation is reminiscent of Telltale’s CSI games, however, with a first-person view and a horizontally fixed camera that glides back and forth when you touch arrows on the sides of the screen to direct it, occasionally springing into a close-up. Identifying objects of interest is supposed to be a simple matter of drawing a circle around the item with your finger, but many of my attempts weren’t recognized as circles. Moving the camera was somewhat finicky on my device (a 3rd generation 32GB iPod touch), and if the camera wasn’t positioned precisely, even a proper circle didn’t succeed in bagging the evidence. The game also doesn’t give any feedback if you’ve circled an incorrect item or provide hints if you can’t find what you’re looking for, which could potentially get you stuck very early in the game.
This early crime scene is the only potential pitfall, though, because the rest of the episode is very much on rails. Three “strikes” (failed attempts to point out a contradiction) during an interview cause the scene to restart from the beginning, but otherwise the responses from both detectives and witnesses are the same regardless of your input—it’s more like you’re shouting at the TV while an episode unfolds than driving the action yourself. As a Law & Order diehard who looks to iOS for casual gaming experiences, this works for me, but others (non-L&O fans in particular) may find it too casual.
No demo is available, so a glimpse of Law & Order: Legacies is going to cost you $2.99 for the first episode for either the iPad or iPhone/iPod Touch, with a playtime of about an hour. If this one hooks you, additional episodes are available as in-app purchases for $2.99 each, or you can grab the “multi-pack” to get episodes 2 through 7 for $12.99 altogether. So far the first four episodes are available, with Telltale touting monthly releases for the remaining three.
One of the first adventure games to release on the Nintendo DS, Touch Detective is now one of a growing number of adventures to make the jump to iOS. Touch Detective is a cartoon game that stars Mackenzie, a child sleuth whose very strange group of friends and neighbors have even stranger mysteries they need solved. Her sidekick is a mushroom, her legal guardian sleeps in a coffin, and the opening case involves figuring out who’s breaking into and stealing the dreams of her friend Penelope, an odd girl with a particular fondness for bananas. It’s an unapologetically bizarre world conjured up by Japanese developer Beeworks, and if you can get over the often-befuddling humor, it’s a charming game that feels right at home on the iPhone/iPod touch.
Of course, it helps that Touch Detective was originally developed for a touch platform. You navigate this third-person game by tapping where Mackenzie should walk and tapping the items you want her to interact with; all in all, this works quite well. The layout has been altered somewhat from its original dual-screen format, but the interface is easy to navigate and nothing substantial is lost with the omission of an upper screen. If anything, the graphics in the iOS version are crisper, with larger sprites whose facial expressions and animations are easier to read. Gameplay involves dialogue and inventory-based puzzles, plus a “touch list” of fifty unique items that Mackenzie can find around town, providing a small amount of replay value for those who like to be thorough. There’s no voice acting and the music annoyed me at times, but these are small gripes for a game that plays very well on iOS.
Although Touch Detective is free to download from the App Store, it has a rather complex pricing scheme if you want to play the whole game. The first case and half of the second case are playable in the free app. Once you’ve completed them, you can pay $3.99 to download the remainder of chapter 2 and the first half of chapter 3, followed by another $3.99 to finish out chapter 3 and embark on chapter 4, and finally $3.99 more to complete chapter 4 and access “Funghi Breaks Out,” a brand new escape-the-room scenario starring Mackenzie’s mushroom pal. (As a point of reference, each standalone case took me between 1 and 3 hours my first time through.) Or you can pay $8.99 for all of the content—much less than the original retail price on DS, but pretty steep by App Store standards. Luckily, the free portion serves as a very generous demo, giving players access to more than enough content to make an informed purchase decision.Continued on the next page...