Compared to more flamboyant courtroom drama fare like the Ace Attorney series, it might seem far less glamorous to set players behind the scenes, piecing together evidence and preparing documents that will ultimately determine whether someone is prosecuted or let go. But it becomes a lot more interesting when it includes actual battles against the accused, using the very documents you are preparing. This is the unique premise of Legal Dungeon, an “interactive novel adventure game” that was recently released for Nintendo Switch following its earlier debut on PC.
Legal Dungeon places you in the role of rookie police lieutenant Jane Blue, who must “create and organize verdict documents for submission to the prosecution” over the course of eight different cases. Your job involves poring over “the text of statements and legal precedents, and [putting] together ‘verdicts’ providing your opinion on whether or not the accused should be prosecuted.” This research will arm you with a list of keywords with which you’ll “head into battle with the accused” in the eponymous dungeon.
Victory in these turn-based duels allows you to complete the verdict documents to be submitted to the prosecutor. Beware, however, that Jane “has a set amount of ‘HP,’ and once that HP hits zero … or if time runs out for a timed battle, the game will end.” You’re not without allies in the dungeon, however, as “whenever you get overwhelmed or confused with the heavy load of legal/courtroom text, your AI assistant – ‘Mini Jane’ – will be there to help guide you along,” providing struggling players a lifeline in the heat of word-driven combat.
Your performance has an impact outside the confines of the dungeon as well, as you must maintain your reputation for successful prosecution. The decision to indict or let the defendant go is in the hands of the prosecutor “based on the documents you submit,” but even if your recommendations are followed, there are times when the court will rule against your opinion. When this happens, “how you are viewed by the court/prosecutor will drop.” On the other hand, your “Performance Level” will rise with each successful prosecution, “earning you respect from the police.” Ultimately, if “your reputation among both the police and the courts falls too low, the game will end.”
Jane will handle all sorts of crimes, from contempt of court to robbery and even murder, but adding to the intrigue, not everything is as it seems with these seemingly disparate cases, as “once all the mysteries of the game have been solved, the story’s various plotlines converge into one, bringing with it an unexpected twist.” This will raise questions like what exactly is the dungeon, and what is a "true criminal?” Personal quandaries must be settled as well: “Will you fight for truth and justice, or will you attempt to make a name for yourself? You’ll find yourself plagued by various forms of guilt as you advance through each investigation, pressured to make a decision.” The choices you make along the way lead through a branching storyline with fourteen different endings possible.
This second title in indie developer Somi’s loosely related “Guilt trilogy” exploring various aspects of government surveillance (begun with Replica and completed with The Wake: Mourning Father, Mourning Mother), was originally launched on Steam for Windows and Linux in May 2019, but has now been ported to Switch and is available for download from the Nintendo eShop.