This is the third courtroom adventure in the Ace Attorney series. Following on from the Phoenix Wright games, players now lead new attorney Apollo Justice through the courtroom procedures.
Admittedly, when I first heard of a game that was designed to simulate a courtroom, I couldn't help but think "how could anyone come up with such a boring idea." Apollo Justice swiftly turned that around, bringing out my childhood memories of sitting down and reading a detective novel.
Without any complicated menus or controls to master, you are thrown right into the action from the get go. The only skills needed to play Ace Attorney are a keen eye for detail and the ability to read. Be prepared for quite a bit of reading though, as this is what Ace Attorney is based around. It would be fair to call it an interactive story book more than a game, which unfortunately means that this isn't the type of game you would pick up to have a quick play while sitting on the morning bus to work. Apollo Justice is designed more for when you have time to sit down and exercise the brain.
As the player, your task is to guide new attorney Apollo Justice through different courtroom scenarios, using your powers of deduction to separate truth from fiction.
After a quick video introduction of the crime you are about to defend, and a bit of information about the circumstances of the crime, Apollo is sitting in court ready to defend his first client. As Apollo, you must listen to each person as they are brought to the stand, carefully dissecting their testimonies in order to find inconsistencies with the evidence. Evidence is given to you at the start and throughout the trial as events unravel, and can be viewed and examined in the court record at any time during the trial. As each witness gives his testimony, Apollo can either press for more information on the statement, or when an inconsistency that contradicts available evidence is found, present it to the judge.
There is a fun way, and a more subdued way to do this. With the DS's microphone, players are able to yell 'Hold it!' if they wish to press for more information, or 'Objection!' if you find an error in the testimony and wish to present evidence. For those who aren't in the mood to yell at their DS, or don't want to embarrass themselves in a public place, you may of course just press the corresponding buttons or use the touch screen.
If you pay close attention to what is being said and the evidence, the trial will go in your favour and the defendant will be free. However, presenting the wrong evidence or giving a wrong answer takes a portion of your health away. If you present the wrong evidence too many times, the judge will rule in favour of the prosecutor and it's game over.
Apollo also has a hidden skill, which is new to the Ace Attorney series. If you find that you are unable to find anything that the witness is saying that contradicts the evidence, Apollo can hone in on his special skill. This skill allows Apollo to perceive an opponents "habit". When some people are lying to you, they may subconsciously give themselves away with a touch to the back of their neck, or a nervous twitch of a finger. Otherwise known as a "tell", something poker players will be familiar with. Once Apollo knows the secret, he may press harder to find more information, trapping the witness to give away vital details needed to win the case.
Courtroom antics is only half of the game though. As well as pointing your finger in triumph at the opposition in court, Apollo is also required to take his skills outside and do a little detective work. Matched with young magician Trucy, Apollo must investigate locations given to him by clients wishing to form a case. Evidence must be collected in order to be used in the upcoming trial.
As with the courtroom sections of Ace Attorney, the detective sequences require a sharp mind, focus and attention. As you travel to different areas, each has a person to talk to and a place to examine. Listening to what witnesses have to say can lead to more clues that you may have missed elsewhere. Examining the area allows for more information gathering, and the odd discovery of a physical clue which may be presented as evidence.
Everything is rather long winded, and you can find yourself going around in circles if you don't keep a close eye on things. But with a keen eye and a good sense of direction, everything should fall into place nicely.
Apollo Justice carries on the addictive game play of its predecessors. It is suited well to those who enjoy watching the many different crime and courtroom shows that are so popular on television these days, and also to those who enjoy a good story-based game that requires concentration and awareness. Of course, fans of the previous instalments will also want to pick this up. As a single-player experience, this is about as pure as it gets.