Law & Order Legacies (iPad) Review
Great show, poor game.
I cried when Jerry Orbach died. If that name doesn't ring a bell, Orbach was the actor who played Det. Lennie Briscoe on the long-running NBC series Law and Order (other roles included the dad from Dirty Dancing and Lumiere, the talking candle from Disney's Beauty and the Beast). As a 10+ year fan of the crime procedural, I was heartbroken at the loss of not just the actor, but one of my favorite non-Dragonball characters on TV. So when the App Store informed me that Telltale Games, the developers behind the recent Back to the Future and Jurassic Park point-and-click adventures, had a Law and Order game available, I freaked. A chance to control the show that I'd loved for years? Even better, a chance to control the trademark Law and Order "chung-chung" sound effect?! I couldn't hit download fast enough. Now that the game is played, how did Telltale's take on L&O stack up in the eyes of super fan #1?
The absolute first thing I want to mention is the care Telltale has taken in making this game a dream come true for fans. Almost every detail of the show has been recreated in perfect detail. The plots and dialogue couldn't have a more "L&O" feeling to them if they tried, and that goes for both the police interrogation AND courtroom segments. But the best part, the part that will have even softcore fans freaking out, is the dream team match-ups. For each of the seven cases, you'll play as a different set of characters from the show and each and every popular character is present. And seeing your faves together is unbelievably awesome. For example, the first case puts you in the shoes of both Det. Rey Curtis (originally played by Benjamin Bratt) and Det. Olivia Benson (still played by Marishka Hargitay on spin-off Law and Order: Special Victims Unit). The two performers never appeared together on the TV series, so for fans, this is like fantasy baseball, but way better. Don't worry; the old partners get a chance to work together as well (Briscoe and Curtis' partnership, arguably the best match in series history, gets plenty of face time). Fans will also delight in seeing their detectives interacting with series regulars A.D.A. Jack McCoy (played by Sam Waterston) and Let. Anita Van Buren (played by S. Epatha Merkerson). If you take nothing else away from this review, take this: If you are a L&O fan, you'll love this game.
Sadly, from there, things go downhill pretty quickly. Remember when I said Telltale got ALMOST everything right? They messed up on the characters' voices. While I certainly didn't expect the game to have every actor reprise their roles (some are no longer with us, remember?), but after the company's impressive work on Back to the Future, I expected the voices to at least be a little similar to their real-life counterparts. Some are better than others for sure, but none hit the mark all too well. I eventually switched to subtitles over the spoken voices, but this had as much to do with my ability to play in public as it did with A.D.A. McCoy sounding a little off.
I bet you are wondering how a game based on a show with almost no action works. To make it simple, I'll say this is a Phoenix Wright clone with some light point-and-click elements. You'll use the touch screen to interrogate witnesses, search crimes scenes and uncover info on the police side, and to win the case on the legal side. Chances are you've played this type of game before, so I won't spend much more time on how things play. L&O: Legacies doesn't break any new ground in the genre, but what the game does, it does it well.
My tiny complaint of slightly off voices pales in comparison to the game's biggest issue: technical problems. Full disclosure: I played the game on a first-gen iPad, not the faster iPad 2, but I can't imagine a slightly better device could fix the problems I ran into. I heard voice tracks drop off. I saw textures warp. I saw characters disappear from screen entirely. And crashes. So many crashes. During the first case alone, my game crashed no less than three times. And that doesn't count all the framerate issues and near-crashes around almost every corner. What is supposed to be the final version of Law and Order: Legacies comes off as an untested beta rather than a finished game, and our only recourse is to hope for some updates down the road.
Unfortunately, Law and Order: Legacies just isn't a good game (or even a finished one). If you are a hardcore L&O fan, however, you'll probably want to pick up the game anyway, just to see your favorites back in action one last time. As rough as Legacies is, I really enjoyed what Telltale did with the property. With only cable reruns available now, it was nice to have seven more L&O "episodes" to play. But all the fan service in the world can't save this one, and only super fans are probably going to want this one.
Final Rating: 45%
Transmitted: 1/30/2015 12:46:07 AM