Grab your detective badge and prepare to hit the streets of South Florida in Miami Law, Hudson’s adventure game for Nintendo DS. You play as undercover agent Law Martin, a young gun with an overeager disposition and the talent to continually put himself in dangerous situations. You are helped on your mission by FBI agent Sara Starling, whom you can also control at times throughout the adventure. Together, you are tasked with infiltrating Miami drug cartels in order to bring them down.
Miami Law is a story-driven adventure game where you spend more time on dialog and less time searching rooms and locales. The gameplay throws different styles at you as you work to solve each case. For the most part, you’ll be doing dialog trees through phone calls or conversations and searching rooms with your stylus. This is typical adventure game fare and the writing is decent enough that you eventually become invested in young Law Martin’s plight to clean up the streets. There are also variances in gameplay triggered by certain story events. For example, there is a shootout relatively early on that plays like a light gun game, and there are other instances where you are doing number and word combinations, much like a puzzle game. There are even car chase sequences and sniper sequences that break up the dialog and scene searching with comprise most of the game. You also get to play as another character at times and are able to proceed through a case from a different perspective, which can be an incentive for a second playthrough. The varying gameplay even includes a poker game, which you can access by visiting the Miami PD headquarters and speaking to the bored folks at the security office.
Overall, the game throws enough new things at you to keep the action fresh. The pacing on the game is good, though because some of the cases take such big turns and require so many tasks, you may feel lost if you put down the game for a week or two. At that point, just pull out your PDA and read up on what you were doing last, though there aren’t very many clues on what you’re supposed to do next. This can prove very frustrating because of the clunky navigation system that has you clicking through menu items to move from one part of a police station to another, for example, rather than allowing you to visually access these areas without bringing up a menu. This slows down the game considerably when you get stuck, and can suck some of the fun out of the title.
Still, most times knowing what to do next is all about understanding the context of the situation and reacting appropriately. For example, and this is a minor spoiler, but when you are first moving up the ranks of the crime syndicate as an underground agent, you are told that they want to do a background check on you to see if you have been truthful. At that point, you are not told what to do next, but the context makes it obvious that you have to quickly contact your FBI contacts and get them to plant bogus information about you in the prison system database in order to verify the false info you fed the crime syndicate. I enjoyed how many times you could logically progress through the story like this without having too much hand-holding by the game. Unfortunately, when you ARE stuck, or are unsure who you need to talk to, it can get frustrating as you make your way around talking to everyone you meet. This is especially true if you can’t find the one person you should be talking to.
The visuals in Miami Law look clean, and they serve the purpose of telling the story. For the most part, you are looking at 2D backgrounds and 2D animated characters talking through text bubbles. The developers have done a good job of recreating real world locations to serve as the backdrop on the action, lending some authenticity to the visuals. On the few occasions where the action changes styles, you may get some 3D, including the car sequence and sniping. These look good, and make me wish more of the action took place on 3D environments, or that there were at least more car sequences. Traveling to different locales on the car would’ve been more enjoyable that clicking on multiple menu items. The audio in Miami Law fits the mood the writers were trying to convey. You get rising tempo as situations escalate, and otherwise are treated to situation and character specific themes. I wish there was at least some speech in the game, but the amount of dialog and the fact that this is a DS game probably would make that too difficult to pull off.
Overall, Miami Law is an entertaining adventure game for fans of the genre. Fans of detective games or mystery titles may be interested as well, considering the well thought out storylines and many twists. Still, the awkward navigation and interminable dialog sequences will likely deter non-adventure game fans from giving this one a real shot. The navigation could use bigger icons, which would necessitate the developers using the upper screen for more than a general area map. It could also use a revamp to the menu system to make it more intuitive, and provide for alternate ways to reach commands you use most often, like allowing for button press commands rather than just stylus control. These issues prevent this title from being recommended to a wider section of gamers, but I am confident that fans of adventure games will find plenty to like in Miami Law.