Phoenix Wright this ain’t.
In Senri AB’s Devil’s Attorney, players take on the role of Max McMann, an ethically flexible defense attorney, tasked with keeping his unfortunate and misunderstood clients out of jail. Players aren’t solving the case — Max doesn’t ferret out evidence or pounce on contradictions to prove his clients are innocent. Instead, wily Max uses a collection of lawyerly tricks, like Patronizing witnesses or Tampering with evidence, that players use in a points-based strategy battle against a prosecutor. Each successful case earns money for Max with bonuses for proving the defendant’s innocence quickly.
Max’s clients each have a little story explaining the charges against them and why they are innocent. One explains that he totally wasn’t smuggling rare animals, not at all, in fact he has no idea how those lizards got in his underpants! Another one explains that he wasn’t running an illegal betting operation; instead some friends had gathered to watch sports programs and just happened to be counting their pocket change when police arrived. And smooth Max defends them all! For a fee of course.
Before a trial, Max and the prosecutor trade hilarious barbs. (Players who hate humor and story in games can, of course, tap to skip these scenes.)
The game has a retro flavor, with characters sporting shoulder pads, blue eye shadow, or big mustaches. There’s an early Law & Order feel, although Max is fighting more for cash than to see justice done. Somehow slimy Max and his underworld defendants seem both delightful and hilarious.
In every trial, you can spend action points to either decrease the prosecution’s credibility, with attacks like Intimidating witnesses or Objecting, or you can give the defense a boost with an Epic Speech. You must eliminate the prosecutor and any witnesses, evidence or special experts, to win the game. Each opposing lawyer has a special strength so Max needs to assess each case and attack accordingly.
Most attacks have a random element, so on occasion a player can lose a round or a case due to bad dice. This gives just enough tension to lend excitement to the courtroom and since a failed trial can be easily restarted, it very rarely feels frustrating.
I’ve recently been playing a lot of games with in-app purchases, so when I lost a case, I first imagined that the difficulty level would force me to purchase a deluxe briefcase or extra premium currency. It was really refreshing to find that Devil’s Attorney is an old-fashioned all-one-price game, so a tough case just means I either have bad dice or I haven’t worked out the ideal strategy against this particular opponent.
After each case, Max earns a fee and possibly a bonus, which can be spent upgrading his apartment from peeling paint and a bare mattress by purchasing decor like a disco ball and a swanky stereo system. This is more than a typical casual game trophy room, because each new purchase adds to Max’s Vanity, Decadence or Materialism, and these vital stats manifest in the courtroom as new skills. You can trick out Max’s apartment with the vanity decor, for example, and Max gets the courtroom bonuses of Epic Speech, Deep Voice, Swagger, and Great Posture. Some clients will also offer Max gifts for a job well done, and Max has no qualms about taking these. Conflict of interest? Whatever! Thanks for the swag!
With dozens of poor misunderstood innocent citizens to defend, Max’s cases do start to run together a bit. There’s an optimal strategy to be used against each opposing lawyer, so once you’ve worked that out, the game loses a little punch. There’s not a lot of reason to replay the game either, although it’s possible to restart the game to pursue, say, Vanity instead of Decadence. But the hilarious story of a smooth defense attorney and his underworld clients, unfolding through points-based strategy rounds in the courtroom is great fun and more than worth the $3 price.