Over this last weekend, cookiemonger thrust a Nintendo DS in my hands and willed that I play Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney. I was unable to resist. Really, my only experience with the series before was whatever made it into the memes, so I had no idea what to expect. It’s sort of a visual novel, but not really.

Saturday evening, I played through the first two cases, and I have to agree with CM that the plot moves too quickly in some ways. We’re introduced to a character, and they’re subsequently killed off — according to CM, this process is repeated with a couple characters, to the exclusion of those you’d wish they’d stuff in a fridge.

To me, Ace Attorney felt like it was composed of one part point-and-click adventure (complete with mildly frustrating pixel hunt elements) and one part visual novel. The story was clearly driven by character interactions more than anything the player did, sort of to the exclusion of the investigation, the evidence, and at times, reason.

I recall an incident from the first case wherein you’re expected to raise an objection based on evidence you don’t actually have. Maybe it’s supposed to represent the character’s lawyer senses tingling, but it bothered me. I wanted to conduct a case based on the tools I had, not “out of character” information doled out by the plot.

The second case was particularly frustrating in places where the villain receives a second wind and suddenly has an impenetrable testimony. I mean, I really did enjoy the dramatic turnaround, where the rival lawyer shot down your arguments with your own evidence. That was cool, and I think it was executed really well.

…But I have an objection. I would have vastly preferred to be given the opportunity to unravel the new testimony through careful use of pressure and evidence, rather than being forced into a situation where you have to lose to continue. I was disappointed that a deus ex machina was used to break the villain. Why can’t I just play the game?

Now that I’ve aired my criticism of the game, I want to reiterate that I did think it was fun. I enjoyed what I played. Now what I’m hungry for is a game that uses a similar system, but allows me to solve the puzzle myself rather than doing it for me. I like characters and story, but I also want a challenge. “Use evidence on liar” works.

…So now I have to figure out how to do it myself.