Argument Wars

November 10, 2017

Ace Attorney is a video game where you play as a lawyer who must defend an innocent defendant while more or less defying the odds (in the main series of course, they did make two spin-offs featuring prosecutor miles edgeworth, one of which wasn’t officially localized), maybe it has something to do with the fact that the prosecutor or detective made a mistake in their logic, maybe they actually clearly very bad at their job (klavier), maybe they used cheap and/or dirty tricks (also klavier) or maybe the person you’re cross-examining has some confusing reason that barely makes sense to you at that point (so far, every entry I played and every fan translation (of a unlocalized title) I watched except for maybe the layton spin-off). But I am not reviewing one of the games in the series, I’m reviewing a edutainment flash game made by both Icivics and Filament Games called Argument Wars and I only mentioned Ace Attorney because Argument Wars tries to look like a bit like cheap knock off of Ace Attorneyfor the parents to show their little kid because he won’t shut up about how much he wants to play his bigger brother’s Ace Attorney yet won’t let him and the parents have no interest in getting another DS or 3DS because those do cost a fair amount of moolah. However, I will give the game credit where credit is due, the game does have reasons why it would be unfair to brush it off as a Ace Attorney knock-off made for the sole purpose of making a quick buck in the guise of a edutainment game, for example, the game looks a real (and sometimes well known) civil court cases (rather than criminal ones like in Ace Attorney), and winning the cases are based more on creating arguments about law rather than trying to present evidence that reveals the witness to be a liar (the former I wish ace attorney had more of, also, the player is able to pick their stance on each case, which means that players are allowed to be a little political in some of one of their choices, some may argue that this is for better or for worse though for understandable reasons). A smaller facet of the game (that I like), the judge is a lot more enjoyable as character than the one used over and over again in Ace Attorney, even just looking at the still images that make up his poses makes me like him more, but while the still image thing is not as big of a sign of cheapness as you might think if you really dive deep into visual novels like Ace Attorney, you’d understand that character animations are actually kinda something to celebrate if find a visual novel that has them despite the bigger names that might lead you to believe otherwise, but even when working with visual novels with still images, games can still use tricks to make them feel fluid otherwise, like in Ghost Trick which has it’s still images move around depending on who was talking during conversations, and Argument Wars seems to try to use this potential for still images by having the camera zoom in on him when he talks and zoom out when he doesn’t, however the novelty is muted by the fact that all zooming out does is make your character (of whom you could choose his/her design and come up with name for) and the opponent character visible, of whom only have one charm, somewhat easy to miss cutesy expressions, something that may have to do with the fact that the gameplay being more like a card game, with the judge deciding which cards actually work and which cards don’t, something of which I feel was made a little charming by the fact that he seems to act in a much more knowledgeable manner than the judge from Ace Attorney, or is just how I perceive Argument Wars’s judge because I’m sick of the series using that same buffoon for a judge in almost EVERY SINGLE GAME/CASE IN THE SERIES, making the time where he’s either not the judge or his personality is not that of his more refreshing? Also the player and the opponent can get an advantage if they raise objection to a card doesn’t help their opponent's point before the judge, however this gives them a penalty if they object yet the card does their prove point. The game ends when the judge runs out of points to give out, so technically it has a bit of a abstract time limit which I find to be especially daring of the designers to do that because some arguments make you do a little puzzle where you’re given three parts of a sentence, each with three choices of parts of a possible sentence in order for to create a sentence that links your “argument card” (as we’ll now call them) to another argument that helps your case (a mechanic I wish was used more commonly) in order to convince the judge to give you extra points, it doesn’t make too much logical sense because the judge already knew what the point you’re trying to get across was and will correct you. You’ll still get points, but not as much points as you could’ve. However, it is a edutainment game so I guess they wanted to ensure that the kids playing the game learn from their mistakes. However, despite the judge’s ability to give out points, there are ways to get extra points, (this is where I feel that the games balance might actually be a little messy,) for example: at the start of the game, you have to take a quiz on which amendments of the constitution are gonna be discussed, if you get it right, you get extra points. The game also uses a slider to keep track of the arguments, going left or right depending on whether or not a valid argument has been chosen, NOT the points. Whoever’s slider got to side the were aiming for gets extra points, but that means the game wasn’t necessarily counting your arguments, but rather a point system revolving around arguments that are affected by factors. Which raises question on whether the judge is really that impartial after all… But anyways, other than a point system that would be considered eyebrow raising in a game that seems to be promoting critical thinking, I feel what the game really suffers from is the lack of ambition. I see the potential it has as a non-edutainment game but it seems that the edutainment mindset caused it to be a simple teacher tool when they could written a expansive narrative for a campaign to complement the gameplay of which I found to be legitimately challenging at times. It could probably gain a bit more respect by both the gaming and education community (or whatever the latter goes by). Sure, much of the extra attention the game Socrates Jones: Pro Philosopher got was a let’s play on the youtube channel Philosophy Tube and it being found on non-edutainment related Flash game sites and other extremely lukewarm stuff, but at least it had a decently charming story and a decent amount of popularity (again, it got a let’s play). Not to mention that the youtube channel Extra Credits (a channel dedicated to teaching people about the gaming industry, how to do games right and promoting games as a form of art) put the edutainment game ARTé Mecenas on their newest Games You Might Not Have Tried list (as of the time of writing), a game that was originally published for college use only but was shooting for a public release when the video was being made. So I find it a bit of a shame that the creators of Argument Wars didn’t shoot for higher than it did (however, the founder did become a speaker at Games For Change so I could be wrong, maybe they should make a Argument Wars sequel as a reference to this review)… they did make other law based games though… Hmmm...






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