reviews\ Oct 7, 2003 at 8:00 pm

Law & Order II: Double or Nothing - PC - Review

Double Or Nothing is the second installment in the Law & Order adventure game series. A high-profile scientist involved with advanced technology involving human cloning research is found shot to death inside his car in midtown Manhattan. Now if you are familiar with the television series you are aware of the unusual complexity the story often takes. That said I can’t divulge any more of the plot without ruining it for new players. However the fun is in discovering all the unexpected twists as you interview the suspects.

The game is similar to its predecessor, but there are a few features that have been improved. The graphics appear to be a bit sharper and a full screen or centered, smaller option is available. A handful of puzzle challenges are incorporated in to game play. For example, the first game merely had the player search for a laptop code or the combination to a safe. Double Or Nothing goes a little farther by offering a sort of hang man encrypted e-mail challenge, or piecing together a torn note. Both are tried and true adventure puzzles that did not appear in the first game. The countdown deadline in the prior game is gone and with it the feeling of tedious frustration.

As you begin each game you can customize the difficulty by choosing from a list of helpful features called skills. These options offer help with interviewing suspects, gathering clues at the crime scene or organization skills when it comes time to go to trial. You can also choose to except hints in the form of friendly advice that will guide you in the right direction rather than telling you exactly what to do.

During the first part of the game you will investigate the scientists murder by pounding the pavement alongside Detective Lennie Briscoe. Together you will gather physical evidence, request tests from the crime lab, interview witnesses and suspects and eventually get an arrest warrant. To search a location is simple. Place the mouse over an area of interest and click. The entire game is played by moving the mouse, click on an object of interest or grab and drop a piece of evidence off to the lab. When you conduct an interview there are three choices. Only one option has a significant response and you must find the correct question in order to have the investigation progress.

Once you make an arrest you play as an Assistant District Attorney with Serena Southerlyn as your partner. Together you will organize the case, submit a subpoena and go to trial. When you reach the courtroom you must question the witnesses and experts and present supporting evidence to strengthen your case. In between the trial the plot takes another unexpected dive and provides a few more surprises.

The whole game flows exactly like the TV show. Game play is not action packed, but it is an adventure game after all so it doesn’t have to be. The story unfolds in an interesting and dramatic progression with decent visuals and fine voice acting. Double Or Nothing is perfect for any Law & Order junky. It will provide a pleasant gaming experience to any casual gamer or mystery fan. However if you are a hardcore adventurer this game may be to easy for you as it is very linear and it is very short. I was able to breeze through it in about two sessions. Having said that I do admit that I enjoyed the game especially the story. In fact, if the developers take some of the puzzle challenges to another level, the third game will probably be even better.

Gameplay: 7.5
I think the developers are shooting for the casual gamer here. People who enjoy a good mystery and a solid story line without having to be an expert at blazing through end level bosses or getting a brain freeze from a Myst-like puzzle sequence. If you enjoy the show than odds are good that you will dig Double Or Nothing. If you are a hardcore adventure gamer this one will probably be too easy for you, but again if you like the television show than you will have a good time playing the game. The story alone is worth the price of admission.

Graphics: 7.5 
The interior areas are crisp and smooth and they aren’t cluttered which makes investigation easy even for a beginner. I especially enjoyed the gruesome crime scene. The character models have been improved, but look a bit angular at times. There isn’t much pop or flash to the visuals, but they lend themselves to the twisting story, which is the heart of the game.

Sound: 8
Celebrity voiceovers from the television show include Jerry Orbach as Detective Briscoe, Elisabeth Rohm who plays Assistant DA Serena Southerlyn and S. Epatha Merkerson as Lieutenant Van Buren. The music and sound are elemental and add to the overall experience exactly as they should. Nothing in the sound department is going to knock you into next week, but again it’s not supposed to.

Difficulty: Easy
As I said before some gamers may find this game too easy. I think games should have a logical progression with solutions that challenge, but don’t frustrate. Double Or Nothing comes close to achieving this, but has far to few actual puzzles.

Concept: 8 
Double Or Nothing follows the television show very closely. This game is a step closer to emulating the successful, intelligent, story driven series. If a few more puzzles are added to the next one and maybe a little character depth, than this franchise will have some real possibilities

Overall: 7.5
Overall I liked it. The graphics were decent. The voiceover work was just like the show (insert a Detective Briscoe joke here) and the music and sound were adequate. The game control is simple and easy to learn. The puzzles and progression seems geared toward the casual gamer. It is a short game to be sure, but again I believe this fits in well with the target audience. This is a perfect game to play through during a weekend. You’ll be able to get to the end before you have to go back to work on Monday. It’s almost like watching a Law & Order marathon on TNT. This game plays like an episode or chapter, quick, short and precise. If you are looking for a brain-teasing, time consuming epic you better keep looking.


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