In the 1st Degree

(Originally published in the national edition of Computer Currents magazine. Reprinted here with permission of the author.)

by Joe DeRouen

In the 1st Degree, Broderbund Software's first entertainment title since the best-selling award-winning Myst, lives up to the legacy created by its predecessor by foregoing the established fantasy mythos and carving itself a niche in a different genre - the murder mystery. In the new adventure, the player assumes the role of San Francisco prosecuting attorney Sterling Grainger in a complex case of murder, lies and conflicting testimony. Sterling's goal, as you might guess from the title, is to prove that defendant James Tobin is guilty of murder in the first degree.

The road to trial is a hard one, fraught with many puzzles and even a little danger. You must sift through tapes looking for clues, interview several key (and, as it sometimes turns out, not-so-key) witnesses, and dig up evidence that wasn't found by the police. When you finally go to trial, your questioning will affect the television news updates that appear throughout the game. It will also influence the crafty defense attorney, who seems determined to pull whatever tricks out of her bag that she can to see that her client is found not guilty. And it sure doesn't help that several witnesses attempt to mislead the jury, if not outright perjure themselves on the stand.

In the 1st Degree's graphics are stunning, especially the "live" television updates. A lot of work went into this part of the game, and it shows. The actors are believable, and provide great atmosphere for the game. The puzzles are hard, but not impossible. The best part of the game is that it's never the same twice. Before getting the much sought after "guilty" verdict, you'll probably have to settle for a few "not guiltys" or a trial dismissal. If you're lucky, you might even make manslaughter. The route this 2-CD game takes all depends on what you do and how you do it, and even a slight mistake can end up with the defendant going free. If only the prosecutors in the O.J. Simpson case had played this adventure first.

Windows 3.1/Macintosh. List price: $49.95. Broderbund, 800/521-6263.

Copyright (c) 1996, Joe DeRouen. All rights reserved.

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File last modified on September 19th, 1996