Law & Order: Legacies is the latest episodic game series from Telltale Games. As with Back to the Future: The Game and Jurassic Park: The Game, it shows that Telltale Games is trying to branch away from funny adventures. Unfortunately, the transition has been less than smooth. Back to the Future worked out pretty well (it was basically another funny adventure), but Jurassic Park was more fun to watch than it was to play, and now Law & Order seems kind of dull and lifeless -- and surprisingly cheap. It's not a good trend for Telltale.
Law & Order: Legacies will eventually feature a full season of seven episodes. Currently, only the first three episodes are available; the other four episodes will be released "soon" (according to Telltale). As with Telltale's other episodic games, what I'm going to do here is review the first episode (making it sort of a combination review and preview), and then I'll cover the season as a whole once it has been made available.
The first episode of Legacies is titled "Revenge." Playing as a set of all-stars from the "Law & Order" television series, you have to figure out who killed a hotel maid and then prosecute him in court. For the "law" part of the episode, you control Rey Curtis and Olivia Benson (on loan from SVU). For the "order" part, you control Abbie Carmichael and Michael Cutter. Lennie Briscoe (in flashbacks), Jack McCoy, and Anita Van Buren also make appearances.
Unfortunately, unlike the old Legacy Interactive Law & Order games from the early part of the century, which tried (at least somewhat successfully) to be real games with a variety of gameplay mechanics, "Revenge" has no variety at all. Early in the episode you have to search a crime scene, but after that all you do is navigate conversations. When you're investigating the crime, you interrogate witnesses, and you try to figure out when they're lying or what the evidence might mean. When you're prosecuting the case, you try and draw out the best testimony from the people on the stand, and you object when the defense attorney says something inappropriate (which is about 90% of the time). If you investigate and prosecute well, then you earn stars, which determine your rating for the case. If you have trouble with a conversation, then you can replay it as many times as you'd like, but even if you play the game without loading, you'll probably put away the bad guy, because there isn't anything complicated going on.
As an example, after you discover the dead hotel maid, you find her cellphone and notice that she has some voicemail on it. However, before you can check the messages, they disappear, and one of your "challenging" star questions is whether the victim deleted them. Since the victim was dead at the time, obviously the answer is "no." Other questions are a little tougher (how could they not be?) but you're allowed to check the transcripts of your conversations at any time, and so it's not too difficult to earn stars and complete the case.
What surprised me the most about Legacies is that Telltale didn't hire any of the original cast members to do the voice work. Obviously, they had to bring in somebody new for Lennie Briscoe (since Jerry Orbach died in 2004), but you're telling me Angie Harmon, Benjamin Bratt and Sam Waterston were too busy? Possibly Back to the Future and Jurassic Park (which had excellent voice work) didn't earn enough money, and this is the result. But if you're familiar with the television series, then the game is sort of sad because everybody sounds wrong.
Overall, I didn't particularly enjoy the first episode of Law & Order: Legacies. I tried for a while to get a perfect score, so I kept replaying conversations until I got them right, but even so the episode only took me about two hours to complete, and the case wasn't exactly fascinating. Worse, the graphics are a little too much on the cartoony side, which works better for funny adventures than it does for serious games, and the voice actors all had a tough time impersonating the characters from the show (although otherwise they performed their lines well enough). Possibly the first episode was just something of a tutorial for the rest of the season, and the later cases will be more interesting... or maybe not. I'm pessimistic at this point, but I'll let you know for sure down the line when the season as a whole is available.