Law & Order II: Double or Nothing is the second in the Law & Order game series developed by Legacy Interactive. The first game, Law & Order: Dead on the Money, tasked you with discovering and convicting the killer of an investment broker. This time, a prominent scientist is shot in the head on a busy street, but nobody sees or hears a thing. So once again you have to team up with Detective Lennie Briscoe and Assistant D.A. Serena Southerlyn to figure out what happened and then take the culprit to court.
Double or Nothing has the same format as the first game (and the television series). In the first half you need to search through crime scenes to find evidence, have that evidence analyzed or researched, and talk to witness and suspects. This part of the game works well enough, but it’s mostly an interactive version of the television show rather than an adventure. As in the first game, there are only three puzzles to solve, and two of those puzzles are almost identical to puzzles in the first game (instead of putting together a ripped-up business card, for example, you have to put together a shredded document).
In the second half of the game, you run the court case to (hopefully) convict the killer. Mostly, this involves the same sort of investigative techniques as in the first half, but it also puts you in the court itself so you can question and cross-examine witnesses, and make sure the defense attorney doesn’t ask inappropriate questions. This is definitely the weak half of the game -- watch-dogging the defense attorney was interesting enough in the first game, but it’s getting old now, especially since it’s the same defense attorney -- but I guess you can’t have a Law & Order game without a court battle at the end.
Nicely, Legacy Interactive didn’t just use the same game engine to create a new murder case. They made some changes, especially in the interface. Your case file, which was only big enough to hold 52 pieces of evidence before, is now big enough to hold 84 pieces, which is a welcome change -- although a nicer change would be to make the case file unlimited in size, and to make it easier to organize, too. Legacy Interactive also added in subtitles, checklists (so you know what you’ve talked about already), and a faster response to research and analysis requests. In all, the interface has gone from being awful in the first game to acceptable in the second, and, better still, Legacy Interactive dumped the time limit in the game, so playing it now is much friendlier than it was before.
Unfortunately, while Legacy Interactive spent a lot of time improving the interface, I don’t think they spent the same amount of time on improving the gameplay elements. The actual case is great, and it has enough things going on to keep you interested all the way to the end, but if you remove what people are saying, playing Double or Nothing is almost identical to playing Dead on the Money. I already mentioned that there are few puzzles, and what puzzles there are are similar to ones in the first game. But the format of the game is almost identical as well. Once again key evidence is thrown out just before the trial. Once again a key witness is discredited on your first day in court. Once again somebody turns up with information just in time for you to get a conviction. And once again you can solve the case without evincing a lot of effort. As long as you’re thorough you’ll complete the case, and, if anything, Double or Nothing is easier to solve than Dead on the Money.
In a nutshell, Legacy Interactive has shown they can create interesting cases, and they can re-create the look and feel of the television series, but they haven’t demonstrated they can do all that and still make an interesting game out of it. And so, even though I enjoyed the case more in Double or Nothing, I didn’t enjoy playing the game as much because I felt like I had done it all before. Hopefully, if Legacy Interactive makes a third Law & Order game, they can tackle the gameplay issues like they did the interface, and create something more fun to play.