Game 93: L.A. Law: The Computer Game (1992) – Introduction

by Alex

Video games, like any other form of entertainment, are meant to provide recreation.

Let’s look at the word “recreation” for a moment. It is made up of two separate parts, both Latin derived: the prefix “re,” meaning “again,” and the word “creare,” “to create, bring forth, beget.”

So taken together, through our leisure activity, we are being reborn.

This is why I have to chuckle when I, a lawyer by day, am playing a game like L.A. Law: The Computer Game.

As The Adventure Gamer’s resident legal eagle, I have already been tasked with playing two Police Quest games. And while those put the player in the shows of the street-level law enforcement officer, they touched a little bit on the law—I’m thinking of the first Police Quest’s reliance on proper police procedure in order to successfully make the bust, and make it stick, and Police Quest III’s oh-so thrilling paperwork puzzle. Police Quest I had you testify in court to keep a no-good perp in jail, and Police Quest III also had parts where you had to testify in traffic case and discuss evidence with a judge in order to get a warrant, so I’ve been in a virtual courtroom as a part of my duties on this blog before. But L.A. Law will be the first time the game is focused exclusively on being a lawyer.

Lucky me.

Now, I don’t do criminal law. I was a civil litigator for five years before moving into the far more fulfilling world of contracts. McKenzie, Brackman, Chaney and Kuzak appears to be a full-service law firm, so it’ll be interesting to see if any of my legal experience and training will help me with this game at all.

Of course, there are two things to talk about in this introduction: L.A. Law the show, and L.A. Law the game.

The Show

L.A. Law was an incredibly popular American legal drama crated by Steven Bochco and Terry Louise Fisher that ran for eight seasons from 1986 to 1994. It focused on the fictitious Los Angeles law firm of McKenzie, Brackman, Chaney and Kuzak. The show had a cast that included Richard Dysart, Alan Rachins, Corben Bernsen, Jill Eikenberry, Michael Tucker, Susan Ruttan, Harry Hamlin, Susan Dey, Jimmy Smits, Michele Green, and Blair Underwood, among others.

To say it was a hit was an understatement. Indeed, it had a massive influence on how the public sees lawyers and the legal profession. Annoyingly so. Much like Law & Order and CSI, L.A. Law influenced juries. I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again: if you want to change the world, go into entertainment.

I have never seen the show, so I watched the first episode on YouTube. Pretty entertaining stuff! Well-acted, well-scripted, equal parts humorous and serious with some discussion of deep issues . . . I can see why it was a hit.

The Game

L.A. Law: The Computer Game was developed by Synergistic Software, Inc. and published by Capstone Software.

Capstone . . . Capstone . . . where have I heard that name before . . . oh right! They did that atrocious Beverly Hillbillies game! Pushing Up Roses did a great review of it.

So I’m not feeling good about this game. But I could be wrong.

Firing it up, we get an intro displaying many digitized images of scenes from the show, as advertised on the back of the box, before the famous title screen appears, followed by the credits amidst a picture of downtown L.A. The whole presentation is just oozing with atmosphere. Or maybe that’s just the smog coming off of the L.A. freeway.

I notice an interesting name among the credits: Robert C. Clardy.

The name sounds familiar because I and any other regular readers of The CRPG Addict’s blog will recognize Mr. Clardy as the man behind the games Dungeon Campaign, Wilderness Campaign, and Odyssey: The Compleat Apventure, games Chet has blogged about before. I don’t know what this means, except that Mr. Clardy seems to have had a long career in the computer gaming industry. How bad can L.A. Law be?

I mean, sure it has an extensive list of telephone numbers included in the game’s documentation—which I don’t have—acting as copy protection (thanks to Ilmari for pointing this out to me!). And I suppose it’s a bad omen that actually dialing these numbers is a part of the game. And maybe my heart palpitations and flop sweat are the result of the game uncomfortably mirroring my actual job.

But you know what? This is the American justice system we’re talking about. Presumption of innocence! Preponderance of the evidence! Or beyond a reasonable doubt, depending on what kind of case you’re doing. Unbiased presentation of facts! Jury of your peers! Equal treatment under the law! It ain’t over ‘til the fat lady sings! DAMN THE TORPEDOES, FULL SPEED AHEAD!

I’ll give this a fair shot.

So anyway, the game gives you the chance to play as one of three young associates from the show: Victor Sifuentes played by Jimmy Smits, Abby Perkins played by Michele Green, and Jonathan Rollins played by Blair Underwood. I have no idea what the difference is, if any, in the game depending on who you choose, but I will leave my choice of character up to you, The Adventure Gamer community.

Enough talk. Let’s get lawyering!

Note Regarding Spoilers and Companion Assist Points: There's a set of rules regarding spoilers and companion assist points. Please read it here before making any comments that could be considered a spoiler in any way. The short of it is that no CAPs will be given for hints or spoilers given in advance of me requiring one. As this is an introduction post, it's an opportunity for readers to bet 10 CAPs (only if they already have them) that I won't be able to solve a puzzle without putting in an official Request for Assistance: remember to use ROT13 for betting. If you get it right, you will be rewarded with 50 CAPs in return. It's also your chance to predict what the final rating will be for the game. Voters can predict whatever score they want, regardless of whether someone else has already chosen it. All correct (or nearest) votes will go into a draw.

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