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Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney Trials And Tribulations

Hold it! Love it.

"A 'computer virus'? What does one of those do?"

"A computer virus is a program that wreaks havoc on a network of computers."

"A 'computer'? What does one of those do?"

It is, of course, a conversation between the best lawyer in the history of the universe, Phoenix Wright, and the erstwhile Judge presiding over yet another of his cases. He's back, and he's back for the last time. And so, once more, I find myself with the opportunity to convince you to buy one of the funniest games you'll ever play.

To explain these games to the uninitiated is hard, so bear with these two paragraphs. Accept that, as odd as it sounds, it's something that really works. (Well, 8/10 works, as this third, and best in the series, once more limits itself to). You play young (now 24) lawyer Phoenix Wright, a defence attorney who, like all the best TV lawyers, investigates his clients' cases for himself. With the help of his psychic 19-year-old friend, Maya. And a 9-year-old called Pearl. Both of whom are capable of channelling the spirit of his dead friend and teacher, Mia (Maya's older sister). Which manifests by their growing a lot taller, and getting large breasts. Oh, and with the help of a psychic pendant, a Magatama, given to Phoenix by Pearl in PW2, Phoenix is able to detect when people are keeping secrets from him. So yes.

Mysterious coffee-consuming rule-spouting prosecutor. But at least he doesn't have a whip.

If only that were the weird bit. When it comes to court, the rules work like this: the prosecutor is the person who is allowed to call witnesses, who give testimonies, which must then be cross-examined by the defence attorney. The defence must find contradictions in the testimony, by interrupting them with a loud "OBJECTION!" (with the option of holding Y and shouting this into the mic), and presenting contrary evidence. Rarely does the accused take the stand, and they'll be found guilty if you make too many mistakes - basically, if the judge gets bored, they go to prison.

In reality, it's a point-and-click adventure, combined with a court game, with both parts existing as a paper-thin excuse for reading through over a dozen hours of wonderfully written dialogue.

So accept that, fall in love with it, and enjoy yourself a ludicrous amount.

Baiting For Godot

This third in the series of what were originally Game Boy Advance games, remade and reinvented for the DS, is the last to feature Phoenix. In Japan part four - an original DS game - stars a new hotshot lawyer, and very excitingly it's recently been confirmed for a English language release. More excitingly, his name is Apollo Justice. Anyhow, this final part in Wright's trilogy represents a fantastic climax to the threads of the first two parts, working back in favourite characters, as well as introducing some brilliant new ones, and of course offering a brand new prosecutor for Phoenix to battle. This time, however, he's a mysterious mask-wearing coffee addict, brilliantly named Godot, and not even the judge knows who he is. Because this is how courts work, ok?

Lovely Pearls is as cute and hilarious as ever.

But it's more than simply a remix of the previous two parts. Trials and Tribulations is a deeper, more complex, and in places, remarkably darker than the games have ever been. And thankfully, to counter this, it's also the funniest. I cannot tell you the number of times I've guffawed at the banter, and I'm embarrassed to acknowledge that on frequent occasions I've found myself clapping. It was all I could do during the tutorial chapter not to spit my coffee on the floor at one of Mia's peculiarly contemporary lines.

Indeed, the tutorial chapter - as with the previous two games a story in its own right, albeit more brief than those to follow - stars Mia as the central character. It's a flashback, and it's in there for reasons I'm never, ever going to tell you. And thankfully, it's a little more coherent than part 2's completely daft story with Phoenix getting hit on the head with a fire extinguisher and forgetting how to be a lawyer. Oh God, I'm laughing all over again at that. That's a really funny thing.

Beautifully, this level sees Mia defending a 21-year-old Phoenix Wright, at this point the complete geek you've always suspected he must have been. He's head-over-heels in love, an art student, and he has a terrible cold. And he's been accused of murder. While the result might be predictable, that's not all the reasons you're being told the story.