Monday, 29 January 2018

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.


  1. I'm going to guess 52 out of optimism. It may surprise us.

    I've said it before, but I really wanted to play this game but it ended up happening right between Sherlock Holmes and Inspector Gadget and there's only so many licensed mysteries I can take on at once. I have a strange interest in licensed properties and if I ever finish with Infocom, one of the things I have considered is a run of "licensed" games like this one. Fortunately, I will never finish with Infocom. (But there is a He-Man game I've had my eye on for some time...)

    I couldn't have wished this game on a better reviewer. Good luck!

    1. Hey thanks Joe! Maybe I’ll answer the question of whether you should play this one just for fun if you get the chance. Because lawyering is so fun and all.

  2. I'm gonna say a 49 for this one.

    Many licensed games aren't much good, and I know nothing about the TV show except I'd heard the name before.

  3. "the first time the game is focused exclusively on being a lawyer."

    While probably not much of an adventure, people interested in a more pure simulation of the experience might be interested in the 1992 MS-DOS game "Objection!" --

    1. Never heard of it, but it sounds like Ace Attorney without the fun

    2. @Alex

      Wait are you trying to say being a lawyer is a joyless calling or something? Because if you are, let me tell you that...that’s a completely accurate assessment.

  4. I'll go with 39, I've never played this game, but Capstone is very infamous. My favorite of their "games", is the POP clone: Zorro. I managed to beat the first level after years of trying, look for it on youtube.

  5. L.A Law was a favourite of my mom's, and even nowadays she often complains that there are no shows like it on the air. I never enjoyed the show - well, I was like ten, when it was shown in Finland, so I didn't really belong to the target audience.

    I do hope the game will incorporate the most famous scene of the show:

    I'll guess 47.

    1. 😳😳😳

      Uh...I sure hope that doesn’t happen in the courtroom. that I think of it, I kind of hope it does.

  6. 48!

    And I'm voting for Jimmy Smits, because anyone willing to adopt the daughter of a Sith Lord deserves respect.

    1. Vic Sifuentes is a damn good lawyer too (helps to have good scriptwriters).

    2. Well of course.

      All TV lawyers are more dedicated and skillful than any real life lawyer (with the possible exception of Alex) - though their dedication to the job does often cause problems with their personal life with marriage breakups almost certain if a show goes long enough.

      The same goes for TV cops, doctors and vampire slayers.

  7. Does the game feature the saxy ( no, that's not a typo ) intro music? I'll guess 48 with the music or 38 if it's not there. ( Can I do that? )

    1. I had never watched the TV series way back when (well, because being 8 when it started, I just wasn't the demographic) so I didn't realize until yesterday that in LSL3, the music at the lawyer's office is a direct reference to that theme song. Oh, it's so 80s...

  8. After some quick research, let's go with 41.
    It appears that this game would be just as playable without graphics, and I understand there's a lot of tedium in there. The characters' personalities, defined by the TV show, don't really shine through, and the graphics are static. Nice, scanned static graphics. I think I'd rather play Myst - and I hated that game...

  9. Lawyers, god bless them, always making sure the governmental officials doesn't break the law... and being obstructions as the officials are saving the world.

    Anyway, the dice says 50 so lets go with that.

  10. 20. It's a Capstone game, so I'll be shocked if it even works.

  11. I'll guess 45. I'll be surprised if it's much more fun than actual lawyering. Because watching a dramatized version of that sort of thing is always going to be more fun than doing it yourself.