Australia, May 21, 2008 - The torch has firmly and decisively been passed. The once-legendary legal defender, Phoenix Wright, has been disbarred. Seven years later, he now works as a 'piano' player who drinks a lot of grape 'juice', has a 'daughter' and ends up being accused of murder during a 'card competition' gone awry. Enter: Apollo Justice; a spiky-haired 22 year old upstart lawyer with a booming voice and no spine to speak of. He's the namesake hero in this iteration of the Ace Attorney series, and Apollo needs to get his act together to spare Wright from a prison sentence.

That's the premise of Apollo Justice: Ace Attorney, the first DS-original game in the series. For the uninitiated, the Ace Attorney series is a point-and-click legal adventure that plays out like a David E. Kelly legal drama – cornball characters, sharp dialogue and ridiculous set-ups in tow.

Like past iterations, you act as Apollo Justice's arms, eyes and mouthpiece, orchestrating his responses to in the courtroom and, more interestingly, outside of it. This first case of the game lets you dip your toes into the gameplay while introducing players to the main characters. The game's courtroom scenario follows a basic routine; the accused takes the stand, gets grilled by both sides, testimonials are heard, evidence is presented as both legal teams interject as necessary – and the process repeats until a verdict is reached (and you succeed or fail as a lawyer).



This formula, which essentially remains unchanged from iteration to iteration, is actually something of a sticking-point for us. While the case you're examining may in fact be quite difficult to crack, finding the right path through the game feels like a process of trial and error. You can choose to 'press' the witness at each stage of their testimonial, delving deeper into each section of the statement for more insights and a good place to interject with your critical piece of evidence. By routinely pressing at every available opportunity and then using a minimum of logic, you can generally play the right piece of evidence at the right time – every time.

Only very occasionally will you be stumped on what to do with a piece of evidence – and usually the game's rather obtuse, long-way-around approach to problem solving can cause more delays than your lack of problem solving skills. For example – and this is tricky to do without spoiling the case, so we'll be extra-careful – you can figure out the motive, the smoking-gun and the killer miles ahead of the solution, but you'll have to wade through a lot of 'this was the location of the killing; this was the weapon; this was the angle of the blow; this was the witness; this was the witness' hat; this was the witness' seamstress' husbands' getaway vehicle' before you can finally just lay the case to bed with your solution that you figured out much earlier. There's no opportunity to push past the order of proceedings, which – four games in – really shows how little the formula has changed or even deviated.

Luckily, the game does attempt to add a few new elements to the courtroom proceedings, though truthfully, the impact on the game's process is minimal. Using the DS' microphone, you can now look like a twat on the school bus and shout out 'HOLD IT!' and 'OBJECTION!' at the screen by activating the voice controls if you wish. The other addition, which is arguably more practical, deals with Apollo's powers of finely-tuned body language perception.

A delightful cast of hideous freaks and effeminate men who think they're rockstars.

Like the 'mental locks' of past games, occasionally proceedings will break away, slow down and provide you with a chance to target a particular point on a witnesses body where they happen to have a nervous twitch or tell. All of this stems from the game's first case – the details of which we won't spoil for you. In reality, there seems to be less skill involved all-up than the more logic-powered solutions of the mental locks in past games.

Solving a case continues the story in the next chapter, totalling four chapters all up. Between courtroom hearings however, you'll eventually and reluctantly don a detective's cap – and that's where a few new DS-specific features also come into play. Ema Skye, who you might recall was involved in the bonus fifth case for the DS remake of the original Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney, is back. She replaces Gumshoe, the bumbling detective from previous adventures and supplies you with an assortment of crime scene investigation tools.