Tonight’s game is Law & Order: Dead On The Money, based on the popular television show. I somewhat expect this to be a better version of In The First Degree, especially when I see that the game was created by Legacy Interactive. I remember being impressed when I perused the multimedia for their emergency room simulation Code Blue.
The game is 2 CDs large. The installer wants to copy the first CD in its entirety to the hard drive. When you start the game, all of the intro and tutorial segments run from the hard drive. Then you are prompted for the second disc when it’s time to dive into the main course. That’s when you see this dialog:
Eagle-eyed geeks will notice that the dialog’s icon indicates Java. I have seen quite a few interactive movie games based on Microsoft Visual Basic, as evidenced by the presence of VBRUN?00.DLL files (Critical Path, The Daedalus Encounter, and Quantum Gate all spring to mind). But this is the first commercial game I have encountered that runs on Java. Why, in theory, that should mean that it’s portable across any platform that can run a Java app… which pretty much means it can run on Windows. No, that’s not necessarily true– it seems that there is a Mac port of the game as well.
Law & Order: Dead On The Money follows you, a detective paired with Jerry Orbach’s character (whom I know best from an old episode of Tales From The Darkside where his deranged pal fell in love with a mannequin) investigating a woman’s early morning murder in the park. Before jumping into the action, the game has tutorials for both the detective and trial portions of the games, delivered by computer-generated, pre-rendered versions of the actors from the TV show. I edited the tutorial bookend animations together into this YouTube video so you can get an idea of the decent animation quality:
You begin the game by investigating the crime scene. This entails interviewing the man who first reported the body and checking the surrounding area for garbage that might double as a clue. This game has red herrings in quantity unlike many games which follow the Law of Conservation of Game Resources, where there are never any extraneous objects. Fortunately, partner Jerry gives helpful clues about what may prove useful. After you are satisfied you have gathered enough information, you proceed to some other place available to you on the map:
Next, I head to the medical examiner’s office to get her analysis of the situation. Each of the locales you can travel to allow you to pan 360° from the point where you’re standing, and perhaps travel to another office, or look at assorted objects. Since the remainder of the video files rely on QuickTime files, I suspect that the panorama effect might be achieved with QuickTime’s QTVR technology, but I’m not sure.
Next, I bring up the case file and decide that I should submit the blood and hair samples (hair found under the victim’s fingernails, not matching her own) to the crime lab for study. Here is the master case file screen which has a stupendous amount of information:
One of the key components of this game is time. You have 7 days to solve this case, or perhaps bring it to trial. I can’t remember where that time limit comes from, precisely. However, time flies in this game. Moving a few meters from one location to another in the park and leaning over to pick up a used ketchup packet can take up to 15 minutes. Yet traveling from Manhattan’s upper east side to Long Island takes about the same time. I’ve never been to the the Big Apple, but I hear that the latter feat is not supposed to be possible. I could be mistaken.
I was starting to get into this game. Unfortunately, it seemed to freeze up on me the first time I got a message on my in-game cell phone.
One more video, since they’re so well done– here’s the intro for the game This appears to be a clone of the opening credits except that the computer-generated doppelgängers fill in for the actual actors.
I see from MobyGames’ entry on the game that the “Dead On The Money” idiom (which means to be precisely correct) didn’t translate well into French (La Mort Dans l’Arme => The Death By Weapon [?]) or Italian (Omicidio a Central Park => Murder In Central Park, I’m guessing), and probably not Russian either, though someone else will need to verify.