In The 1st Degree

In the 1st Degree Windows 3.x Front Cover

Publisher: Brøderbund
Developer: Brøderbund
Year: 1995
Platform: Windows, Macintosh

While I have yet to see an excellent game based in the courtroom (and, from the looks of things, I’m not optimistic), Brøderbund has at least provided us with an entertaining, user-friendly drama in this underrepresented genre. You play D.A. Granger, attempting to convict an artist of murdering his friend and business partner, an affluent San Francisco museum curator. The detective on the case has provided you with relevant documents and videos of her interrogations of the witnesses. Afterwards you must interview the witnesses and then go to court, hoping they won’t change their stories once you get there. Your goal, of course, is a 1st degree murder conviction.

The draw to this game are the FMV sequences, all of the conversations taking place with live actors. The acting is solid, if not memorable. As the entire game involves clicking on conversation topics and then watching videos, it would have been nice to see Granger throughout the game (he is faceless, but provides excellent voice work). Some panoramic shots would have been appreciated as well, but the budget was obviously quite low, as actors are evidently in front of a blue screen and then pasted into the game’s backgrounds. Overall, the movies are a success.

In the 1st Degree Windows 3.x Photos of the suspect

While your goal is a conviction in the 1st degree, there are at least four other possible endings to see. Second degree murder, manslaughter, a not guilty verdict, and having the case thrown out for lack of evidence are all possible, and can happen in several different ways. Thus, the replay value, on the surface, is extremely high. Unfortunately, as the game involves one long conversation after another, replaying provides repetitiveness and involves skipping many scenes. Worse yet, the game is extremely short, and even replaying the game takes little time with the ability to save and restore at any point.

In the 1st Degree Windows 3.x Opening statement

One additional highlight is watching the local news station follow your moves throughout the trial.  The news anchor, reporter, and legal expert all throw in their two cents on a daily basis, providing not only entertainment, but a report card of sorts for your progress. And, while it doesn’t quite fit into the game, the other news stories and programs on television provide some great tongue-in-cheek humor.

While the decisions you make throughout the game create logical outcomes, and the story develops fairly well, ultimately this is nothing more than an interactive movie. Fans of that type of the game should be satisfied, if not blown away, with In The 1st Degree.

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