As part of my goal of being a voice for indie projects in development, I’m going to make more of an effort to seek out demos and give my first impressions upon finishing them. The first game I’m covering as the start of what I hope is a long-running series is The Perfect Jury. This is an upcoming title by Grant Kuning, who previously created Sethian, and it can best be described as a politically-fueled visual novel. In my time with the demo, I got to see a part of the first of what could be several episodes, which gave me a good idea of what the game is about.
The premise of The Perfect Jury is difficult to explain, but essentially, there are two parts to this game. Players first receive a portfolio of documents describing a crime that may have been committed and are tasked with choosing three pieces of evidence from those files that build up a narrative. From there, a jury of twelve people is formed and a debate begins about whether the person from the portfolio actually committed the crime. If a player wants to bring up a point, they may interject, or they can just watch the story unfold in a style reminiscent of visual novels.
I was initially interested in this game because of my love for Orwell and courtroom dramas. The concept of building up a narrative based on limited evidence is intriguing and something that I wish more titles would explore in the future. Since I don’t want to spoil the contents of the case for anyone who is interested in trying out the demo, I will just say that I found the possibilities and avenues for discussion interesting, as I could see how everything in the file was purposefully crafted to create debates on a wide variety of different topics.
With that said, however, this demo is still rough around the edges in quite a few ways. First of all, while I spent a lot of time carefully crafting a narrative for my case, I didn’t actually feel like my take on the story had much bearing on what actually occurred when speaking to the other jurors. Secondly, I found that most of my time in the courtroom was spent watching others speak instead of getting to say anything myself because whenever I tried to add something in, I realized that the game wouldn’t allow me to speak at that time. I think I said one dialogue line during the entire juror sequence. Maybe there’s a feature implemented that I missed that gives a better indication of when I am allowed to speak, but I found it frustrating.
The other issue I had with the game is that the dialogue is very long-winded. There was one point where I asked a pretty straightforward question about the game to the omnipotent narrator who is controlling the jury during the narrative-building segment and I got this ridiculously long answer addressing politics in our society that I was not at all expecting. As a lifelong reader and a fan of visual novels, I have no issue with reading in my video games, but I found that every point just went on way longer than it should have. Since this is a demo from early in production, I do hope that the style gets cut down a little, but right now, I didn’t find reading about the moral and philosophical implications of what the jurors were doing to be engaging.
There’s nothing particularly wrong with The Perfect Jury if you are looking for a politically-motivated legal simulation. In spite of my own issues with it, I will be keeping an eye on it in the future because what it promises sounds like exactly the sort of open-ended court battles that I would love to see in my games. There is a Kickstarter ending soon that hasn’t met its goal yet, so I’m not sure what happens if it doesn’t get all the way there, but I am curious to see how the title progresses and would love to check in on it when it’s a little further into its development cycle.
Are you interested in checking out The Perfect Jury? Let me know in the comments below!
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