Published by: Roman Loznevoy’s Art Interactive
In the criminal justice system, the people are represented by two separate yet equally important groups: The police, who investigate crime, And the district attorneys, who prosecute the offenders. These are their stories. [DUN DUN]
Law and, indeed, order is normally often depicted as being fast-paced, tit-for-tat action-packed series of events. Drama series such as CSI, The Rookie, and, yes, Law and Order all make it appear like this exciting aspect of everyday life. Of course, fiction is rarely a good depiction of real life.
In reality, there are months and months of procedures that take place. Trials are long-winded and multi-faceted. The whole ordeal is just that, an ordeal. But it’s something that needs to take place. (We won’t get into the way in which the system runs and whether that is always in the best interest of the people. We are a video game site, after all).
Strangely, the medium isn’t one that translates over to video games smoothly. Yes, there are epic narratives such as This is the Police, Judgement, and Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney to name but three. But each of them, again, dramatise the system and make it more of a spectacle.
Therefore, the whole idea of courtroom-based video games seems to lack any real depiction. And, sadly, that seems to be a double-edged sword. Do we want a realistic depiction of courtroom/law proceedings, or do we want the glitz and glamour? Frustratingly, it seems that Femida lacks both of these aspects.
For clarity, it should be pointed out I performed this review on a copy of the game gifted to us by the developer. It was also performed on a PC running Intel Core i9-10900 CPU @ 2.80GHz/2.81 GHz, NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1660 SUPER, with 16GB RAM.
Femida is a point-and-click courtroom re-enactment game. If you read the intro, you’ll know that isn’t particularly a good one – in my opinion. Whilst the basic content is great in theory; you’re a courtroom judge who has to oversee a series of intriguing cases in a fictional, pseudo-communist state. The cases range from a “my brother stole something from this person in a state of desperation”, to “two men possibly killed and ate a teenager whilst stranded at sea”. So, yes, there is a smidge of the bizarre in the mix.
You read through the cases, examine and cross-examine the defendants and plaintiffs, and reach a conclusion. You’re also tasked with issuing warrants, arresting suspects, and other judge responsibilities. It all adds into the courtroom/people karma system in place – I’ll discuss this in a moment.
With all the different objectives you have to complete a trial, it should take you a while to do one of them. However, there’s a massive letdown to the whole trial proceeding; it’s got an imposed time limit on each hearing. Meaning you have to read through all of the participants’ statements, cross-examinations, evidence, and make your verdict within a paltry two minutes (or thereabouts). Which, yes, presents a sense of urgency, but at the detriment of being able to actually come to a conclusion that makes sense at times.
I often found myself just going with my gut about who seemed to be the most guilty, regardless of what I had read. Which doesn’t exactly make for a good judge.
However, the simple act of trying to understand what a plaintiff/defendant said can be just as difficult. Their statements range from acceptable sentences (few and far between), to ramblings, to nonsense. Characters will say things that do not help the case one way or another, and don’t even make sense at times. Which, again, makes the act of trying to decipher who is guilty a lot more convoluted.
The aforementioned karma system affects how you are perceived in the courtroom. If you’re too law-abiding, then the “people” score may drop, meaning you’ll be hated by the people you are supposed to serve. Be too lenient, and your courtroom score may drop. Which, obviously can make you look like a chump to your peers.
However, despite a good idea in theory, in practice, it doesn’t really matter. At least, I didn’t care about it outside of the introductory cases. Yes, it makes you want to be a better judge/more rounded individual that is respected by all walks of life.
Femida also has a story to it outside of “I’m a judge in a post-WWII pseudo-communist state”. Your father disappeared during the “Last Revolution”. Early on, your cousin comes along to help you find him, which leads to a series of…interesting exchanges between the pair of you. And different things occur that, depending upon your choices, can either range from “okay”, to “what the frick am I doing with my life?” At no point did the narrative ever make me want to carry on with the game – it was always more like, “let’s just get this over with”.
Which is all a shame, really. Femida is a decent looking game; the art style is just arty enough to look engaging. There’s a self-described “neo-noir” aesthetic to it that make it look equal parts minimalist and highly detailed. Which, in and of itself is an achievement.
The interior locations – your office, the courtroom, the restaurant, etc – are colourful, and also muted in palette. Your cousin, as a harsh comparison against the backdrop, is painted in a, dare I say, beautiful way.
“SILENCE IN THE COURT!”
Another redeeming aspect of Femida is the game’s audio. The soundtrack is delicious; there’s a crawling bass-line through most of the “between cases” sections with plenty of swing-jazz beyond that. And, there’s even a – dare I say it – Eastern-European vibe to some of the score (specifically during the courtroom scenes). I know it isn’t necessarily the most descriptive, but you’ll know what I mean if you hear it.
There aren’t any voiced characters to the game, which doesn’t not disrupt things a little. After all, for all intents and purposes, this is a point-and-click game. It’s not exactly a genre renowned for voice acting – mainly because it doesn’t usually contain it. Whilst in a courtroom, there are varying levels of raucous rabble from the Gallery.
“Has the Jury Reached a Decision?”
This leads on to what was, initially, my favourite single aspect of the game (it quickly got tiresome); when the Gallery gets too out of hand you can bang your gavel down and order silence in the Court. You’ll know when you need to do this as the Gallery will become more audible, and a bar at the side of the screen will fill up. Quite rapidly, as well, if you don’t pay attention to it.
Something else that is…okay initially but quickly annoying is your home phone. There’s no touch-screen, nor even any big, chunky buttons. No, this thing is a rotary phone – some younger readers might not even know what one of those is! And, yep, you have to drag your mouse onto the number you require, click and hold, drag it to the end of the rotary, let go, then repeat for the rest of the digits in your contact’s number. It was/is a drag in real life and it is no better in Femida.
Beyond those gripes, the worst offence Femida is guilty of is a cardinal sin in gaming; it’s quite boring. Yes, I know it’s a point-and-click and I shouldn’t expect the fast-paced action of a shooter or platformer. But, it could at least be thrilling! I enjoy the concept of the cases – they’re weird at times, and it, ultimately, boils down to who I think is guilty after weighing everything up. But, it’s just so tedious in its execution. Again, this is something that I alluded to in my intro, but it’s a delicate system to try and convey in media of any description. Too “realistic” and it would be boring, too dramatised and, well, it’s no longer real, is it?
“The Court Finds Femida…”
Sadly, Femida is a title I simply cannot recommend to anyone outside of the most die-hard of courtroom simulator fanatics. Those amongst you who would rather be the one doing the sentencing than being the crook who robbed $45 bajillion from a bank heist. And, if that’s you, that’s fine. There are some ideas that Femida has that will make you smile, regardless of what you enjoy in your video games. However, don’t expect it to hold much water beyond that. This is frustrating, as well, as Femida has multiple endings to it. The developer has even stated that the “good” ending is rather difficult to get – initially, they did not even bother putting a “good” ending into the game. Not sure what that tells you about Femida.
But, if you wanted to see any of those endings, you’d need to play through the game at least once. This single playthrough can be anything from two to four hours, depending on how long you take to make decisions, go through the trial, etc. All in all, there’s a minimum of four “endings”, though I wouldn’t even go as far as to say you can trust that! Here is a snippet from the game’s actual Steam page;
“The story is tailored by your choices. Well, not really but there are from 4 to 7 endings depending on how you count”.
Apparently, even the developers don’t know how many endings this game has! That isn’t really a good thing, actually! Especially when you consider the slog it is to play through the game even once.
Ultimately, I simply did not enjoy Femida. I found it to be too slow-paced and did not offer enough narrative (that I cared about) to sink my teeth into. Anytime I loaded it up from my Steam library felt like a chore. As such, to me, Femida earns a paltry 2/10.
If you are so inclined, Femida is available on Steam for £6.99.
- Overall - 2/102/10
A point-and-click/text-based narrative game, Femida places you in the role of a judge in an unnamed post-WWII pseudo-communist state. Femida sadly lacks any decent, redeeming qualities beyond a vivid art style and jazz-infused score. The gameplay is boring and slow, there are erroneous text-boxes throughout, and even the game’s developer doesn’t seem to know fully what is going on at times.
+ Luscious art style that is complemented by the game’s musical score
+ Good concept to the game’s story, however…
– …Narrative quickly loses its own pacing
– Grammatical and spelling mistakes aplenty – considering it is a text-based game, that’s quite a big thing to get wrong
– Developer has stated that there are “between four and seven different endings, depending on how you look at them”, but also didn’t initially want to include a “good” ending
– Story is not particularly gripping
– Gameplay is simply boring
Final Score; 2/10