Today I’m reviewing a game that’s seriously in the running for strangest title when taken with no context. Socrates Jones: Pro Philosopher! It’s a very unique game in many senses, and it adds up to one of the better Flash games out there that won’t require you to sink a whole week into it.
In this game, you play as the eponymous Socrates Jones, an average Joe who ironically enough has no interest in philosophy. Due to a bizarre turn of events, Socrates and his daughter Ari are stuck in the afterlife indefinitely. Their only way back home is for Socrates to answer the question that has confused philosophers since the dawn of time; “What is the source of all morality?” In order to make certain he has the right answer, Socrates debates ideas with some of the greatest philosophical minds in history.
If you’ve ever played the Ace Attorney series before, this game should feel very familiar to it. Everything that’s not a reference to some aspect of philosophy is an Ace Attorney reference. The gameplay is derived directly from Ace Attorney, the only difference being instead of using evidence to prove a man’s innocence, you’re using your opponent’s own words to poke holes in its argument. Go far enough and your opponent will finally be unable to back up his idea anymore and will admit defeat. Mess up too many times, though, and you’ll lose any credibility you had and it’s game over.
One of the best parts of the game is that it’s so well written, which is something I feel doesn’t get appreciated enough in many games. It’s consistently funny and takes what is normally a very complicated subject matter and simplifies it so that any viewer can understand what’s being discussed. Smart choices on which philosophies to include, makes several of the most commonly taught and discussed ideas accessible to the average player. Every point of the game also contains a couple of easter eggs for players who, like me, methodically go through and question every piece of the opponent’s argument before moving forward.
Socrates Jones also has some very nice, crisp visuals, as is befitting a visual novel-esque game. As is befitting its Ace Attorney routes, each character only has one voice-acted line, but even those were directed perfectly. They sound exactly the way I expected each character to sound. The music is, again, a very good throwback to Ace Attorney, but it tends to get repetitive during the daunting task of sorting through your options.
My only major complaint is the difficulty curve the game takes toward the end. Up until the last couple of levels, when presenting evidence that breaks the opponent’s arguments, you usually have a fairly simple “A, therefore B” setup and can clearly see how your point refutes the opponent. Near the end, though, your points are more of an “A, therefore B, therefore C, therefore D,” which requires you to follow Socrates’s train of thought before making your point. I often found this a little unreasonable and wound up falling back into guesswork.
Overall, the game is very solid and, despite being one great big homage to an already successful commercial series, manages to do something new and interesting. While I didn’t care much for philosophy before, this game at least managed to pique my interest.
Game: Socrates Jones: Pro Philosopher
Genre: Puzzle/visual novel/Ace Attorney clone
Pros: Very witty, aesthetically gorgeous, condenses the core of Philosophy 101 into a form that’s easy to swallow
Cons: Certain points are very hard to reason through
P.S.: As you may have noticed, I actually included pictures with this review! Now that I’m figuring out this whole “WordPress” thing, I’ll be including screenshots with each entry. Thanks to Joel White for commenting with the advice on my last review!