Developer Art Interactive and publisher Roman Loznevoy present the legal visual novel Femida for review on the PC. Femida focuses on legal decisions as the player assumes the role of a lottery-appointed judge and must make rulings on multiple cases. The player must keep a steady hand on the public and judicial process through careful control of courtroom rabble through the trusty gavel, careful questioning, investigation, and rulings. This will lead to one of multiple endings depending on how well the player navigates the different cases and pursues the loss of their father.
Femida uses a simple point-and-click interface to drive the action. There are several tools available for the player to use including a list of possible orders to obtain evidence, telephone conversations with witnesses and family members, and questioning during each of the trials. When the trials start, two different scores for judicial and populist approval receive increases or decreases depending on the player actions. These determine overall approval, what happens to the player character in the end, and what funds they’ll have available throughout the game. Femida takes place in a fictionalized hazy period between the end of World War II and the ramp up to the Cold War with several references to revolutions, Communism, workers’ rights, and other issues.
After finishing my first play through of Femida I took a look at the patch updates to see what changed in the game. The most recent updates, which as of writing were March 6 and 13 of 2020, tout, “All bugs have been patched!” and “We’ve fixed the texts and bugs!”
This means that the smiley faces that appear when my character has the option to flirt with a woman, around the same time I judged a case involving suspected consensual cannibalism, are features and not bugs. To say this is a disastrous choice in tone is underselling how terrible Femida is at handling these already difficult topics. Pile on the once-in-a-lifetime godawful translation and I ended up playing a game that had all of the problems of early arcade translation with none of the charm. Even if I wanted to be fully informed of the transitions between cannibalism and dinnertime flirtation, there were many sections of text cut off in the middle of paragraphs or outright missing in the many interactive boxes used to navigate the game.
Mixing darkness and irreverence is difficult even in local languages. So if the disconnect is intended, the writing isn’t sharp enough to hit the highs and lows needed. If the irreverence is unintended, then the many instances of sexual assault, state violence, and cannibalism are not treated with the kind of weight these issues leave on their survivors. Femida needs strong gameplay to even begin to counteract these issues with the writing and the litany of bugs and restarts I had to go through did not begin that process of reconciliation.
I triggered transitions while reviewing evidence because the exit button was over the evidence I was clicking through. The rotary phone used to call different characters would spin entirely off the numbers I needed to use.
A text box at the bottom informing me of this bug told me I needed to restart, so I did. I then encountered the same problem, and my skepticism that Femida is a completed product was later justified reading those “bug free” patch notes. Even when Femida seemed to work as possibly intended the feedback for my actions was limited to numbers going up and down. Typical for video games, but without something telling me what those numbers were effecting in the overall outcome then the inclusion of those metrics were game numbers for the sake of having game numbers. What responsive mechanics exist, like the gavel used to calm the crowd, were just temporary distractions that kept made the rowdiness of the onlookers go down without having any ramifications outside the trial.
Femida is at least pleasing to look at. But echoing the writing, the soft colors and figures are either ironically at-odds to the dark subject matter, or lacking artistic guidance to give it the daytime noir feel touted in the product description. There’s also a solid idea for a game here, building on the already irreverent Phoenix Wright series by introducing more dynamic courtroom involvement. But Femida‘s execution is lacking in almost all metrics, and is not in a state that’s worth the time.
Game was played and reviewed using a provided review code of Femida for the Steam platform on the PC.
Femida is too buggy and tonally disastrous to recommend playing in its current state. Since I played it on Steam, there are several other options if you're looking for quality post-World War II dystopia (such as Disco Elysium) or irreverent courtroom shenanigans (Phoenix Wright). What was attempted by Femida's developers was extremely difficult in the most charitable of circumstances, and the final product is not up to the task of delivering a compelling experience.
- Soft shapes and colors make Femida consistently pleasing to look at.
- Arguably the worst translation in gaming, failing to both provide context for game mechanics or balance the shifting tone.
- Multiple bugs interrupt the game when performing innocuous or routine tasks despite patch notes saying they were fixed.
Do Not Rescusitate