Sawbuck Gamer

Socrates Jones: Pro Philosopher

Philosophize It

In Socrates Jones: Pro Philosopher, the only way out of purgatory is civil debate.

By Matt Kodner • September 26, 2013

Sawbuck Gamer is our daily review of a free or cheap game ($10 or less).

Back in 2005, I picked up the original Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney thinking I might learn a thing or two about our tricky legal system. Instead of Lawyer Simulation 2000, Phoenix Wright was more concerned with the story of a fledgling lawyer who plays detective and shouts “OBJECTION” in court. Even though it wasn’t a learning experience, there was plenty of fun to be had solving outlandish mysteries and shouting “OBJECTION” into the DS’ tiny microphone.

Socrates Jones: Pro Philosopher borrows and tweaks many tricks out of the Phoenix Wright playbook. You control Socrates Jones, an accountant bumbling his way through philosophical debates. After a car accident kills Jones and his daughter, they find themselves trapped in The Intelligible Realm, a sort of philosophy-nerd Valhalla. The only way for Jones to come back to life is to find the nature of morality. Not up to the task himself, much of the game consists of Jones philoso-dueling some big names, like Utilitarianism’s main man, John Stuart Mill, and debunking their answers to the morality problem. The game lovingly wears its Phoenix Wright influences on its sleeve, and it more than matches the original’s snappy sense of humor. Unlike the game that influenced it, though, Socrates Jones is more interested in teaching you about and outlining philosophical thought than crafting an intriguing story. Much of the game boils down to you responding with, “Nope, you’re wrong, and here’s why.” That’s fine for a bit, but it gets old fast. Socrates Jones works as a novel introduction to philosophy, but it never goes beyond that.

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18 Responses to “Philosophize It”

  1. DrFlimFlam says:

    So what do you interject with, then? OBJECTIVE!, or something else?

  2. SamPlays says:

    You think, therefore you are… WRONG!

  3. NakedSnake says:

    I would like to take this opportunity to point out that Socrates was a huge jerk who prided himself being a pain in the ass (in fact he seems himself – quite literally – in that role). Being a jerk shouldn’t be a capital offense, but I can totally see where the citizens of Athens were coming from when they had him put to death.

    • dreadguacamole says:

       I’ve heard he was permanently pissed.

       Seriously, a lot of famous ancient greeks were assholes. My favorite was probably Pythagoras, who besides being a notorious weirdo led a cabal of math nerds and sicced them on people who espoused mathematical concepts that contradicted his views (like irrational numbers, or infinity as a mathematical concept).

    • His_Space_Holiness says:

      Epicurus is far and away my favorite Greek philosopher. The dude welcomed female students, advocated a worldview based around minimizing suffering through moderation (quasi-Buddhist!), and starred in a kickass comic book:

      Socrates shows up as exactly the kind of arrogant jackass @NakedSnake describes.

    • Girard says:

      Plato, on the other hand, was a professional wrestler, and the name we all know him by was his wrestling stage name, which alluded to the broadness of his rippling bod. Basically, it’s as if one of the founding fathers of all of Western thought were universally recognized as “Macho Man” or “The Hulkster.”

      • SamPlays says:

        I’ve always been an admirer of “Ravishing” Rick Rude’s treatise on the aesthetics of male nudity.

  4. EmperorNortonI says:

    After a member of the commentariat brought this up last week, I went and played it through.  It started off awfully slow, but ended up being a lot of fun.  That might be because I’ve been a dabbler in philosophy, just enough to recognize some of the positions stated but not enough to really know anything.

    Still, recommended.

  5. TreeRol says:

    The game started with what amounts to a 20-minute cutscene that you have to click repeatedly to get through. I quit before I got to my first argument in the Intelligible Realm.

    Hey game makers: Don’t do that!

    • Larry C says:

       It’s actually more of a tutorial though, and a necessary one.  I think it would be pretty challenging going straight into a debate with philosophers and not having any idea what the buttons were, then “losing face” and pretty much failing the game because you didn’t know what the controls stood for.  Imagine the Deer Spray salesman as a low level philosopher, sort of the Glass Joe to the rest of the Punch-Out All Stars.  That makes him less of a cut-scene and more of a level one challenger.

      Also, it took you 20 minutes to get through that?  This game might not be for you.  Not sarcasm, just that the rest of the game is pretty much exactly like that first encounter.

      • TreeRol says:

        It’s like Glass Joe, if there are 5 minutes of exposition before you get to fight him, where all you’re doing is reading and clicking. (56 clicks before you get to interact at all.) And then you have to fight him 4 different times, being shown one more move before each fight. And then there’s another 5 minutes of exposition before your next fight begins. Or at least that, because as I said, I didn’t get to the second fight.

        Maybe my attention span is too low, but I prefer more than about 25% of my time spent playing games to be spent playing games.

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