Pro Philosopher 2 dialogue conversation with Confucius
Image via Intelligible Games

Preview: Pro Philosopher 2 is Ace Attorney crossed with a political debate club

Keeping politics in games.

In 2013, Intelligible Games released the Ace Attorney-inspired Socrates Jones: Pro Philosopher for web browsers, where instead of catching murderers in over-the-top courtroom dramas, you debated with real-world philosophers from throughout history to deduce the true nature of morality. It saw a full remake on Steam in 2023 but, 10 years after the original, the same team is back with a proper sequel; one that shifts its focus towards that oh so favoured of topics among gamers: politics.

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Titled Pro Philosopher 2: Governments & Grievances, I was able to test out a short demo ahead of its release as part of Steam Next Fest (it should be available for download by the time you’re reading this). And by short, I do mean short; you can easily clear it in 20 minutes. However, it does succinctly sum up what you can expect from the full game: interesting topics of debate, a fun sense of humour, and a lot of blatant similarities to Ace Attorney.

A part of me feels bad directly comparing Pro Philosopher 2 to Capcom’s visual novel series, but one look at it and you’ll see Pro Philosopher 2 doesn’t just wear the Ace Attorney influences on its sleeves; it’s dressed head to toe in them. Not only are its core gameplay mechanics functionally identical, but even aspects of its presentation borrow liberally from Ace Attorney. Characters have exaggerated reactions when taken by surprise, and they let out cries of “Nonsense!” during arguments, which have the same energy as Phoenix Wright’s iconic “Objection!”, right down to the word smacking into the screen in bold red letters. This may risk costing Pro Philosopher 2 any semblance of its own identity, but it’s clear these similarities come out of reverence for Ace Attorney and not a cynical attempt at copying it in the hopes of recreating its popularity. Plus, as a die-hard Ace Attorney fan myself, I can’t help but crack a smile at the ways Pro Philosopher 2 lifts elements from Capcom’s work.

Pro Philosopher 2 Nonsense effect
Image via Intelligible Games

The thought of a game that requires you to engage in political debates and point out the flaws in each philosopher’s way of thinking sounds like a daunting and difficult task, but it’s easy to get to grips with if you’ve played even one Ace Attorney game. Instead of tangible evidence, you have an idea slate, which holds ideas and concepts you can use to challenge your opponent’s statements, no different to spotting contradictions in an Ace Attorney testimony. Challenging incorrectly will reduce your Credibility, and if that runs out it’s game over.

It’s a very simple idea in practice and, much like how you can press for further testimony in Ace Attorney, you can ask for clarification if you think a specific statement is too vague, or ask your opponent to back up their claim with evidence. Doing these can result in new ideas for the idea slate or additional statements. There’s no punishment for using the Clarification and Backing options on every statement, which is perfect for the most cautious of players (you’ll also get some amusing dialogue out of it). And reaching the end of a statement earns you a slight hint on what to do should you be completely lost.

I got to grips with the demo incredibly easily, but I have to imagine the full game will prove far more challenging. One extra gameplay mechanic is alluded to but isn’t featured in the demo, and given the very nature of the political debate and its complexities, there could be some real head-scratching puzzles that’ll leave more than a fair share of players stumped. It’s obviously too soon to tell how these will be handled, and whether the difficulty will be fairly balanced or not. At the very least, the Ace Attorney-esque presentation and fun banter between protagonist Ari and her fellow cast members should keep you engaged, and may even help you learn some new things about the history of politics.

Pro Philosopher 2 debate gameplay
Image via Intelligible Games

Pro Philosopher 2‘s slightly goofy sense of humour won’t be for everyone, but it definitely got some light chuckles out of me. Mostly from how it portrays actual philosopher Niccolo Machiavelli as this arrogant genius, regularly cracking a smug smile as he lords his superior intellect. Liberties are absolutely going to be taken with how these real-world figures are depicted, but it makes for an entertaining experience nonetheless. You also have the option during debates to just insult your opponent with a “You stink!,” which is designed to never work and cost you credibility. Yet I can see players using it anyway if only to see how each philosopher reacts to being dragged into your average Twitter argument.

What will likely make or break Pro Philosopher 2, however, is exactly how it handles its choices of debate topics. Based on the demo, it fortunately doesn’t feel as if it will try and pursue a neutral stance throughout. Machiavelli argues in favour of blatant totalitarianism, believing a stable state of government is only possible with a single ruler in charge; one untethered by pesky morals. I like to think we can all agree that’s an awful idea, and it’s one Ari (and by extension the game and the development team) completely refute, but will this same approach be taken with future debates? What if the game requires the player to make an argument they fundamentally don’t agree with? Will Pro Philosopher 2 even broach the more controversial topics, or will it play things safe and stick to dismantling outdated or unpopular arguments that don’t hold water in the 21st century? It’s a tricky balancing act, though I’d rather see the game take at least some kind of stance instead of flaking out at the last minute and pulling some “all sides are equally valid” nonsense.

Regardless, Pro Philosopher 2 is one to watch for anyone with an interest in visual novels, logic puzzles, and/or political discourse that doesn’t quickly devolve into hurling slurs at one another. It sounds like it’ll be a pretty meaty experience too, with it promising more philosopher opponents than the five its predecessor had, though an exact number hasn’t been confirmed. A couple of examples shown in trailers are 17th century Englishman John Locke (who looks delightfully foppish) and Chinese philosopher Confucius, so there’s already some decent variety to the kind of views that players will need to engage with. Mechanically, Pro Philosopher 2 seems perfectly sound, and building a game all around political debate, especially in the current climate, is a gutsy decision I applaud Intelligible Games for making. I just hope it has actually interesting or insightful things to say about its various debate topics.

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Michael Beckwith
Staff writer covering all kinds of gaming news. A graduate in Computer Games Design and Creative Writing from Brunel University who's been writing about games since 2014. Nintendo fan and Sonic the Hedgehog apologist. Knows a worrying amount of Kingdom Hearts lore. Has previously written for Metro, TechRadar, and Game Rant.