Harvey Birdman: Attorney at Law is based off the popular Ė and recently canceled Ė cartoon. You play as Harvey Birdman, a lawyer and super hero with a peanut-sized brain and a rather dry sense of humor. In the game you take upon the duty of being the defendant for various clients. You snoop around for clues and evidence and then take everything to court. Thereís no one story for Harvey Birdman. Instead, the gameís plot is separated into the five cases all with completely different back-stories. Not a bad thing of course, as it provides variety and the game would get old if it was just one huge case over the duration of the game.
Unfortunately the game does get old. Quite quickly too. Unlike the show itís based off, Harvey Birdman has some awful writing. While the voice-acting is top-notch, the characters rarely deliver any funny jokes. Throughout the game, I only managed to crack a single smirk. Also, when youíre trying to press witnesses for further details but canít, Harvey will crack the same three one-liners every time. Itís enough to drive one insane. Or at least drive oneís finger to the power button. Itís unfortunate that Harvey Birdman has such bad writing. It is a text adventure after all and these games almost fully rely on their writing.
Gameplay-wise, Birdman doesnít excel either. You are always either in two scenarios: looking for clues outside the court room or cross-examining witnesses and presenting evidence inside the court room. Looking for clues is usually a dull practice as it consists of moving to different locations, picking up the very obvious clues there, and then moving to another location to repeat. Itís exactly the same for all five cases. Itís not exactly tedious, but itís boring. In the court room, things are different, but unfortunately itís just as boring. You press witnesses repeatedly in hopes of squeezing the truth out of them, but that rarely works. Next, youíll present evidence you found outside the court. But the solutions are so vague and out there that you are likely to just pick evidence at random until you get it right.
Harvey Birdmanís real problem is the lack of interaction. More than half of the game is spent watching dull and unfunny cut-scenes. Then you get to play, and roughly thirty seconds later youíre interrupted by another cut-scene. Add the constant game-interrupting notifications of found evidence, and you have a game filled with about thirty minutes of gameplay and an hour and a half of cut-scenes and interruptions. You will likely fall asleep while Ďplayingí this game.
The short court room cases are another problem. You will spend about ten minutes in the court room and then move on to another case. You point out a couple of contradictions and the judge declares his verdict. And I swear, this is the most easily-convinced judge ever. You will make one good point and he will concede to your reasoning and declare your client innocent right on the spot. It doesnít give the player any sense of accomplishment; all it does is leave them with a blank stare and a sudden on-set of confusion.
Replay value is almost non-existent. Not only is this game not more than two hours long, but thereís hardly any reason to replay it once you have completed it. There are a few unlockables, but theyíre limited to just more cut-scenes. That and the main game is not nearly compelling enough for anyone to finish it. I got to about the fourth case, but I donít see many players getting past the second. Not because they canít, but because theyíll be sick of the game by then.
Visuals and Sound
Birdmanís greatest strength is its graphics. Unfortunately not even the graphics surpass the average barrier. While the graphics look ripped right out of the cartoon, the animation is stiff and rather bothersome. Characterís lips move in a constant repeated animation; actually, many of the animations are recycled throughout the game and it just makes the game duller than it really is. Sure the developers were most likely going for a completely faithful art style, but a little bit of graphical flair isnít too much to ask.
Sound-wise, Harvey Birdman doesnít have actual music, so voice-acting is all there is to judge. The voice-acting is actually good. The developers got all the actors from the show (except for Stephen Colbert) and they perform just as well as they do in the cartoon. But a lot of the sound-bites are recycled much like the animations are. You will also hear a little clip when you highlight evidence or people. These range from annoying to forgettable. But Iíll admit the voice-acting makes up for those annoying sound clips.
Overall, Iíd say Harvey Birdman: Attorney at Law is a dud. It takes the same concept of the fantastic Phoenix Wright games, but executes it terribly. If you want a court room drama game, get the trilogy of Phoenix Wright games. Snuggle up with them in bed under some warm covers and just relax. But stay away from Birdman.
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