IGN Review of Harvey Birdman: Attorney at Law
I've played a lot of videogames, and Harvey Birdman: Attorney at Law might be the most entertaining TV show-to-game I've touched. An overwhelming majority of the characters are voiced by their show counterparts, the trademark humor is spot on, and the irreverent antics of the Sebben and Sebben law firm translate extremely well into the videogame world.
Based on the Adult Swim cartoon that focuses on a former super-hero turned lawyer who bumbles his way into courtroom wins, Harvey Birdman: Attorney at Law puts you in the cowl of the show's namesake and charges you with completing five cases involving the likes of Myrad Reducto, X the Eliminator, Mentok the Mindtaker and more Birdman favorites using the familiar Phoenix Wright formula of gameplay.
What's that? You're a loyal Sony fanboy and would never dare pick up some Nintendo attorney simulator? I can dig that. Harvey Birdman: Attorney at Law is basically a point-and-click adventure mixed in with five episodes of the show. You'll watch a scene that sets up the case and then start picking through rooms. You can talk to people in the law firm's cafeteria and Birdcage, examine objects on the floor and pick up pieces of evidence. However, none of this is done by actually moving Harvey around the room; your perspective is fixed and you just choose options -- talk, move, examine present -- from an on-screen menu to enact cutscenes and interact with the environments.
You gather up all the evidence -- stuff like spoiled eggs, matches and rubber nipples -- and head to trial. There, witnesses give testimony and you pick it apart. See, after a character has given his or her version of the events, each line of text is presented on screen and you can either press the witness for more info, present a piece of evidence that will prove the witness's statement wrong or move on to the next sentence. Press for the right information and present the right items, and you win the case.
You can also occasionally shoot the other attorney in the chest and win by default.
Now, all those gameplay nuts and bolts I've just detailed really don't sum up Harvey Birdman: Attorney at Law. What makes this game a solid play isn't the lawyering parts, but rather the conversations. As you talk to folks in new areas and grill the defendant for information, you're not just along for the ride -- you'll be able to pick from three branches of dialogue and each will give you a bit more story and a few more laughs.
In the very beginning of the game, Harvey wonders aloud what a seven-letter word for "long and hard" and you can choose whether he guesses ayoqowb, arduous or arousal. Each continues the movie with Harvey announcing his choice and his legal clerk making some comment about it.
"What does long and hard have to do with arousal?" Harvey says.
"Well, Harvey," Peanut chimes in. "If you don't know the answer to that by now, it's safe to say you never will."
Once you get into the meat (Ha, ha! Double entendre!) of a case, most conversations will have a clear-cut choice that will continue the story -- announcing that someone's guilty or such -- but there are also two choices that will just lead to comedy -- stuff like Harvey challenging Potamus's clone to a leg wrestling match and watching the copy die from a adrenaline-induced heart attack … uh, spoiler alert. While most of these side convos are funny, a few will actually reward you for going off the beaten path by giving you additional crests.
What are these little colored crests good for? Saving your ass. In each case you're given a number of crests that act as your extra lives. Although you can press anything a witness says without the fear of being penalized, if you present the wrong item during a trial, you'll lose one of your crests. Lose all your crests, and it is game over.
But game over really shouldn't be that big of a problem for you because -- in reality -- there isn't a challenge here. I had a great time playing Harvey Birdman: Attorney at Law. It's funny as well entertaining and I'm only a mild fan of the Cartoon Network show. However, the game does have some drawbacks and chief among them is that it's a breeze.
Remember how in the beginning I played along like you had no idea what a Phoenix Wright game was? I was kidding. You should know those games. They are similar point-and-click adventures where you pick up evidence and poke holes in testimony, but the big difference is that the Phoenix games are hard and long (I'm making Phil Ken Sebben proud!) and Harvey's take is way simpler.
Look at Peanut's case. In the second to last case of the game, Harvey's not-so faithful sidekick is on trial for illegally copying music, and I expected it to test my attorney acumen … right? Anyway, Harvey's got one of the Deadly Duplicator's clones -- Harvey Birdman II -- on the stand and the clone makes a point to defend a "copy's rights." If you've been reading the profiles and evidence you've been picking up, you'll distinctly remember the cloning flier that laid out a "copy's rights." There's no slight of hand here. There's nothing to infer. The game is tossing the solution at you.
I've played a handful of Phoenix Wright cases, and I usually find myself debating which piece of evidence I need to present to bring a perp to justice. However, in Harvey's game, the last few lines of most witness testimony flat-out tells you what you need to present.
The next knock on Birdman's exploits are the amount of content you're getting for $29.99. Although that's a lower price than lots of games you'll find on the videogame market, it still seems a bit too high. You're going to steamroll through Harvey's five cases -- none of them should take more than an hour to complete -- and after that there's not much to bring you back. Sure, there's an extras section that displays unlockable movies, but there are only five to find. Sure, you could go back and choose the dialogue choices you haven't seen, but those choices are going to lead to the same outcomes.
Of course, a real episode of the show is only 15 minutes, so I guess you're making out better by comparison.
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