Harvey Birdman: Attorney at Law Review
You may have heard about a little series on the Nintendo DS called Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney. It's an enormously popular wave of games published by Capcom for Nintendo's platforms, and their entire premise is precisely as the game title indicates: advocating. You are an attorney, and through a series of events, the goal here is to prove your case by putting to use evidence you've collected and testimony you've heard. Seeing as how Ace Attorney is currently exclusive to Nintendo platforms, PlayStation owners haven't had a chance to taste a point-and-click lawyer adventure of their own...until now. Capcom has taken the Birdman license, and turned Harvey Birdman's cartoon profession into a videogame that is very much like Ace Attorney.
Off the bat, there are many unfortunate quirks to Harvey Birdman: Attorney at Law. First, and foremost, Stephen Colbert decided on not reprising his role as the hilariously ditzy, one-eyed attorney Phil Sebben, who Harvey dreams of making partner with. Colbert had also voiced the overly paranoid Myron Reducto, and so this means that voice-overs had to fill in for him. Long time fans of the show will instantly feel a bit cheated by Sebben's dialogue, as the voice isn't quite right and his delivery just feels different.
Where as the actor behind Myron's voice does a more acceptable job. Thankfully, because Harvey Birdman features such a large number of hilarious characters, this is just nitpicking. I should also mention that Gary Cole's performance as Harvey is just as funny in the game as it is in the cartoon - it's always a riot. In fact, the dialogue in Harvey Birdman: Attorney at Law makes for one really amusing game.
Harvey Birdman doesn't play like your standard videogame adventure - this is a 'trial simulator' with an emphasis on point-and-click operation. It can be best classified as a puzzle game, and you don't have control over Harvey. Every action you do has to be selected from an on-screen menu, so you'll primarily use one button and your analog stick to move the pointer around. Before each trial begins, cut-scenes will unravel the situation, and many of the cut-scenes will allow you to choose Harvey's lines. Unfortunately, choosing a quirky bit of dialogue doesn't make the story progress any differently, and the game will inevitably force you to make the correct selection.
Once you've gone through the cut-scenes you'll be placed at the scene of the crime and be allowed to collect various data, including evidence. From one scene you'll be able to move on to another location and look for any evidence there. The evidence is very easy to spot and pick-up, so no need for a magnifying glass. Furthermore, there are some random items you can pick up by inspecting a bit closer. These hidden items will help you unlock various secret items from the game.
After you've done all your talking and investigating, you'll make your way to "court"...which won't always be an actual courtroom. Here the trial process begins and you'll hear various testimonies and accounts of the incident you're covering. You can look through each witness's testimony log and either press them on a certain statement, or present a bit of relevant evidence. Sometimes the statements can be extremely vague, and so presenting the correct piece of evidence is often a trial-and-error process. This can become very irritating and you'll no doubt have to restart a mission every so often.
Each one of the five missions varies in the amount of time it takes to solve. If you nail every trial, you can probably clean the game up in just about 4 hours. If you struggle and restart often, it'll be double that. And because the game is so linear, once you're done with it, you have very little reason to go back and replay it. But, after all, this is a budget-priced game and for $30 it's great fan-service, even if it does lack in being a great value. And as far as any differences between the PlayStation 2 or PSP versions, they're both completely identical - so choose for whichever unit you put more time into.
Visually, the game looks practically identical to the cartoon. The animation is nice, and each character's expressions add that extra bit of funny to the entire game. The picture quality is superb, as well it should be for such a simplistic title. In a game like Harvey Birdman there's no framerate to worry about, no jaggies to fear, and no textures to analyze. This is good stuff all in all -- simple, but good.
Harvey Birdman: Attorney at Law is a very funny game, and fans of the show will find themselves loving it quite a bit. If you're not familiar with the Adult Swim show, then you may not be as receptive to the game as others would be. Additionally, if you've been wanting to see what the hoopla about these attorney games is all about, Birdman is a good place to start, as it plays pretty much exactly like the Phoenix Wright games do. For $30 it's not a bank breaker, and is an acceptable cost, but don't expect anymore than 4-6 hours worth out of the game. Hopefully a sequel offers more bang for the buck.
1/31/2008 Arnold Katayev