Tuesday, January 15, 2008


Harvey Birdman: Attorney at Law

The abuse stops now.

Harvey Birdman is not a long game or a difficult game. In fact, it's barely a game at all. It is, essentially, five episodes of the Harvey Birdman TV show that have been sliced up and strung together with the very minimum of a user interface. It has the look and feel of one of those "games" they tuck away in the special features menu on a kids' DVD, or a Flash-based Choose Your Own Adventure cartoon.

It is also three hours of solid entertainment, with at least as many laughs as the TV show on which it was based. It's an experience that you will enjoy, and it will fill your brain with memories that you will be glad to have. I cleared the entire game, beginning to end, in one long, giddy session on the same day that I bought it, and it left me craving another go at it.

The only real problem with the game is the price. Three hours of entertainment may or may not be worth $40 to you. So rent the game. Laugh. Love. Move on.

What, you need to know more?

The Inevitable Comparison

Like many people, I was expecting an experience akin to Phoenix Wright, only with Harvey Birdman characters. I was surprised -- and impressed -- that they kept the pacing and the style of the storytelling more in line with the cartoon than with the Ace Attorney games.

See, Phoenix Wright can be a little weird sometimes. But it's a game full of twists and turns and lovingly drawn-out storylines. Birdman stories -- created to fit into a fifteen minute block in Adult Swim -- are punchy, ruthless, and often confounding. Where a courtroom chapter in Phoenix Wright could see one or two witnesses revising and expanding their testimonies four or five times as Nick slowly peels away the layers of artifice, Birdman's courtroom scenes usually have only one witness, and there's usually only one major piece of evidence you need to present. The most intense cross-examination in Harvey Birdman is a pale shadow of, say, Phoenix's courtroom battle against Frank Sahwit.

If you've played any of the Phoenix Wright games, you'll be shocked by how easily your clients are acquitted, how little resistance your opposition puts up, and how readily the villains crumble. If you went in expecting a Phoenix Wright game, you'll be painfully disappointed.

On the other side of the coin, fans of the show may be put off by retreaded material. I don't know, though, because I sort of stopped watching Adult Swim shortly after the sixth episode of Harvey Birdman aired. But a brief glance through an episode guide suggests that there are a lot of themes at work here that are pretty similar to existing episodes. So watch out for that! I guess!?

In the end, this is a game that takes elements of Phoenix Wright and Harvey Birdman and turns them into a product that works best if you're familiar with neither of them. Enjoy it with my compliments.


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