It’s like a kangaroo court but with a bird, man…
Harvey Birdman: Attorney at Law is an excellent adaptation/extension of the adult-themed cartoon series of the same name. This is a fun romp through the Birdman world complete with all of the eccentric characters, irreverent situations, and hilarious dialogue that would have once been considered blasphemy uttered from such delightful Hanna-Barbara characters.
I’ve often thought that Harvey Birdman: Attorney at Law was the result of the grandkids of Hanna and Barbara inheriting the right to the popular characters and just having their way with them during a year-long drinking binge. The show is hilarious, with well-written dialogue and surreal situations that will appeal to those that crave things left of center.
The game plays out like an interactive episode in the tradition of the point-and-click action adventure genre that is mostly associated with PC games. You will handle five different cases. In each case you will converse with the characters, search for clues, collect evidence, and prepare your case for trial. If you’re familiar with games such as CSI and Law & Order, you know the drill. Each case culminates with a court appearance where you will do your best to make sense of the proceedings, offering evidence to corroborate your client’s story or to contradict incriminating testimonials from the opposition.
For those of you that aren’t familiar with the Harvey Birdman: Attorney at Law series, let me tell you that you don’t know what you’re missing. The show stars an old-school superhero that we once knew as Birdman. He’s since turned his back on the physical aspects of crime fighting and is now a lawyer where he can use his skills for….. fumbling and bumbling. Now known as Harvey Birdman, along with his sidekick Peanut, he works at the law firm of Sebben and Sebben where he handles cases involving familiar cartoon characters such as the Flintstones, Yogi Bear, and the Scooby Doo gang. The Flintstones episode is particularly hilarious as it lampoons the Sopranos, complete with intro featuring a backdrop of the dingy, industrial side of Bedrock. This cartoon show, and game, is definitely not intended for a younger audience. But for the rest of us, prepare for many unexpected, involuntary guffaws.
Due to the relative shortness of the game, with only five cases, in addition to the general lack of challenge, I would have to recommend this game as a rental. That suggestion should in no way reflect negatively on this game. The entertainment value is off the map. This game is fun and funny. But like a good joke, once it’s told, it’s over. There are no side-quests, no multiplayer modes, and there are no alternate endings. In other words, there’s little replay value, although you can go back and select different questions and responses. Other than getting a few more laughs, there’s not much substance to be unearthed in a revisit.
Character include Birdman, Peanut, Reducto, X the Eliminator, and the judge Mentok the Mindtaker. There isn’t much in the way of “popular” cartoon characters as most of the gameplay focuses almost exclusively on the cast of the Birdman TV show. You’ll also see some of the incidental background “animals” including the hippo, the grizzly bear, and the eagle. At no time do you ever directly control any of the characters. You could assume that you are acting as Harvey’s assistant as you help interact with characters, search for clues, collect evidence, analyze the story, and offer the proper evidence in court.
While conversing with characters, you’ll have three different choices from the dialogue tree. There is always one straightforward answer, in addition to two smart-ass ones. Of course it’s fun to go for the laughs, and it will help to extend the replay value. Sometimes you’ll actually be rewarded with bonuses for choosing the more zany conversation from the menu.
The characters are voiced by the same actors that provide the voiceovers for the TV show, with the exception of Stephen Colbert, who probably thinks he’s too good for a lowly videogame. At least we get a cameo from Lewis Black, who in my opinion, kicks Colbert’s arse. The voices are delivered as professionally as the TV show, displaying the characteristic inflections and the sharp wit of the writers.
Environments such as Harvey’s office, the cafeteria, and the local bar are rife with clues and characters that will help you with each case. These cases aren’t very difficult. You’ll usually find everything that you need simply by asking. A collection of rubber nipples anyone? In addition to revealing the storyline and offering some belly laughs, the characters will also help you prepare your case for the courtroom. When cross-examining characters, they will often blurt out the exact piece of evidence to present in order to win the case. This does make the game too easy. These last few lines should have been offered as a series of special hints for those that are having a difficult time solving the puzzle.
Not that you need hints, but you’ll also have a few crests on hand which you can use as “free turns” when you make a mistake. More crests are awarded for locating specific items or generally doing a fine job on the case. You’ll only need them if you offer the wrong piece of evidence during the trial. Each time you get it wrong, it will cost you another of these crests. Once they are gone, you’ll have to start over. But trust me, the only way you’ll lose is if you’ve got the sound turned down or you can’t understand English. The answers are literally shouted at you. During the trial, you can scroll through the testimony to look for inconsistencies. If only the answers weren’t so obvious near the end of the trial, there might be some good puzzle elements to this game. But take it as it is. Once the trial is over and your client has been exonerated, or a bad guy is found guilty, the gang delights in a few lighthearted gags and everything is all forgiven. On to the next case.
Graphically the game looks identical to the TV show, but that’s not saying much since Hanna Barbara basically invented the cheap-looking, mass produced look of the low-budget Saturday morning cartoon. The colors are vibrant and primary. No subtleties or nuances of shading here. It’s all presented in glorious, flat, two dimensions. The animation is a little jerky in places, but it too is similar to the cartoon, and there’s nothing wrong with emulating the show that inspired it. I love the look of the game, and am thankful the developers stayed true to the look of the TV show and didn’t attempt to bring the Birdman universe into the third dimension. The sound effects and music have also been borrowed from the show. The result is not unlike taking a part in a cartoon series.
Harvey Birdman: Attorney at Law will teach you as much about law as a cartoon will teach you about the laws of physics. Don’t take it too seriously, and you’ll have a blast.
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 4.1 Graphics
Simple, flat, colorful, and cartoonish. Excellent representation of the TV series. 3.1 Control
Point-and-click access is simple with easy-to-navigate menus. No direct control of characters. 4.8 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
Excellent voice work uses many of the same actors from the show. Music and sound effects also borrowed from show. 3.0 Play Value
The game is short with only five cases. No replay value. 4.4 Overall Rating – Great
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.