Usually, the problem with bringing a license to a different medium (like making a TV show into a video game or vice versa, for example) is that something always gets lost in translation. Fans of the license are often left disappointed because the new version either lacks or overshadows the things that made the original great in the first place. Fortunately, this isn't the case for Harvey Birdman: Attorney at Law. The game stays true to its roots, retaining all the ridiculousness and humor that fans have come to expect from the series. All this, however, doesn't come without some sacrifices.
After the success of Phoenix Wright, it's no surprise that Capcom would try its luck with a game about everyone's favorite superhero-turned-lawyer. In Harvey Birdman: Attorney at Law, you naturally take control of the winged attorney, helping him to solve strange cases for the Sebben and Sebben law firm.
The gameplay is essentially divided into three different categories: trials, investigating, and interactive menus. During trials, you listen to witness testimonies, after which you must press certain statements and present evidence that reveals contradictions. When you present the wrong item or profile, you get penalized. Sound familiar? It is. But the cases in Birdman clearly focus more on the scenes within them than the lawyering itself. Not all statements can be pressed, and the testimonies are usually short.
The investigating moments are equally straightforward. As with most adventure games, in Birdman you must explore different locations for clues and evidence. Perhaps "explore" is too strong of a word, though; the items that you can look at are more brightly colored than the backgrounds, making them easy to spot.
The most entertaining facet of the game is the interactive menu system. Ironically, this is also the most simplistic element. Being able to choose your responses or actions is nothing new in adventure games, but you're usually not rewarded as richly as you are in Birdman. Each choice will generate a different scene -- as a result, you'll wait with anticipation to see what arises from your choice. You'll end up hoping that you made the wrong choice so that the game won't advance, making you pick again and enabling you to watch another cutscene.
There's no question that the cutscenes of the game overshadow the gameplay. That doesn't mean that Birdman isn't fun, because it is. The fun, however, comes more from watching it than playing it. Because it's interactive, the game brings a level of enjoyment to the player that the show can't reach. In the end, though, it's not interactive enough to reach the same heights as other adventure game greats.
This would all be forgivable if the game wasn't too short. At about a half hour per case (for five cases), Birdman only lasts for approximately three hours. You can't really fault Capcom for this; having the writers come up with even double that material would be like having them use an entire season's worth of content for one game. Still, considering that you can buy two seasons of the show for less than the price of the Wii version ($40), or buy other games for $40 that have a lot more content, the main thing that Harvey Birdman fails at is offering enough bang for your buck.
Controls: The point-and-click capability of the Wiimote makes the exploring moments fun and effortless. Is the convenience of the Wiimote worth the extra $10 dollars for the Wii version, though? Probably not, since there's not an overwhelming amount of things to pick up or examine in the game.
Visuals: The game looks excellent. That's not to say that the graphics will wow you, because they won't. However, for a Harvey Birdman game, the visuals are perfect. Like the show, the game's looks are well-suited for its ridiculous content.
Sound: Since the cutscenes are just like episode scenes, the voice acting is in the game is enjoyable. Fans of the show will miss Stephen Colbert's presence, but those who aren't avid watchers won't know the difference. Also, the evidence menu music changes from case to case, which means you won't get annoyed by the repetition of a single tune.
Story: Each case is ridiculous, light-hearted, and short, just like actual Birdman episodes. The game also isn't shy about paying homage to Capcom, with silly Street Fighter jokes and references littered throughout your adventures.
Difficulty: The point-and-click moments are exceptionally simple; it's painfully obvious what you can and can't examine in each scene. The trial parts may stump you once or twice, but in general, they're also easy. The biggest challenge in the game, perhaps, is figuring out how to watch as many cutscenes as possible in each case.
Final Score: 7.0/10 – Although the gameplay isn't deep, don't underestimate how entertaining this game is. Anyone who enjoys a good dose of silliness will enjoy Harvey Birdman: Attorney at Law, and there's no doubt that it's worth playing. The problem is, though, that it isn't necessarily worth buying. The game only lasts about three hours, and most of that time is spent watching cutscenes (brilliant cutscenes, perhaps, but that's not the point). Unless you're Myron Reducto, the game's miniscule length will probably be a dealbreaker; but, if you think you'll appreciate the humor in this game, do yourself a favor and rent it.