There’s nothing like a good point-and-click adventure, and Capcom is one of the best at developing this gaming genre. With their successful Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney series, it’s a no-brainer that other games featuring detective work and court cases would try to emulate Capcom’s successes as closely as possible.
Enter Harvey Birdman: Attorney At Law into the arena. No, I’m not talking about the Adult Swim show; I’m talking about the little-known video game based off the Adult Swim show. Similar to 2014’s South Park And The Stick Of Truth, Capcom’s Harvey Birdman video game takes players into the offices of Sebben & Sebben to assist troubled Hanna-Barbera cartoon characters in making it out of sticky situations without facing jailtime. Available at most retailers for PlayStation 2 and Wii, it’s time to delve into The Good, The Bad, & The Ugly of Harvey Birdman: Attorney At Law.
Harvey Birdman: Attorney At Law is a charming game that will definitely appeal to fans of the corresponding show, as well as to fans of point-and-click adventures in the same vein as Phoenix Wright and Nancy Drew Mysteries. It is a rather short game, with play-time totaling around six-to-seven-hours for most players. The same humour that the show is known for remains intact, and a smattering of the show’s main characters (as well as all of their original voice actors) are present to make gameplay an experience similar to watching an episode of the show.
In the game, Harvey is approached by different clients who have found themselves in sticky situations. He must travel to different locations in the game world and speak to various characters to amass clues. These clues will assist him during the impending courtroom trial for each case. Similar to other point-and-click adventures, Harvey often has to pinball back-and-forth between different locations to present his findings, tricking other characters into spilling their secrets that may be of use to his case.
The game also contains many delightful cutscenes that look like they could be clips straight out of the Harvey Birdman: Attorney At Law television show, and the accompanying spritely soundtrack keeps players entertained and in good spirits while exploring the Sebben & Sebben offices and surrounding areas. The humour within is also well-placed; there are enough innuendos that will amuse teenagers and adults, but there is no vulgarity or downright raunchiness that would warrant a higher “Mature” rating or make parents think twice about allowing their children to play the game.
As mentioned previously, this is a shorter-length game. If you can find it on sale, it is well worth the price, but it might be a bit pricey for the length for those who are not die-hard fans of either the genre or the Harvey Birdman show.
Also, the humour embedded within the game can at times make it confusing to determine what to do next. Oftentimes, the game allows you three choices, and you must select the correct one in order to unlock more clues or testimony; however, with the game’s quirky humour, it is sometimes hard to decide which choice makes the most sense since all of the choices are often slightly outlandish. As can be seen in the Phoenix Wright universe, a lot of choices also come intact with a “life meter”, and selecting the wrong choice diminishes some of that meter. Choose incorrectly too many times, and it’s game over. This can be even more frustrating in the realm of Harvey Birdman when there is not a clear choice to be made.
The game also assumes that the player is familiar with both the Harvey Birdman: Attorney At Law television show, as well as point-and-click adventure games. For most players, I’m sure at least one of these is true. Still, it would be nice to have at least minor character introduction or a short tutorial on the controls. Those who haven’t seen the show will have no idea who each character is, and their role and significance in your journey. Although it doesn’t detract from the basic gameplay in the same vein as the lack of control tutorials, players unfamiliar with the Harvey Birdman universe have no explanation as to who characters such as Peanut or BirdGirl are or what role they play in the storyline.
Likewise, someone who may just like the show but is unfamiliar with this style of game won’t know how to instinctively move around the world. I found it odd–as I continued gameplay–that these two things would not have been addressed by Hanna-Barbera and Capcom respectively, as it would be fairly easy through some additional lines of dialogue to establish character roles and gameplay development.
Probably the biggest issue with this game is its save feature. It allows you to save while exploring at any time, which is nice for those playing on a tight schedule; however, the issue comes in with saving between cases.
There are five cases in Harvey Birdman: Attorney At Law. For most games (and logically, this would make sense regardless), there is an automatic save feature after the conclusion of each case: the case is won, the main characters leave feedback on the events of the case, the client thanks their attorney, and the credits roll. At this point in most games, you are taken to a menu screen, where you can choose which case to play next. The cases you have already completed are available chronologically for replay, and a new case has been unlocked. This is also true in Harvey Birdman. In similar games, if you turn off your game at this point because you had other things to do before beginning a new case, you could select that freshly-unlocked case upon resuming the game.
This is where Harvey Birdman: Attorney At Law gets ugly.
The game’s autosave feature kicks in before each part of the trial, and then at the conclusion of the trial. It also kicks in after the opening cutscene of each case. This means that in Harvey Birdman, if you shut down the game while on the “Select A Case” screen, you wind up having to replay the final cutscene of the previous case (and in a few instances, the last part of the trial) before continuing to the new case. The only way to prevent this is to view the first cutscene of the next case, meet the new client, and wait until Harvey enters his exploration mode so that you can manually save and exit the game. Doing such can ruin the thrill and continuity of a new case, but failing to do so leads to you having to encouter a five-to-fifteen minute recap of your previous adventures before you are able to continue.
Why, Harvey Birdman? Why did you fail on such a simple feature? You can’t just assume that all gamers have seven hours to kill speed-playing through a game in one sitting. You can’t just assume that all gamers do not like starting each play session at the beginning of a new case. When I tried to begin Case #2, I thought that I had done something in error; when I tried to begin Case #3, I realized that the game had done something in error.
In the days of Genesis, GameBoy, and NES, this would not be an issue; but in the days of memory cards and harddrives, such a simple component should not have been overlooked. For an otherwise lovely game, this is a big hit in the likeability department.
Overall Rating: 6.5
Despite some bumps along the way, this truly was an enjoyable and relaxing game to play. It doesn’t include a lot of the agonizing, mind-wrenching decisions that some of Capcom’s other point-and-click adventures include, but that can be a good thing when wanting to relax after a long day’s work. The game had lots of charisma and a lot of moments that truly made me laugh.
It is definitely not for everyone, and it doesn’t take a great deal of skill to complete. Saying that, the ease of skill and lack of length can be a deal-breaker for many gamers. The glitchy save system in-between cases can be rather frustrating. The replay value is also low, as I would rather just pop in one of my Harvey Birdman boxsets and watch an episode instead of restarting a case…from wherever it makes me restart it from.
Bottom Line: I would definitely give Harvey Birdman: Attorney At Law a shot if you’ve got access to a PlayStation 2 or Wii console, but I would definitely try bargain-hunting for it if you’re up to take the case.