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Harvey Birdman: Attorney at Law

For: PSP


Product: Harvey Birdman; Attorney at Law | Developer: Capcom | Publisher: Capcom | Format: PSP | Genre: Film/ TV tie- in | Players: 1 | Version: US
Harvey Birdman; Attorney at Law PSP, thumbnail 1
Even without his wingspan and superpower bird crest, Harvey Birdman would be a cuckoo counsel. He wouldn't even make for a good clock, as the animated star is late to his video game debut. Part of the Adult Swim late night shows on The Cartoon Network, the TV series had been going since 2000 but ended last summer. But beyond being tardy, this game is at risk of contempt for trying too hard to be funny and failing to offer more than watered-down gameplay.

With more than a nod to the incredibly popular Phoenix Wright DS series, Harvey Birdman, Attorney at Law lets you don the role of the infamous third-rate superhero turned third-rate lawyer across five cases.

With the aid of an avian legal team consisting of the aloof teenage clerk Peanut and overly eager Birdgirl, you'll take the cases defending innocent suspects and prosecuting criminals caught in 'hilariously sticky' situations. Birdman's first case has him saving the plump Peter Potamus from imprisonment over burning his house down. A later trial sees Peanut arraigned on charges of illegally copying music, pressured by the RIAA for distributing rock tunes by the band Shoyu Weenie.

Adventure-lite is the best way of describing Harvey Birdman. Branching conversations and a bit of item collection make up what isn't so much gameplay as an interactive version of the show. Each case involves hunting down evidence from the scene of the crime and clawing apart testimony using Harvey's convoluted logic. It's a largely linear affair that has you moving between a handful of locations, collecting objects and talking to characters. Knowing what to do is never a problem since there's usually only one or two options available to you at any given time. Once you've gathered enough evidence and spoken with every person of interest, you go to court.

Although a jury sits quietly in the background, all you need concern yourself with is shaking up witness testimony to convince the judge of your position. Each part of a witness's statement can be questioned or you can present pertinent evidence to prompt comment. Introduce evidence at the wrong time however, and you lose a point of gravitas. If this occurs enough times, you relinquish all gravitas and lose the case, forcing you to start over.

But it's not just the game mechanics that are iffy. In one case for example, Mentok the Mind-Taker tries poking fun, proclaiming it to be nothing more than a 'hackneyed video game' concept. Sadly the punchline has something of a double-edge: he's right on the money. Harvey Birdman features little in the way of gameplay and what is here has unabashedly been borrowed, then trashed. Don't expect anything more than a mildly funny reunion of characters that plays more like a digital comic than a true game.

Not that it's possible to follow every conversation since toggling the subtitles brings a minor, yet altogether inexcusable, technical issue to the surface. The audio and text frequently aren't synchronised, with dialogue quickly flashing at the bottom of the screen while the voices continue at a proper pace. This may not seem like a big problem, but to the hearing impaired it's quite a flaw.

In such surroundings, the comedy has a hard time taking off, hardly capturing the laughs conjured by the now defunct TV programme. Too much of a reliance on character ticks and inside jokes prevents the game from being truly funny. After hearing Vulturo's speech impediment more than a dozen times, for example, it's hard to rise another laugh. A series follower obviously will get more from Harvey Birdman than anyone new to it, but be mindful that there's not much new ground covered here.

Still the occasional joke deserves a good chuckle such as Harvey's prison stint, although most are forced or straight-up bad. In the first case, 'Burning Questions,' Harvey's wife Gigi makes an attempt to cover up her adultery. "I was returning from my lover - I mean, butcher's house," she states as though you're supposed to laugh. Another case criticises George W. Bush, tacking a dig at the unpopular politician over a completely unrelated matter. Regardless of your political affiliation, the joke isn't particular funny because it's entirely forced and without any context. Kind of like the decision to go to war, then. See? Not funny.

Indeed, by the end of the game, the attempts at humour are so transparent you can't help but giggle at the irony. Infinitely more entertaining than most of the jokes is noting the effort that went into crafting them. Absurdity carries Harvey Birdman through its four hour stint, but that's all. The game's short playtime is a definite drawback too, yet it puts an end to what could easily have grown into a drawn out series of barely risible conversations.

Humour is entirely subjective of course, so you may get something out of Harvey Birdman, Attorney at Law, but if so, consider yourself lucky. For the rest of us, this is less a case of legal eagles than incompetent parrots.
Harvey Birdman: Attorney at Law
Reviewer photo
Tracy Erickson | 11 January 2008
Harvey Birdman, Attorney at Law flies in the face of habeus corpus, holding a funny animated series hostage to a smattering of bad jokes and non-existent gameplay
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