The point & click adventure game has been making a welcome return to consoles recently, and Capcom's been pulling its weight with Zack & Wiki and Phoenix Wright. The latter is the model for Harvey Birdman: Attorney at Law, as a very well done translation of the Cartoon Network series. Harvey Birdman was a series that took as many cheesy 60s Hanna Barberra characters as it could get, and squeezed them into a legal show parody. Harvey defended obscurities such as Yakky Doodle and Jabberjaw, as well as the big names like Shaggy and Scooby, from all manner of legal assaults. The episodes were a short 15 minutes long, funny as hell, with gags that flew by at an incredibly quick pace.
The only real difference between Harvey Birdman the game and TV show, aside from the obvious interactivity, is the game's longer stories and a sound-alike for Stephen Colbert's roles. It's divided into five stand-alone cases, each a bit more complex than the last, but none being particularly challenging. A crime is committed at the start of each story, and it's up to Harvey to defend his client and prosecute the guilty, even when he thinks his client is the guilty party. First Harvey has to travel from scene to scene interrogating witnesses, gathering clues, and getting an idea of what really might have happened. Then it's off to the courtroom to plead his case in front of the judge.
If you're willing to overlook the length and price issues though, then Harvey Birdman: Attorney at Law becomes a fun extension of the series...
Dealing with a defendant is pretty straightforward. They give testimony in a short speech. Then Harvey pages through snippets of dialogue, looking for holes using his options of Press and Present. Press means asking for clarification, and there's no point at which it's ever wrong to do it. Present, on the other hand, is where things could get tricky in a more difficult game. Presenting the wrong bit of evidence or information in the courtroom means losing a life, but a minor bit of careful thought makes this a non-issue. A defendant might claim he never bought anything silly or frivolous with the business's money, for example, but Harvey has the receipt for 100,000 tubes of tanning cream with the defendant's name on it. Figuring out how and where to present that piece of evidence isn't exactly a conundrum.
While only slightly challenging at its hardest point, Harvey Birdman manages to redeem itself by feeling like five new episodes of the show. The pacing is a bit off in places, but the characters all act and sound like they should, while the gags are as funny as anything found in the series. It's as fun to explore the wrong answers in dialogue trees as it is to go to the correct one. I only wish there were more irrelevant comedy bits as a reward for walking off the main story path.
If there's one complaint to be made it's that Harvey Birdman is very short, and can be completed in a couple of sittings without any problem. There are five bonus unlockable videos to earn by exploring the dialogue trees, but seeing as that's part of the fun of the game they're not exactly easy to miss. Top it off with the Wii version of Harvey Birdman being $10 more than the identical versions on PS2 and PSP, and it's hard to recommend on a "bang for buck" basis. The pointer control is very nice, but not $10 worth when the game can be completed in two days. If you're willing to overlook the length and price issues though, then Harvey Birdman: Attorney at Law becomes a fun extension of the series, and one of the best translations of TV to game ever. If we can't get a season four of the show, then this is the next best thing.