Harvey Birdman: Attorney at Law (Wii)
When the Adult Swim block first started on the Cartoon Network, it was because of the show ?Space Ghost: Coast to Coast.? A remix of a ?toon in which the former Hanna-Barbera superhero was recast as a dim-witted talk show host, its success led the good people at Turner Broadcasting to try to parlay it into a late-night block of cartoons.
And thus, ?Harvey Birdman, Attorney at Law? was born. Like Space Ghost, Birdman had been a Hanna-Barbera ?60s superhero. But in his second life, he became a lawyer whose clients were other Hanna-Barbera characters accused of committing rather ironic crimes: Scooby and Shaggy got busted for possession; Secret Squirrel was accused of being a flasher; and so on.
For fans of this surrealistically silly show (present company included), the Harvey Birdman: Attorney at Law game for the Wii -- which was made by High Voltage Software and published by Capcom -- is something of a godsend, as it looks, sounds and plays like five interactive episodes of the show (which, sadly, recently ended its run). Not only was it written and drawn by actual ?Birdman? staffers, but it also features most of the original voice cast (more on that later).
It is exactly because it is so close to the show that this game is only for fans of the show, and even then only for the most hardcore of them. It will invariably confuse and annoy anyone who?s never seen the ?toon, even (or perhaps especially) if they?re lawyers, judges or fans of that other legal game, Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney, after which this is somewhat patterned.
The gameplay is, admittedly, rather simple, and is closer to one of those ?Choose Your Own Adventure? books or an online flash trivia game than any superheroic action game. You examine evidence and crime scenes, choose which question to ask and which answers to give from a multiple choice list, press witnesses when you think they might have more to say, and present evidence that might prove your point -- all of which results not only in the case getting closer to being solved, but in the showing of video clips of the characters reacting to what you?ve done.
It is sure to throw some people that the game isn?t just easy -- at times it?s rather obvious. Only an idiot of Space Ghost proportions would get some of these multiple-choice questions wrong. But that?s actually not a problem since giving the wrong response can actually result in a funnier video clip than the right one. And while the game sometimes penalizes you for picking the wrong response, it usually doesn?t, letting you go for the joke answer before you go for the jugular.
Birdman doesn?t really take advantage of the Wii?s unique controls in any significant way, though having played the game all the way through both on the Wii and the PSP, it?s hard to imagine when having you shake the Wii remote or spin it around would have worked for this game. Instead, you use it to point and click on the right responses, rather than simply pressing the directional pad left or right and up or down as you do in other versions. In fact, you can play the game that way if you prefer by using the classic controller, though the difference is pretty minimal.
Either way, Harvey Birdman plays like five really long episodes of the show, except for the first case, which should only take you about 10 or 15 minutes, most of the cases can last as long as an hour or more, depending on how many wrong answers you choose for the sake of comedy. There are also midgame save points so you can take a break to watch ?Robot Chicken.?
But while this game is strictly for hardcore Harvey-heads, it ironically has one problem by which only those serious fans would be bothered: the absence of Stephen Colbert, who normally does the voice of Harvey?s boss Phil Ken Sebben. In his place there?s a sound-a-like, and while he?s probably a nice guy and all, he?s no Colbert. He?s not even close. He sounds more like a friend of my dad than the host of ?The Colbert Report.? Thankfully, the rest of the cast -- including Gary Cole (Harvey), Thomas Allen (Peanut) and Chris Edgerly (Peter Potomus) -- are all present and accounted for, sir, as are the voices behind such recurring characters as Mentok the Mindtaker (John Michael Higgins) and X the Eliminator (Peter MacNicol).
Hardcore fans might also wish the cases had been about other Hanna-Barbera characters -- or maybe some familiar Capcom characters -- instead of just Harvey and his coworkers, though they?ll probably take some solace in the fact that by setting the game after Season Three, the developers were able to include Birdgirl, one of the show?s better characters.
Still, really only hardcore fans should consider buying this game, as it?s ultimately so easy that even casual fans will finish it in a solid afternoon, and won?t want to play it over and over (as opposed to people who?ve never seen or liked the show, who won?t enjoy this at all). But if you?re the kind of person who watches Harvey when it?s on Adult Swim, even though you own all the DVDs?and a Phil Ken Sebben bobblehead?then you?ll want to pick this up.
This review was based on a retail copy of the game provided by the publisher.