Remembering Harvey Birdman: Attorney At Law After 15 Years
I’ll admit that I didn’t watch Harvey Birdman, Attorney At Law in the mid-00s when it aired, but unlike certain other shows with tie-in games I actually watched through it several months ago on a whim. So when I found out about a game called Harvey Birdman: Attorney At Law I said “I’ll take the case!”, because only 12 episodes of Birdgirl (so far, please?) isn’t enough.
Released on 8th of January 2008 for the PlayStation 2, PlayStation Portable, and Nintendo Wii, it was a visual novel akin to the Ace Attorney series. It was developed by High Voltage Software and published, funnily enough, by Capcom. 2008 does, of course, mean that it was released some months after the show had ended.
In case you’re unfamiliar, Harvey Birdman, Attorney At Law was an Adult Swim show which spun-off from Space Ghost Coast to Coast. It depicted the titular defence lawyer who used to be a superhero, and his team of Birdgirl, Avenger, and Peanut. Together they work at the law firm Sebben & Sebben and had to defend various Warner Bros. cartoon characters from prosecutors who used to be supervillains. Fred Flintstone being accused as a crime boss when it was just a bump on the head which temporarily changed his personality (or was it?) is just one example.
The show was animated in a classic style, which included things being coloured incorrectly for a couple of frames, recycling animations, and that sort of thing. Harvey Birdman: Attorney At Law managed to copy that exactly, and it’s pretty great how High Voltage went out of their way to do so.
It features five brand new cases for the Birdteam to solve, from arson to embezzlement. You have to investigate places familiar to fans of the show, such as the Birdcage bar and the offices of Sebben & Sebben, then go to court with the evidence you’ve gathered. Use it to poke holes in arguments, shore up support, or just have entertaining asides. But presenting the wrong evidence at the wrong time will cost you a crest, and you only have five per case because they’re like hit points! But you can save at any point, so just spam that.
Admittedly, Harvey Birdman: Attorney At Law isn’t as nuanced as the Ace Attorney series, but as with the show it’s based on, it’s not supposed to be. You’re not struggling to find evidence you need to present at the right time, you don’t need to wait for a specific statement to finally come along for your evidence to work… It’s all pretty easy.
Which is a shame, because the presentation as a whole makes it come off as a DVD extra. Your cursor snaps to the next object when you press left or right, you select an option, it plays a scene. At the end of a section it lets you choose to continue or go back to the start of the section. From a gameplay perspective it would have been ideal as a launch game for the iPhone, which to be fair had only been out about six months.
The game lasts only a handful of hours, but as a love letter to the show it’s a fantastic handful. Running gags, call-backs, GiGi, honestly the only thing missing was Harvey’s lover Boo-Boo Bear. Yes, Yogi Bear’s buddy, and no they’re not together they’re keeping it on the DL. And it has a really explosive ending!
Honestly, if Harvey Birdman: Attorney At Law was re-released on iOS and Android today I’d pick it up. Definitely not for the prices that second hand copies of the original are going for, but I’d drop a fiver on it. There’s some replay value in it too, since you can unlock some extra scenes by doing certain things and get some bloopers. Case dismissed!