Harvey Birdman: Attorney at Law Hands-On

If it pleases the court, we'd like to call this cartoon-based Wii game to the stand.

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You don't necessarily play Harvey Birdman: Attorney at Law for the Nintendo Wii as much as you watch it. Oh sure, there's the occasional pressing of the A and B button as you make your way through the game, which is based on the Adult Swim cartoon featuring the dull-witted, dramatically winged former superhero turned attorney. So while your interaction with the game is rather limited, your laughter probably won't be. This is a funny game based on a funny show and one that's come a long way since our initial look at the PSP version back at the 2007 E3 Media & Business Summit.

Birdman, how does your client plead?
Birdman, how does your client plead?

Back in July, we only had time to go through the tutorial mission, which led you through the basics of Harvey's particular brand of courtroom madness. Being relatively familiar with the case from E3, we burned through it again in the Wii version and noticed lots of small improvements, such as actual cast members providing voice-over work, as well as greatly improved animations that replaced many of the still character drawings that were in the earlier build of the game. If you didn't know any better, you'd swear you were watching an episode of the show.

However, that isn't to say the game is a total hands-off affair. Indeed, while the first case in the game (there are five total) is a breeze, things pick up quickly with the second case. In this one, Harvey's office has been robbed, with the culprits only leaving behind a death ray machine owned by X the Eliminator. With the crime scene established, it's up to you, as Harvey, to put together a case for trial. This will include investigating several areas as you go--using a magnifying glass to check out and collect evidence you can use in the trial. In addition, you can interview witnesses and suspects. In this case, you'll be talking to Harvey Birdman regulars, such as Peanut, Birdgirl, Secret Squirrel, and Magilla Gorilla, the latter of whom are potential suspects in the robbery.

As you interview folks and collect evidence, you'll open up new areas to investigate where you can repeat the investigation/collection process until you have enough of a case to head to trial. Once a trial begins, it's up to you to use your own powers of logic (likely many orders of magnitude greater than Harvey's) to make your way through the sometimes insane twists and turns the trials take. For example, in this case, you guide Harvey (a defense attorney) as he's put in the unenviable position of defending the very suspects accused of robbing him blind. Later, you'll hold trial in a Jacuzzi. It's nuts.

Questioning witnesses on the stand typically involves you first watching a brief cutscene of their testimony, then either pressing them on specific aspects of their testimony or presenting evidence from your investigation that either supports or refutes their claims. Evidence collected in case number two includes a fortune cookie, a used coffee cup, and an empty peanut bag with a pair of dirty boxer shorts stuck inside.

You can press a witness on his or her testimony multiple times with no penalty to your case. However, you're more restricted when it comes to presenting evidence. Should you present a piece of evidence at the wrong moment or a piece of evidence that has nothing to do with a particular witness or segment of testimony, Harvey will lose a gravitas point (shaped like the crest he wears on his head). You only have a handful of gravitas points; thus, you only have a handful of chances to get your case correct. If you lose all your points, it's case dismissed and you'll have to start over. Luckily, the game has multiple save points so even if the judge calls the case, you don't have to back up too far to try over again.

Hmm…how does 'guiltocent' sound?
Hmm…how does 'guiltocent' sound?

The game certainly has its fair share of trial and error (not to mention point and click when investigating crime scenes), but the big cast of likeable characters along with the downright hilarious dialogue is enough to keep you coming back for more, if only to see what ridiculous turn the case will take next. Considering the second case takes under an hour to finish--with just three cases to follow after that--Harvey Birdman seems like a pretty short game, but one that's long on the laughs. The case begins in early January when Harvey Birdman: Attorney at Law is released.

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