Version tested: PSP
I took a break from ploughing through the latest Ace Attorney game, Apollo Justice (review so very soon, do not fear), to spend a short amount of time with its PSP brethren, the Harvey Birdman: Attorney At Law game. And when I say "short", I mean, "Inch High Private Eye after being shot by Myron Reducto's shrinking ray" short. There - if that reference made no sense to you, then neither will Harvey Birdman on PSP. Problematic. If it did, then you're certainly one of the better people, but this may not be enough.
For the uninitiated, Harvey Birdman: Attorney At Law is a cartoon shown on the Cartoon Network's Adult Swim output, about a winged attorney who defends characters from the Hanna-Barbera back catalogue. Indeed, Birdman himself is based on the eponymous 1967 cartoon about a superhero able to fire solar rays from his fists, who fought crime alongside his sidekick eagle, Avenger. He then appeared in legendary spoof cartoon, Space Ghost: Coast To Coast, and eventually the more recent Adult Swim outing. Except now he's a lawyer, still assisted by Avenger, and somewhat helped by a team including the pubescent legal clerk Peanut, the over-enthusiastic assistant Birdgirl, and his boss, Phil Ken Sebben, co-founder of the law firm, Sebben & Sebben.
Except, you know, it's not that straightforward. It's... not normal. It's also incredibly brilliant. Well, the best thing is probably to head elsewhere and watch the officially sanctioned clips. So now we're all up to speed.
The game is every bit as well written and performed as the TV show. Almost the entire cast has shown up, including Gary Cole, Paget Brewster, Murice LaMarche and Neil Ross. Regular guest stars also pitch in, including the excellent Lewis Black as Elliott The Deadly Duplicator. The only person absent, rather devastatingly, is Stephen Colbert, who is usually Phil Ken Sebben and Myron Reducto. The replacement is a fine voice actor, but he's still not Stephen Colbert. The animation isn't quite to the standard of the TV series, but since they started using Flash for series 2, the difference isn't that striking. An enormous amount of background gags, and extraneous detail have been put in, matching the pace and throwaway nature of the programme. It's just... well, it's a really rubbish game.
Following the format of the Ace Attorney games, each chapter is split into sequences taking place in the world, where you go around finding evidence and talking to people, and sequences in court where you listen to witness testimonies, then cross-examine by pressing or presenting. (It's a Capcom game, and the similarities are quite deliberate). Except, while the Phoenix Wright games have always been problematic for recognising justifiable reasons for presenting certain evidence for certain statements, here it's all but random in places. Occasionally once you've stumbled upon the right answer (read: looked at a walkthrough) you can see a link between the two. Often it's just bewildering. Outside of court, there's barely any game at all, with no option to search as you would on the DS screen. Instead you tap right through all the highlighted objects in a location, using all the conversation options, and then moving on. You're barely involved, beyond triggering the next sequence.