In Harvey Birdman: Attorney At Law for the Wii, PlayStation2, and PSP, the developers at High Voltage Software didn't actually make a Harvey Birdman game; they made a Harvey Birdman DVD (and UMD) episode collection that you have to constantly click through to progress in each story. Sure, there are gameplay elements, but they're largely inconsequential, an itch in each of the game's five episodes that you periodically notice long enough to scratch, yet often forget is even there as you find yourself lulled into just clicking away to get to the next story bit. That might not sound like much of a ringing endorsement, but although the gameplay may be in absentia, the comedy is front and center. If you have any love of the Adult Swim cartoon on which the game is based, you'll find the five episodes packed into this game to be as hilarious and absurd as many of the recent episodes of the show.
The winged defense attorney and all his crazy compadres make their gaming debut in Harvey Birdman: Attorney At Law.
There are five unique episodes in Attorney At Law, each covering a different case in the life of superhero attorney Harvey Birdman. If you've never caught the show on Cartoon Network's Adult Swim block, it's essentially an excuse to rope a bunch of old Hanna Barbara cartoon characters into ludicrous law-breaking situations, and it's an exceptionally funny one at that. Attorney At Law is solidly written and does a good job of emulating the style of rapid-fire random humor for which the show is known. Cases range from your attempt to keep fellow attorney and serial womanizer Peter Potamus from going to jail for setting Harvey's duplex on fire, to an all-out theft of Harvey's office purportedly perpetrated by Secret Squirrel. The jokes are as bawdy and silly as any episode of the show, and you even get some truly strange video game humor tossed in for good measure. Ever wondered how many Street Fighter III jokes you can fit into one game? Here's your answer.
Many of the all-time favorite characters make appearances, from rival attorney Myron Reducto, to judge Mentok the Mindtaker, to Harvey's inept stalker and archvillain X the Eliminator. Most of the principal voice actors from the show are on hand to reprise their roles, including Gary Cole (Office Space, The Brady Bunch Movie), John Michael Higgins (Best in Show, Blade: Trinity) and Peter MacNicol (Ghostbusters II, Baby Geniuses). Unfortunately, Stephen Colbert, who did the voices for Reducto as well as Harvey's boss, Phil Ken Sebben, isn't on hand (he left the show some time ago), so instead we get less-than-stellar soundalikes. The guy doing Reducto is decent enough, but the actor portraying Phil Ken Sebben manages to get the notion of Sebben's dialogue correct yet screws up the cadences and timing, which makes his lines decidedly less funny. Regardless, that's a couple of figures out of a large and memorable cast of kooky characters, so it's not completely detrimental.
The one wrinkle to all of this is the game's length. Obviously these aren't 11-minute episodes like the TV show. Each of the five cases clocks in somewhere less than an hour, which means that the whole game takes somewhere around four hours to complete. The added length is kind of a "darned if you do, darned if you don't" situation. On the one hand, five less-than-an-hour episodes don't add up to very long in game time, which makes the $40 price tag sort of dubious. At the same time, the longer each episode goes, the less random and bananas it feels. Jokes don't fire at quite the same machine-gun pace that they do on the TV show, so you're left with more leisurely paced moments, which aren't really the strong suit of this material. This is probably the best middle ground the writers could have achieved without making the episodes achingly long or completely shortchanging people who drop their cash on this thing--though you might still feel shortchanged, regardless.