A lesser reviewer would stick a literal featherton of bird jokes in a review such as this, but this reviewer would never do such a thing blatantly. Instead, let’s talk about Aviary Attorney, a game made for the birds.
The game itself is quite simple. As Falcon, you and your trusty companion Sparrowson wander around 19th Century Paris, as the city gears up for an explosion of violence that hasn’t been seen in close to fifty years. Revolution is coming, and the animals who live in the city have to decide for which side they stand on.
Aviary Attorney is a crazy concept, that much is clear. Playing as an animal? In 1848 Paris? As a lawyer? Confusion is the first reaction to such an idea, but eventually as one plays through the title, two reactions occur. Either one thinks that the game is too insane for its own good, or that it is the funniest game to be released in a very long time.
For me, this game falls under the former category.
To begin, there really isn’t much to the gameplay. Players just wander around Paris talking to unique individuals and gathering clues that can be used in the inevitable trial that takes place at the end of each of the four chapters. Phoenix Wright’s influence is very clear in this regard. You just read through conversations and try to come with the best response possible for the situation at hand. It is quite simple, really. While the potential is there for the difficulty, if players examine what exactly they are being asked to do for each of the four chapters they will quickly realize that this is a very easy game to beat.
The gameplay isn’t there where the game shines. Both the graphics, (which were legally and shamelessly stolen from J. J. Grandville) and the writing are the best things that Aviary Attorney has to offer by far. The graphics are also interesting, and that is meant in the best possible way. A game constructed from drawings in the 19th century? J.J. Grandville’s influence is clearly felt the moment the game begins, and it really pushes the player into the time period and even the frame of mind needed to enjoy such a game.
The writing is Aviary Attorney’s best asset. The game’s story does feature an interesting backdrop, but it's not the reason behind why the game just works. As stated before, Aviary Attorney is not just the funniest game I have seen in quite some time, but the most consistently funny piece of media that I have seen in a very long time. Without delving into spoilers and ruining the jokes, let’s just say that whoever wrote this game has just the right amount of, well, everything. For example, modern day references that are ordinarily not even funny are made hilarious by both the setting and the scene in which they are utilized in. That isn’t to say that every joke or punchline hits its mark, but far more made me laugh or smile then provoke a slight frown or grumble.
That’s not to say Aviary Attorney is one big joke either. The subject matter prevents it from becoming a farce, and while the underlying message is a tad cliché, that isn’t to say that it is a bad message. The fact that the game has animals in place of humans helps it for its humor (lots and lots of delicious puns) and for its own allegories that players are easily able to ignore if they wish. It doesn’t bash players over the head with its message, which is quite the relief.
While I could wax lyrical about how this game is quite the welcome surprise, it isn’t all sunshine and feathers. For one thing, this game is very short. I beat it in around five hours, and that was with me save-scumming and going back to repeat a few decisions. Considering the game's $15 price tag, it may not be an instant purchase based on what is on offer.
Another thing is that the game isn’t finished. One of Aviary Attorney’s major selling points is the fact that during the course of the game the player makes a decision that directly impacts the game’s three potential endings. While this is all well and good for giving the player agency by allowing them to directly impact the ending, at the moment there are only two endings implemented, which hints at the developer feeling forced to release the title before it was truly ready.
This leads into the game’s bugs, which are rather numerous. At the moment, saving doesn’t work properly. Instead of being able to save and come back to the specific ‘room’ that you left at, you will instead find yourself at the beginning of the day and having to repeat the day’s decisions over again. It isn’t the end of the world, but still something that should be fixed. Another bug that I found was when during a specific moment in the game that I found a location that simply said NA, which was odd. Usually when one mouse’s over a location on the map, the player is given a description on what to expect, such as this is library, this is a hospital, this is Notre Dame, and so forth. So, being curious, I clicked on the ‘NA’ location to extremely unwelcome results. When I traveled to the location, I found the scene zoomed out to the point that the game was unplayable.
To add even more to the fire, the Steam component of the game doesn’t work. What doesn’t work? Pretty much everything. The Steam overlay, which one activates by pressing Shift+Tab, doesn’t work at all. This means no screenshots either, which was a shame since I had a lot of funny screenshots that I would have liked to share with my friends.
This leads to one final question that ties everything together: is Aviary Attorney worth your time?
For anyone like me who loves Phoenix Wright, this game really is a no-brainer, even with all the bugs. For everyone else, that is really up to you, as Aviary Attorney seems to be one of those games that either clicks with you or doesn’t. For those worried about bugs and such, the developers are quite active on Twitter and the Steam forums, and it seems as though everything will be ironed out eventually. I was able to complete the game, although the experience itself could have been much better. The first ending that I got as a result of my choices was the one that hasn’t been released yet, which did a pretty good job of invalidating the choice that I had made.
Regardless, if there is a sequel, I will be the first in line. The world has… clucked my attention, so to speak. What, you didn’t think you would escape this review without being subjected to more terrible bird puns, did you? Wait, where are you going? Owl never let you leave until you do. Please, stop struggling. Just give in, it’ll be pheasanter that way. Look, I’ll even throw in the review score.
Disclaimer: Aviary Attorney was reviewed on PC via Steam, with a copy provided by the developer.