Have You Got The Bird Brains?
I’ll admit, when it was announced to the Switch Island group that we had a review code for Aviary Attorney I had absolutely no idea what to expect. I’d never heard of this title before, despite it being released on PC back at the tail end of 2015. The name of the title tickled us all, so a quick internet search later and I was so struck by the art style and the writing I offered to sink my talons into this review. So here we go, I’ll try not to wing it too much…
The story follows a rather inept defence lawyer, Monsieur JayJay Falcon, as he attempts to defend clients and uncover the secrets behind murderous plots and looming revolts in Paris during the mid 19th century. Accompanied by his not so able (but very witty) companion, Sparrowson, the duo set off around Paris gathering evidence and interviewing witnesses for use in their upcoming trials. What these pair lack in experience is made up for with their stoic resolve to see justice served.
Did I mention that our intrepid team are birds? Well they, and the entire cast of characters are a zoological dream of animals based on the works of the 19th century caricaturist J. J. Grandville, and this very splendidly meshes.
Broken into four chapters, the stories main aim is to ensure that justice wins out for each case you take on. The story starts off with a rather simple case of murder, but as you progress the narrative expands to a much more serious tone which explores the 1848 Revolutions that broke out in Paris.
To collect evidence, you traverse a map of Paris selecting where to go and whom to speak with, while a countdown showing the number of days to the next court date looms prominent on the overview map. Sometimes you investigate a crime scene or question a witness and there’s also times you must make questionable choices that require you to step outside the realms of the law.
Depending on what you choose to do, the story can quite often shift in unexpected ways, sometimes in very fowl ways which have serious repercussions for JayJay, Sparrowson and many of the other anthropomorphic ensemble
Some of the locations you select can take up a whole day to visit before you are automatically flown into the next days’ activities which can feel frustrating, so selecting where you want to go is key as you can quite often miss out on important evidence by running out of time, or even worse, collecting red herrings. In one instance this is quite literal.
“I especially liked the word play and modern reference takes used throughout, such as the characters communicating long distance via “tweets” and using a “Face Book” to track different witnesses in a catalogue. “
Once your time is up, the examinations in court begin and these play out in a very similar vein to the Ace Attorney franchise. If you have done your job admirably you can expect to hen-peck your opponents into submission with the facts. Arrive at court ill prepared, and you’ll soon find yourself in the birdhouse, being ridiculed for your lacklustre attempts at trying to drag the case out or for wasting the courts time. Defend successfully and you have a soaring feeling of accomplishment, while losing the case makes you feel like your goose has well and truly been cooked.
The quality of the writing overall is very good and done at such a pace that the game never feels like it begins to drag, even during some of the lengthier periods of evidence hunting. Each character is unique and interesting and left me wanting to learn more about them; JayJay, the resolute and determined falcon who is also vulnerable to becoming a bit of a drinking bird in times of trouble. Sparrowson, the law school dropout who keeps JayJay in check and who has a mouth faster than a Peregrine Falcon. The Kingfisher, who develops a complex when anyone calls him a fisherman. These are a few of my highlights but there is a whole brood of characters in here worthy of your time.
The story is strong, with plenty of plot twists and surprises to keep you entertained and guessing at the outcome, all the while trying to influence the narrative in your homing direction by hopefully making the correct decisions. Sparrowson brings most of the fun to the flock, with great dialogue between himself and JayJay and who has more bird related puns than you can shake a tail feather at.
I especially liked the word play and modern reference takes used throughout, such as the characters communicating long distance via “tweets” and using a “Face Book” to track different witnesses in a catalogue. All this combined made the narrative into a very satisfying and engaging tale.
There were a couple of grammatical errors that I noticed maybe halfway through the game; a word missing from a sentence or words being doubled consecutively in the same sentence, but I found these only to be very briefly distracting and were soon forgotten about. Anyway, enough warbling…
As the game progresses your choices become more and more critical, with each decision shaping your journey into one of the three endings on offer. At the time of writing I had completed ending C, which I feel may be the worst outcome ending as it left me feeling like a right failure and a complete tit, but I’m looking forward to going back now to replay for the other two endings. Thankfully, to play each one out, you can select which chapter and day to start from, to save you migrating all the way back to the beginning of the game.
Using mono-chromatic stills interspersed with subtle animations all based on J. J. Grandville’s paintings, coupled with a romantic-era soundtrack composed by the great Camille Saint-Saëns, the finished style is very charming indeed and each frame and scene is wonderful to look at.
This is a truly remarkable game and really demonstrates what can be achieved by using limited yet high-quality assets. If you have the patience to read text based narratives and you’re not averse to a few bird puns (let’s face it, if you’ve made it this far into the review you can’t mind them that much!) then this is one title I can highly recommended.
I truly hope a sequel or spin off to this is in development. I’d love to see a “Bovine Barrister” or “Arachnid Arbitrator” come to fruition.