By: Brian Gunn
Aviary Attorney is a bit of an odd bird, combining an Ace Attorney style game with the public domain artwork of an artist that died nearly 200 years ago. It’s an idea so unique that it could only be brought to life via Kickstarter.
Like a lot of visual novels, Aviary Attorney has simple controls. The majority of the interaction is just pressing a button to go through dialogue along with the occasional choice and map selection, all handled well. The only issue I’d take with the title is the lack of a fast forward or skip option that would be useful when replaying scenes.
J.J. Grandville was a 19th century French artist known largely for his realistic depictions of animals as humanoids, and somehow he has found his art front and center in a video game. Almost all of Aviary Attorney‘s assets are from his work, and they create a unique look.
Everything is drawn on yellow paper in black ink, and both characters and backgrounds are detailed to a ridiculous degree. Developers Sketchy Logic are a little hamstrung by being so faithful though, as they have a modest set of characters to work with as well as limited animations.
Aviary Attorney also owes a lot of music to artists of the same time period, though it isn’t focused on one in particular like the art style is. Camille Saint-Saens is the primary representative of the Romantic era on the soundtrack, though a handful of others join him as well.
A lot of it is classical music people will be familiar with from dozens of movies, and it ranges from the amusing to the operatic. That being said, there are a few tunes that don’t feel like the best choices for character themes or dramatic moments, and they could have used a few original tracks.
If you’ve played a Phoenix Wright game before, you’ll largely know what to expect in Aviary Attorney. Jayjay Falcon is the lead character, a generally good but down on his luck defense attorney in France, and his assistant, the bird-brained Sparrowson, is always by his side to steal the show.
In the world of the game, everyone is some sort of upright animal in fancy clothes, ranging from predator to prey. You can expect a lot of “so bad they’re good” animal puns throughout as Jayjay takes on a handful of cases to prove his clients’ innocence. You’ll need to visit the scene of the crime, talk to witnesses and poke holes in the testimony and tactics of the prosecutors.
The big difference between this game and the series it was inspired by is that you can actually fail. The story will simply continue on with your client being declared guilty, which leads to a handful of unique scenes and three different final acts. Get a client freed in an early case, and perhaps he might be able to lend a hand as the game progresses.
In order to get your clients declared innocent, you’ll need to manage time effectively. Each court case has a looming deadline for the player and a handful of map locations to visit, each usually accounting for an entire day’s activities. Players will need to plan ahead by what appears important, as wasting time can lead to missing evidence.
The overall story involves the French Revolution bubbling up and eventually exploding, enveloping the lives of the primary characters. While the game is humorous, as it does star a bird, it actually handles the dramatic moments quite well, with some genuine twists and turns I did not expect. The writing is clever, ranging from groan-worthy puns and self-aware jokes to some nearly surreal moments.
Sadly, Aviary Attorney is a bit on the short side. Normally I don’t care for length as a measurement, but I found myself charmed by the world and wanted to spend more time there. Cases feel solved rather quickly, especially in the trial sequences where there’s not a whole lot of back and forth and the solutions feel too simple.
A unique art style, time-management puzzles and clever writing give Aviary Attorney its strengths. While it is in the shadow of a more well-known series, it does more than enough to stand on its own as an enjoyable adventure.