Justice for Everybird: A Cross-Examination of ‘Aviary Attorney’

"This calls for a celebration! Sparrowson, break out the pinot blanc. Let us party like it’s 1899."
“This calls for a celebration! Sparrowson, break out the pinot blanc. Let us party like it’s 1899.”

The stakes are high. A count has been murdered in cold blood, and you’re defending his business partner’s daughter in court. Things aren’t looking too good on your end, unfortunately, because not only was she found at the scene of the crime, she had blood on her hands! When you get the details from the young lady, it turns out that you have to find as much evidence as possible within the next three days to support your case. Oh, and did I mention that you’re a bird, and the setting is 1840s Paris? Bienvenue. This is Aviary Attorney.

Aviary Attorney was released in December 2015 by the two-person team Sketchy Logic Games one year after the game’s successful Kickstarter campaign. According to the game’s website, Sketchy Logic was inspired to make the game after finding the work of J.J. Grandville, a French caricaturist from the 19th century, and knew what direction to take the art when they saw a picture of animals at court.

The game is heavily inspired by Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney in both mechanics and design and mixes Grandville’s art, romantic era composer Camille Saint-Saëns, original assets, and a dash of JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure into an unexpected mashup. (Not saying that the “particular Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure [character]” mentioned on the press page is Jotaro Joestar, but it’s totally Jotaro Joestar.) Put simply, it’s Phoenix Wright with talking animals.

But while the game owes its existence to multiple media sources, it manages to combine them into something that stands out on its own. Mandy Lennon, responsible for managing art assets and animating them, did a fantastic job at making everything fit together. I’ll admit that I’m not much of an art critic, but the coherence among the different art styles is done well enough to make my untrained eye believe that the illustrations were always intended for the game, although your mileage may vary.

Aviary Attorney is very obviously a homage to the Ace Attorney series, but it switches up mechanics and plot elements enough to keep it from venturing into clone territory. One notable example is that the game moves on even if you get a guilty verdict, creating a branching plot that features three different endings as opposed to the Ace Attorney games’ static plots.

"{{Red herring}} has been added to your evidence folder."
“{{Red herring}} has been added to your evidence folder.”

Another strength that Aviary Attorney possesses is its ability to keep the game’s overall tone light while dealing with intense topics. One minute, the main characters take a jab at America’s tendency to call pains au chocolat chocolate croissants, and the next they’ll be talking about the brewing revolution that will change French society as they know it. (I’d like to mention that I’m so glad that they tackled the chocolate croissant issue, by the way. Always did make my ass twitch.) The funny talking animals don’t keep you from ruminating on the true definition of justice, but at the same time, the serious moments aren’t a buzzkill.

However, even though Aviary Attorney’s style and story shine, the game’s flow is a mixed bag. Sketchy Logic manages to provide just enough evidence to give you an idea of what’s going on while keeping you on the edge of your seat when it’s crunch time. Sparrowson, the main character’s loyal assistant, is there to give you subtle hints without outright telling you what to do next. Unfortunately, these balanced aspects of gameplay make its unbalanced aspects that much more egregious.

Since there is a certain chain of logic that the game expects you to follow, solving cases feels incredibly easy when you catch on to the game’s prompts, yet frustrating when you don’t. During the first and second cases, you have a decent idea of how much time you have to get your evidence together for the upcoming trial, but the third case misleads you about how much time you have, suddenly throwing you into a trial that you may or may not have the evidence for. (This is the trial that influences what ending you get, to boot!)

"Goodness, no! Business has been terrible ever since the rumors started spreading."
“Goodness, no! Business has been terrible ever since the rumors started spreading.”

In addition, the user interface of an adventure game is crucial to its gameplay, and Aviary Attorney’s UI could stand to have some modifications to ensure a smoother experience. For instance, while you can access character profiles and your inventory during just about every moment in the game, you can’t access them on the map, where you need to decide how to manage your limited time to gather evidence based on what you have so far. Also, while you can change the text speed in the options menu, it’s not possible to quick jump to a certain scene. It is possible to jump to a certain day once you’ve gone through it once, but the events that influence which ending you get all happen on the same day, making this feature moot.

The final verdict? If you’re on board for a fun romp around 1840s Paris with talking animals, you should totally buy the game. On the other hand, if you’re looking for a real brain-flexer that tests your logic, you should probably pass. Aviary Attorney is intended to be a unique, lighthearted take on the Ace Attorney games, and it definitely triumphs in that regard. It just needs some fine-tuning in its technical and gameplay aspects. Overall, I’d give it four out of five “good shit” hands. 👌👌👌👌

Anyway, I’ll be crying at Starbucks because it’s called pain au chocolat, dammit. Drop me a line in the comments section or @LongLiveMelKing if you have a strong opinions about bird law and pastries; my personal assistant will pass it on. Haha, just kidding. I’m too broke to have a personal assistant or go to Starbucks. Them’s the breaks. Much thanks to Sketchy Logic Games for providing screenshots and giving me a press code. It’s been magnifique!

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