I’ve tried to keep this review as spoiler free as possible, but if you’d rather go into this game cold, just know that it has my recommendation.
And here we are, my first video game review. Reviewing a game is quite different from reviewing TV, and I am quite inexperienced at it, so please give any constructive criticism (or snarky insults) in the comments. For my first review, I have chosen Aviary Attorney, a game that I must, for the interests of avoiding controversy, I backed on Kickstarter, although this should not make me bias towards this game (if anything, it might make me harsher towards it).
The game follows an attorney: JayJay Falcon, and his assistant Sparrowson (both of whom are birds, in case I forget to mention (no prizes for guessing which species)), as they go around 19th Century Paris solving crimes and meeting interesting people. Yes, I know it sounds like a carbon clone of Ace Attorney, but trust me, it’s not, for better and for worse.
Let’s start with the good stuff. Visually and musically, the game is fantastic. It uses art from caricaturist J.J. Grandville, who drew the objects of his ridicule as anthropomorphic animals, and features music from composer Camille Saint-Saëns, who is perhaps most famous for the Danse Macabre (which is criminally under-utilized here), as well as the Carnival of the Animals. The art and music give the game a really unique flair – as much as I love Ace Attorney, its anime stylings can get a bit dull (Athena Cykes is not great character design), whereas this game has a feel of its own.
The writing is similarly inspired – the game made me laugh out loud on several occasions, and the plot has a nice way of keeping each case feeling unique, while tying everything into the feeling of discontent and revolution that is brewing in Paris. Each of the characters you meet while out and about feel different, and the game is able to strike a nice balance between its comedic scenes and its darker moments.
The gameplay falls into a middle ground for me. The game is split into trial sections and investigations. The trial portions are, as I’ll get into soon, slightly rushed and a bit easy. If the trials in Ace Attorney are your favourite parts, you might end up a bit disappointed – thrilling courtroom turnabouts are conspicuously absent here. The investigation sequences are much better, with an interesting mechanic that puts a time limit on your gathering of clues that could lead to a situation where you are unprepared in court. This can also lead to some frustration if you only miss out on one clue, but you still have to replay all of Case Three, because you forgot one thing.
My biggest gripe with the game, however, concerns the pacing. The game is way too short, tries to tackle too many things in a short space of time, and is missing an ending, meaning that at the time of writing, I am unable to complete it. The endings that are there, however, are rushed and feel insubstantial, much like the court scenes. The mysteries are often childishly simple once you have the clues, and at times I found myself skipping through dialogue just to use evidence I knew was about to be used, shortening an already short game. The themes of revolution and justice are well built up, but without a third ending, and with the endings that are there being short and having characters do completely out of character things, those well built up themes have nowhere to go.
I really enjoyed playing Aviary Attorney, and would certainly recommend it to those who are interested, but looking back, it has left me slightly cold. Playing it rarely feels like a slog, and I can see the passion that went into this project, but I can’t in good conscience call it anything better than ‘good’.