Aviary Attorney is a lawyer/investigation game with some beautifully hand-drawn art and an interesting story

I've been following Aviary Attorney for a little while now and from the previews I knew I would most likely enjoy it. What I didn't expect is that I would be so enthralled I would complete it in single sitting.

Aviary Attorney is a visually stunning game that follows the stories of Monsieur Falcon and his witty partner Sparrowson as they take on court cases in 19th century Paris and try their very best to bumble towards justice. The gameplay is split up in to two parts, in one you gather clues and interview individuals related to your case and in the other you present that information in a court of law in an effort to free your client from guilt.

 

A simple premise but there are plenty of choices to make that will impact how the entire proceedings will go, including ones that lead to you losing and a potentially innocent man getting executed for a crime he didn't commit just because you couldn't connect the dots properly. A scary thought isn't it?

During the information gathering phase you are able to visit various locations in Paris as you search for clues but be warned, you only have a limited amount of avenues you can explore before the time's up and the courtroom assembled. If you don't chose your locations wisely and carefully you might just find yourself entering court with no actual evidence and only elaborate theories which unsurprisingly don't hold up to scrutiny.

Aviary Attorney has a well done depiction of 19th century Paris

A rather well done rendition of 19th century Paris

Once you decide on a location you will either be able to interview various characters or engage in some good old-fashioned detective work which in the case of Aviary Attorney means mousing over every pixel of the screen trying to see if anything lights up for your two characters to comment on. Personally I would've preferred this done in a somewhat different fashion, one where you can actually overlook evidence, but given how important these items tend to be for the overall narrative, not just the court case, I can understand why they made them accessible.

The evidence, among other items and character bios, goes in to a special container you can reference at any time if you need a hand recalling which French sounding name belongs to whom. Its a great idea because the later cases can have an overwhelming amount of characters and items involved so its handy to be able to take a look at them at any time.

The one thing I don't like however is that there is no notes system in a game with puzzles this complex. By the final case I had fully scribbled over two A4 papers in an effort to keep tabs on all of the information that might end up being relevant to the case I'm working on. For example, someone might mention off-handedly that they entered from the West side while explaining something important to you only for the whole story to end up being irrelevant besides the fact that he came in from the West.

So after doing an hour of interviews after that moment you might completely forget about this one small detail that would tear a massive hole in the prosecutor's case and set your client free. This is why a note system would be invaluable in Aviary Attorney but sadly it isn't present. Let's face it, this is a minor quibble as you can just use a piece of paper but it would've been a very good thing to have regardless.

Aviary Attorney keeps track of all the evidence so you don't have to

I'd suggest you browse through your evidence locker often so you don't miss any important connections

Besides snooping around for evidence you can also conduct the far more interesting interviews with the rather unique and well characterized "people" that inhabit the world of Aviary Attorney. In a contrast to the very controlled nature of detective work the game lets you loose with interviews, allowing you to pressure people on what you feel are half-truths or lies with potentially disastrous results if one of the key witnesses for your case ends up either hating you or refusing to give you much needed information because you went about the whole thing the wrong way.

Besides the actual court room battles this is my favorite part of Aviary Attorney as the characters are really well done and hard to get a read on with just a single conversation. One of my most embarrassing moments was when I blindly trusted a character who I figured is completely honest only to realize that I just got screwed over and got an innocent man to rot in prison because of it. It was a very sobering moment that made me realize just how hard it actually is to be a good lawyer.

On the topic of characters I have to commend the writing because it is just excellent and does such a great job of immersing you in to the world. As mentioned above the whole story takes place in Paris on the eve of the revolution and you can really see the divide between the nobility and common folk through their words and mannerisms as you talk to them. 

So don't let the fact that the characters are humanoid animals discourage you from taking Aviary Attorney seriously because beneath the cheerful veneer is a tale of the chaos and injustice the people of Paris felt while living in abject poverty, constantly looking towards the rich nobility that did nothing for them.

Aviary Attorney shows the disparity between the poor citizenship and the rich nobles

A group of beggars right in front of a rather big villa, a sign of the times

But despite the undertones throughout the game being very serious in nature, Aviary Attorney is still a lighthearted game filled tons of jokes and witticisms. I have to give special mention to all of the puns your assistant Sparrowson manages to cram in to almost every observation he makes. Despite the pun being the lowest form of comedy, just above fart jokes, I still have to admit I laughed way more times that I expected I would simply because the delivery and timing of the joke was spot on.

And speaking of Sparrowson, both him and Falcon are introduced as the classic talentless bumbling fools but through the Aviary Attorney's 6 or so hour run-time you will get know them a lot better as actual people with weaknesses and strengths rather than simple caricatures. The same goes for your "opponents", the prosecution. When you first meet them all you will see is a mean spirited arch rival of yours but they end up being actual fully-fleshed out characters with their own goals and ideals besides simply beating you down in the court of law.

All of this characterization is done through some rather subtle dialogue weaved in with the overall narrative and interviews so you will never feel like you're having a giant pile of exposition dumped on you, but rather just slowly realize some things through pauses in speech and the ways characters "move". 

Your assistant in Aviary Attorney, Sparrowson provides an endless stream of jokes and puns

That pun is just fowl

Speaking of movement, it is the presentation of the game I would like to talk about next. If you ever needed an example of why works should enter the public domain you have it right here. The art style in Aviary Attorney is inspired by J.J.Grandville's work (and when I say inspired I mean heavily inspired) and the music is by an actual composer of the era, Camille Saint-Saëns. 

Besides simply looking and sounding great all of this adds a certain note of authenticity to the whole experience and it makes the world feel alive, with you a part of it. Aviary Attorney would still be a good game without its current presentation but with it included its far greater than the simple sum of its parts. Which leads me to another section of gameplay, the court battles.

Aviary Attorney's depiction of the king of France

Ladies and gentlemen, the king of France

These court battles are by far and wide the most interesting parts of the game, combining all of Aviary Attorney's strengths in one single package: tough puzzles, great dialogue, some rather extravagant characters and heavy choices with real consequences.

The gameplay in this section is focused around presenting evidence and cross-examining witnesses both you and the prosecution can bring to the stage. After they deliver their testimony you need to point out what connections you made and present evidence supporting your claims which if done successfully will earn you favor with the jury.

However, if you spend too much time bumbling around or present your evidence poorly you can end up being penalized by the judge and the jury will look at you and your client as fools. This is where the majority of your brainpower will be required since you will need to use all of those little clues you've found out before in order to find holes in the prosecution's case which works great as a system but does suffer from one problem.

You cannot back out of cross-examining a witness until you either mess up horribly or chose the "correct" option which makes the trial go forward. Its a bit sad that in a game that otherwise has excellent puzzles there aren't any real red-herring witnesses where you simply have no reason to poke any of their statements and where doing so would get you ridiculed.

But other than that the court cases are exciting and filled with various twists and turns a wise detective would know are coming. I especially love the idea that you can fail, or even succeed for the wrong man and even though "justice" was served that day end up feeling like the biggest idiot in the world. I would love to talk about about in detail but I'll instead let you experience these things on your own.

Aviary Attorney has some tense battles in the courtroom

He may have a stick up his arse but you have to respect the uhh... rooster

As I said, I expected I would like Aviary Attorney but I honestly didn't think I would like it this much. Besides a couple of niggling little flaws and its runtime being somewhat short at around 6 hours I don't have much to complain about Aviary Attorney. It is a very condensed experience that says and does exactly what it was meant to.

If you like good characters and stories, or just enjoy a well made puzzle, then I can fully recommend Aviary Attorney to you, especially given that the price is rather low for what I feel is exceptionally well done game.

You can grab Aviary Attorney over at Steam.

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