Winging it in the Courtroom
Aviary Attorney is a courtroom visual novel set in 1840s France, where Paris is on the brink of revolution and revolt with the bourgeois (literal) fat cats sit on top and the peasants below. You play as the lavishly dressed defense attorney JayJay Falcon, along with his witty apprentice Sparrowson. The two face a number of court cases that require a sharp eye for justice. The narrative in Aviary Attorney takes place over four seemingly unrelated trials. You get to travel around Paris collecting evidence, speaking to witnesses and then you must defend your client in the courtroom and bring justice to the city.
One of the first aspects of Aviary Attorney that is pretty noticeable are the characters in pretty extravagant attire; birds in waistcoats, kittens in bonnets. This striking art style of the game is taken from the caricaturist works of J.J. Grandville. Sketchy Logic has found these beautifully detailed portraits and breathed life into them. Through small animations; the movements of the character’s mouths (beaks, snouts, the lot), the blinking of eyes and the movements of focus when each character is talking brings the static 2D portraits to life. It’s really effective and gives the characters energy.
Eccentric looking characters need eccentric personalities and Aviary Attorney delivers the comedy. A personal favorite of mine is the King of France, a regal penguin called Louis-Philippe who loves courtroom drama, which is perhaps a shared quality with the player. With a diverse group of characters, be prepared for animal puns, witty dialogue (the quips delivered by Sparrowson are priceless) and some lurking highbrow wisecracks; comedy for both proletariat and bourgeois tastes.
Balancing the comedy are some pretty hefty drama bombs and ball busting courtroom scenes with added romantic-era dramatic orchestral music. A number of players have been comparing Aviary Attorney to its human counterpart Ace Attorney in terms of its story having elements of both comedy and drama in a courtroom setting. However, what makes Aviary Attorney different is that there are multiple scenarios to each case that directly affect the narrative. If you get your client a guilty verdict, the game will continue with those consequences. This not only creates massive replay value, but tension as well. Several times I had overlooked a piece of evidence and gone into trial, my fate of a guilty verdict already sealed. Choosing where to go, who to talk to could determine how prepared you are for trial. During court, pieces of testimony and presentation of evidence have to be cleverly handled to make a strong argument. There is risk and challenge to the game with the courtroom outcomes affecting the story and also the outcome of the game. With tensions high between social classes a guilty or not guilty verdict could tip Paris over the brink of revolution.
Hitting double its goal on its Kickstarter campaign, Aviary Attorney had a lot of ambition that was mostly realized. But even with some hiccups being quickly resolved after its release there still remain some small bugs, but being made by a two-person team, these issues are often inevitable. Despite this, Aviary Attorney is quite a feat, and by no means do these bugs get in the way of enjoying the game.
Aviary Attorney is a great courtroom adventure game, with a compelling story, colorful characters and rich music. It is a little pricey given its length, but with the talk of future bonus chapters and updates it would be an injustice not to play it. It’s available for Windows and Mac via Steam.