Paris, 1848. Revolution is stirring. Murmurs of civil unrest hang heavy in the drawing rooms of the elite. Worst of all, a frog has been murdered. Enter Jayjay Falcon, a defence lawyer of the avian persuasion. Together with his bird-brained sidekick Sparrowson, he must gather evidence to defend his similarly-anthropomorphised animal clients and bring justice to the streets of Paris!
Heavily inspired by Capcom's Ace Attorney series, Aviary Attorney: Definitive Edition sets its own visual novel in the law courts of revolutionary Paris. You’ll guide your feathered friends through the entire process of gathering evidence, interviewing eyewitnesses, and piecing together exactly what happened in each of the cases, before heading to court. There, you’ll have the opportunity to cross-examine suspects and deliver your best evidence to get your client off the hook – or not, if you fell for the red herrings laid carefully by the prosecution or the useless witnesses you spent too long interviewing for little gain.
We all know how an Ace Attorney-like will play, but Aviary Attorney: Definitive Edition's charm comes from its setting and style. The distinctive art all comes from legitimate 19th-century illustrations of French caricaturist J. J. Grandville. He created every anthropomorphised aristocrat, every preening prosecutor, and even the penguin-King of France himself. Nearly 200 years after Les Métamorphoses du jour was published, developers Jeremy Noghani and Mandy Lennon set about animating them and creating a legal game for those characters to explore.
The score similarly combines works from the period, and the more classically-minded among you may recognise the romantic notes of Berlioz, Chopin, or Camille Saint-Saëns lilting through the sepia screen. While it takes a back seat in your journey, it helps build the world of Paris in 1848; a fitting accompaniment to the troubles of the well-to-do establishment you’re investigating.
However, standing out from all the 19th-century charm is a modern wit that it is really, really, funny. Whether it’s the barrage of bird puns, Sparrowson’s inability to think about anything other than food, or just a really grumpy donkey librarian, the writing is witty and clever, without ever coming across as contrived. Modern references to Twitter and “Face Book” stick out from the revolutionary setting like a sore thumb, but that only makes them funnier.
What’s more, you’ll find different interviewees in every playthrough, as well as uncover evidence that you missed or trigger a different one of the game’s three endings. While the gameplay is relaxed and chilled out, the investigations are twisting and surprisingly complex. And yet, despite taking copious notes throughout our playthrough and actively trying to take opposite choices on a second playthrough, we somehow ended up playing through the same ending.
But, this didn’t bother us too much. We’d talked to different witnesses, we’d discovered new truths, but we’d ended up in the same place. Perhaps more time should be left between subsequent playthroughs, so you forget any supposed truths you learned from the last. Whichever way you go about it, there is so much to do, and therefore so much to miss, that you’ll want to go through it all again just as soon as you finish.
As a bonus for Nintendo Switch players, the Switch port of Aviary Attorney is a revised “Definitive Edition” of the game. Firstly, this means that all of the images have been sharpened and redrawn and a small “medal” system of achievements has been introduced, as well as a jukebox to listen to all those classical bangers whenever you want. We’re not sure that this game is going to turn the Switch into the next iPod, but it’s a nice addition nonetheless. An art gallery that places the cast in their natural habitats and a dyslexic-friendly font round out the “definitive” updates. Most of these upgrades do little to justify the additional five pounds on the price tag, although accessibility improvements are always welcome.
Aviary Attorney is well worth picking up, just so you can take your legal cases on the move and continue your cross-examination in handheld mode. Just be wary of playing on your commute – as you may be on the receiving end of some funny glances when you let out an inevitable chuckle at a stupid bird pun. And you might get even stranger looks if you try to explain the whole concept to the oblivious commuter who you disturbed.