Game Review | Aviary Attorney
You can't just wing it...
Game summary: The year is 1848. Paris is on the brink of yet another revolution, and the prisons are overflowing with guilty and innocent alike. One man stands for justice amid society's chaos. No. One bird... (Steam)
Aviary Attorney is one of those games that prove to be frustrating due to how much potential the game had to be amazing and failing to live up that potential. There's so much good in the game that the fundamental flaws in how the game unfolds feel that much more aggravating than a game that is generally poor all round.
In fact, this game is a perfect example of why I made a post to explain the scoring system I use and link it to every single review: much like my view of The Last Jedi, this is a resounding disappointment (albeit due to entirely different reasons to that movie) rather than it being 'bad'. This game suffers due to strange leaps of logic that can ruin a play-through very early on.
To explain, the game is split into four parts: an introductory case; two further cases; then one of multiple endings depending on what happened in the previous parts, strongly influenced by how part three ends. The first part is a great introduction, with the story advancing quite naturally whether you win or lose - but this is also the only part that feels like the player can really influence.
The second part is where things start to break down, highlighting a lack of developer foresight when it comes to how players might have got to various points. I first gave up on Aviary Attorney when I first bought it years ago in this case because I didn't have a piece of evidence I needed, although I knew what I needed, where to get it and just wasn't allowed the time by the game to get it.
As if that wasn't frustrating enough, the game doesn't take into account that you don't have the evidence and you just have to keep presenting incorrect pieces of evidence over and over again until you lose - hugely annoying when you know you don't have what you need, but know what it is. Yes, you can reload to a previous day in-game and collect the required item/s, but why force the player to do something they know will fail over and over again rather than save time and end proceedings early?
In the third case, this problem of not doing things in the 'correct' order proves even worse. I'm going to provide a spoiler here, because it's really needed: right at the start of part three, Sparrowson presents Falcon with what seems like an inconsequential side quest of little importance and something I imagine most people will think they can do later before wrapping things up.
That line of thought would be entirely incorrect and you absolutely should do Sparrowson's 'mission' before doing anything else to avoid getting locked into the main story early on and ruling out the least bloody ending. Yes, the 'minor' side story that most people would assume has very little relevance to the main story can be pivotal to how part three ends and determining which ending you get in part four.
In essence, Aviary Attorney suffers from often having very specific things to do in a very specific order that often flies in the face of what might seem a logical next step in the story. The biggest issue with these moments is a lack of any indicator to the player about what the 'best' next step is, when a lot of them would require maybe a line of dialogue or two to just hint at what you should do and then any mistakes made would rest entirely on the player.
My advice for how to best play this game would be to have a step-by-step guide open, come to a decision about what you would do next and then compare with what the guide tells you actually leads to the various endings. Cheating? Some might say so, but this is a narrative-driven game and I would argue that anything leading to enjoying the story more is worth it.
To put it even more simply, this game effectively asks you to fill in the blank of '2 _ 2 = 4', to which most people would probably put '+', but Aviary Attorney actually needed 'x' and fails you for getting it wrong. Both might be correct answers, but there's only one correct method of getting to the end that the game allows and that annoyed the shit out of me.
These problems really do detract from what could've otherwise been an excellent game. I love the art style and the music used, the characters are superb with some of the best (unspoken) dialogue I've enjoyed in any game, although this could also do with a proof-read, and it's also incredibly funny at times. Like I said, just use a guide and enjoy spending time with some great characters let down by some bizarre design choices.
Aviary Attorney has such a brilliant set-up, with a fantastic combination of art style and music making for a unique experience, along with some excellent writing for a large number of characters. Such a shame that it's let down by effectively requiring foreknowledge of how the story goes if you want the 'best' ending, which almost brings the entire experience crashing down.