- The Washington Times - Saturday, February 9, 2008

Superheroes and cartoon characters have become integral parts of the electronic entertainment industry. Around the world, youngsters and guys who can’t get dates spend countless hours in front of their computers and video-game systems.

With this in mind, I salute the meld of pop-culture character and Silicon Valley with a look at some …

Comics plugged in

The world’s most famous third-rate-superhero-turned-third-rate-attorney is now a third-rate video-game star (get it?) in Harvey Birdman, Attorney at Law (for PlayStation 2, Rated: Teen, $39.99). Capcom brings Cartoon Network’s twisted Adult Swim animated series to the homes of players stuck in PS2 land and delivers five court cases loaded with colorful stupidity.

What’s the story? From the game manual: “Whether Harvey takes the role of Defense or Prosecution, he and the Bird team always stand for truth and justice, even if his client is somehow linked to causing him trouble.

“As part of the law firm of Sebben and Sebben, Birdman is a long way from his days as lower-level superhero who derives his power from the sun. Rest assured that these days, when you hire Harvey Birdman, you are dealing with a mid- to lower-level attorney who derives his power from a crippling addiction to tanning creme.”

Characters’ character: For those unfamiliar with the animated show that ran between 2000 and 2007, creator William Street’s “Harvey Birdman, Attorney at Law” re-imagines personalities from the 1960s cartoons of Hanna Barbera and places them in a more mature, very tongue-in-cheek, legal drama.

Developer High Voltage’s game design mirrors the on-screen madcap world of Birdman and his associates by building interactive episodes of the animated series.

Famed principal characters from the television show seen in the cases include trusted bird sidekick Avenger, Peanut (Birdboy), Birdgirl, Gigi (Gravity Girl of the Galaxy Trio), Peter Potamus and Vulturo (one of Birdman’s original supervillains) along with legends such as Magilla Gorilla, Secret Squirrel, Pixie and Dixie and Yakky Doodle.

Within the silly cerebral action, the player spends all of his time clicking to make decisions, be it to visit X the Eliminator’s bedroom, to collect a tube of mask balm or to interrogate the Deadly Duplicator.

Time is spent exploring locations to add items into an inventory and presenting the evidence in a courtroom between the multiple-choice questioning of witnesses.

Those who choose the correct sequence of actions will continue to unlock the cartoon, laugh, gain Gravitas save points and eventually win the case.

Knuckleheads who pick the wrong statements or present the wrong evidence eventually run out of points and are mocked for being losers.

The actual show’s writers are onboard to deliver the episodic plots, and almost every member of the cartoon’s voice-over cast returns to bring the action to life.

That is sans the mighty Stephen Colbert, who apparently thinks he is just too good to allow his pseudo-intellectual warblings to be part of a video game.

How would Lt. Frank Drebin fare? Because the game relies on the most twisted of logic bases, the famed case solver found the title right up his alley. The stress-free decision-making is accomplished through a simple click of the controller or the use of a directional pad to highlight evidence. All the fun is delivered without the worry of having to slaughter, climb or jump over anyone or anything.

Parental blood-pressure meter: 125/90, slightly high. The mixture of sophomoric and scatological moments peppered with quadruple entendres by Phil Ken Sebbens (co-founder of the law firm) will cause even the most conservative gamers at least to break out in a grin. No blood or violence here, just inappropriate behavior by Gigi and upchucking by Judge Hiram Mightor.

Read all about it? Those enamored of the original world of the Birdman, created by the legendary comics powerhouse Alex Toth, will find him in four issues of the 1960s title Hanna-Barbera Super TV Heroes (averaging $100 each in near-mint condition) and Nos. 5 and 9 from DC Comics’ Cartoon Network Presents ($3 each in near-mint condition).

What’s it worth? It’s a mixed verdict from this court. Fans of the show basically get to construct five new episodes and bathe in what made the series so darn funny. The average player will find the game egregiously short and lacking in any sort of adrenaline-building excitement.

Visit Zadzooks at the blog section of The Washington Times’ Web site (https://video1.washingtontimes.com/zadzooks) for a review of Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games. Call 202/636-3016, fax 202/269-1853, e-mail jszadkowski@washingtontimes.com, visit Zadzooks at the blog section of The Washington Times’ Web site (https://video1.washingtontimes.com/zadzooks) or write to Joseph Szadkowski at The Washington Times, 3600 New York Ave. NE, Washington, DC 20002.

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