Edna & Harvey – The Breakout: review

Despite waking up in the padded room of an asylum, Edna is sure she isn’t crazy and Harvey (her talking stuffed toy) agrees with her. The scene is set for Edna & Harvey: The Breakout, a point and click adventure game created by Germany based developer Daedalic Entertainment and originally released in several other countries that has finally seen an English translation.

Following the more traditional style of the point and click genre, the game offers up action buttons to dictate whether Edna will use, pick up, look at or talk to any object or person within the game, though the shortcut of right clicking to do the most obvious thing also exists. Interaction never goes beyond these boundaries save for occasional time-based actions being required in certain situations as you explore the 120 rooms.

While the bulk of the game is set within the asylum in which Edna is a patient, there are also sections where Harvey will draw Edna into her past to re-live actions she performed as a child both to help her regain her memory of just why she is trapped, and also to gain ‘skills’ that will help her make progress – such as the ability to bite toenails off and use them to unscrew nails.

Here is the first of many rooms you will find yourself in.

The visual style of the game is that of all characters and backgrounds being drawn by hand. Not particularly well drawn by hand. It’s probably aiming for a particular style (reminiscent of interactive Flash movies from the late 90s) but in a retail release it comes across as slightly sloppy rather than artistic. While others may find it adorable or charming, we found the inconsistencies in quality – and the more than a little shaky sprite movement – a disappointing distraction.

The music and voice acting are the two stand out areas, with the actress playing Edna in particular doing a great job as she jumps between accents or intonations from interaction to interaction, while the score shifts from calming melancholy to eerie wailing medleys befitting the theme of each location well. On occasion Harvey can tend to sound a little too much like Bugs Bunny channelling Roger Rabbit, but that may have been on purpose.

The plot and characters of the asylum are suitably quirky, such as two people of different skin colours that believe they are conjoined twins or a manic depressive that Edna keeps accidentally almost pushing to suicide. There is a heavy slant on comedy and silliness; but still there are darker sides to the plot as you discover the truth about Edna’s past and her connection to Dr. Marcel, the asylum owner.

It’s just as well that the game does fall back on a more serious story as the humour, while funny at first, does wane a little eventually. We put this down to it playing the same angle every time: straight-faced insanity. Saying something stupid or weird without sounding stupid or weird is funny. A few times, at least. The same goes for straight-faced breaking of the fourth wall. But both styles of comedy are far too easy. There are some excellent jokes and observations, but not nearly enough of them.

A similar problem applies to the gameplay. There are two main types of point and click game: those where thinking logically can see you through, and those that have thrown logic out the window and force frequent use of the ‘use everything with everything’ last resort to find a hint on what to do next. Sadly, Edna & Harvey belong in the second column.

To be clear: it is not the same as being stuck by a tricky puzzle that you can eventually think your way out of. It is being stuck because it isn’t clear what to do or how to do it. Beyond the ultimate goal of escaping the asylum, many mini-tasks that you will easily label yourself (such as ‘how to get person A to let you change the TV channel’ or ‘how to get past Person B into the couch fort’) won’t seem to have a greater purpose until eventually you stumble upon the one person in the asylum who details the perfect escape plan; but even after that, individual puzzles still frequently lack logical (and thus achievable) solutions through anything other than guesses.

The last complaint is poor quality assurance within character interactions. It’s possible to get trapped within long-winded conversations that you’ve previously heard despite already moving the story along. For example: you can ask a crazy professor type character if you can borrow his laundry ticket and listen to him explaining why he won’t give it to you, even after he has done so.

Overall, Edna & Harvey: The Breakout lacks significant polish for a full retail release priced at £19.99 (even with soundtrack and poster included) and would have been better served as a cheaper digital release. It may still appeal to dedicated lovers of the genre or those that will fall in love with the visual style or setting (there will be a few), and is a pretty lengthy adventure. The mass market however, and those who expect a higher calibre of game for their money, will need to look elsewhere.

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Written by Ian D

Misanthropic git. Dislikes: Most things. Likes: Obscure references.

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