A Frustrating Return To Form
HIGH The updated art style is bright, colorful and cartoonish.
LOW Getting stuck after missing an item.
WTF Using toenails to unscrew screws.
At its peak, the point-and click-genre was a successful and prevalent one. With origins in PC gaming, players would perform actions by using the mouse to point and click on objects and characters, and through conversation and item manipulation would solve puzzles to progress. I was a fan of this genre and spent time with classics such as Broken Sword and Discworld, but the genre’s popularity faded and they’re not nearly as common as they used to be.
Edna & Harvey: The Breakout was originally released in 2008, developed by Daedelic Studios. This anniversary edition sees its introduction to consoles with overhauled HD visuals.
The player controls Edna, a girl incarcerated in a mental hospital with no memory of why she’s there. She’s got a talking toy rabbit named Harvey alongside her, and together they must escape the hospital whilst solving the mystery of why she was locked up in the first place.
Mechanically, players will make their way through a series of static 2D environments, solving puzzles through character interaction and object manipulation, all of it squarely in line with the conventions of the point-and-click genre.
The first thing that struck me with Edna & Harvey were the visuals — everything sports a clear, colorful, hand-drawn style that’s similar to a kids’ cartoon. For fans of this aesthetic, this is appealing.
While the characters have a minimal amount of animation, the movements they do have are expressive and full of personality.
The backgrounds (again, usually static) are well-drawn and easy to navigate, and for those curious about the original, there’s an option to revert to the classic graphics. Doing so makes clear how substantial the overhaul was, and while it still looked great in its own way, I stuck with the modern version.
The game is fully voice-acted, and for most part the performances sound great. Edna & Harvey is a quirky title with an odd atmosphere, and the voicework reflects this. I particularly enjoyed the back-and-forth between Edna and Harvey, and the game’s self-aware sense of humor that recognizes what an odd relationship they have.
The script often breaks the fourth wall and uses meta-humour, frequently indulging in surreal and bizarre situations. Some of it lands, but it just as often misses the mark or feels weird for the sake of weirdness.
Jokes that whiff are one thing, but I’ll be clear in saying that this is not the game to look to for accurate representations of mental illness. The subject is definitely played for laughs and features stereotypical depictions of mental hospital patients as crazy by portraying characters wearing capes, bee costumes and holding coat hangers. I found it somewhat problematic as it reinforces the notion that mental illness isn’t something to be taken seriously.
Alongside this issue, the tone in Edna & Harvey can be inconsistent and it goes to dark places with its humor, featuring such content as child murder and a hanging. I have no problem with darkness, but these instances felt out-of-place with the rest of the game. Overall I found the story involving enough to see the central mystery play out, but the payoff was predictable.
My other issues with Edna & Harvey stem from gameplay. As a console port, the player has to contend with the interface being originally mouse-based. It’s tough to translate to controllers, and that’s true here.
In this scheme, the player uses the left stick to move Edna and uses the right to choose between items of interest or characters on the screen. After clicking on these, the player is then presented with more icons that represent options such as talking to, taking or using. It’s a system that feels sluggish and frustrating, and this frustration is deepened by the puzzles.
In truly ‘classic’ point-and-click fashion, the puzzles are sometimes satisfying to solve, but they mostly lack logic — it’s common to randomly click around in an effort to make something happen, and it’s necessary to check all points of interest in each area to avoid missing key items. For those who like their point-and-clicks how they used to make ’em, this is par for the course. That said, in the years since the genre faded away, I’ve lost a lot of patience for this kind of play.
Whilst Edna & Harvey: The Breakout – Anniversary Edition does have some mechanical and design problems on top of the inconsistent tone and humor, I can’t say that I didn’t enjoy my time with it — the issues I had stem more from the genre as it was more than a decade ago, and the fact that I have lost patience for its foibles. However, for players who enjoy the classic flavor of the genre and its often-maddening conventions, this one is sure to satisfy.
Disclosures: This game is developed and published by Daedalic Entertainment. It is currently available on XBO, PS4, Switch and PC.This copy of the game was obtained via publisher and reviewed on the PS4 Pro. Approximately 12 hours of play were devoted to the single-player mode, and the game was completed. There are no multiplayer modes.
Parents: According to the ESRB, this game is rated T and contains Blood and Gore, Use of Tobacco and Violence. The official ESRB description reads as follows: This is a “point-and-click” adventure game in which players help a young girl (Edna) and her stuffed rabbit doll escape from a mental institution. Players can solve puzzles, interact with characters, and search for clues as they piece together the storyline. Despite the game’s stylized and cartoonlike art style, there are some depictions of violent acts/images: a girl pushing a boy down a flight of stairs; the body of a man hanging from rafters; a dead body with a small pool of blood. One still-frame image depicts a man holding a power saw above a young character whose limbs and lower body are dismembered (i.e., a cartoonlike still frame with no interaction). During the course of the game, characters are sometimes depicted smoking cigarettes or pipes.
Colorblind Modes: There are no colorblind modes.
Deaf & Hard of Hearing Gamers: The game is fully subtitled, however, the text cannot be resized or recolored. This sometimes means that the dialogue can be a little tricky to read because of how colorful the game generally is. Otherwise, it seems accessible.
Remappable Controls: No, this game’s controls are not remappable. This game does not offer a controller diagram, but movement is on the left stick. The right stick is used to switch between items or people of interest. A selection of actions is brought up by X. Default action is Square. Inventory selection uses the L1 and R1 buttons. Inventory is L2. In the Inventory, item selection is Triangle.