STAFF REVIEW of Edna & Harvey: The Breakout - Anniversary Edition (Xbox One)

Friday, July 10, 2020.
by Adam Dileva

Edna & Harvey: The Breakout - Anniversary Edition Box art I’m grateful that I got to grow up in the age of gaming that I did. Some of my fondest gaming memories are from my childhood, with quite a few of them from the classic point-and-click adventure games that used to be so popular back in the day. I’d spend countless hours with classics like Maniac Mansion, The Secret of Monkey Island, Sam & Max, Full Throttle, Grim Fandango, Day of the Tentacle and many others. While the genre definitely hit its peak in the 90’s, there’s been very few releases lately save for the odd one here and there, as it’s simply not as popular as it once was.

Developer Daedalic Entertainment seems to have missed the genre as well, as one of their first developed games was Edna & Harvey back in 2008, a small point-and-click adventure game that many may not have played, but it certainly had a following. Twelve years after its initial release, Edna & Harvey: The Breakout – Anniversary Edition is finally here for console players to enjoy that have missed the long lost genre. While I don’t understand the importance of a 12th year anniversary, never the less, here we are, complete with new visuals and control scheme.

Edna wakes up from a slumber, only to realize she has no memory of what’s happened or why she’s in a padded room, something that clearly resembles a mental asylum. She has no idea how she got in there, or why, but she’s determined to find a way out, alongside her companion Harvey, her blue plushy rabbit that also speaks. Is she crazy? Maybe.

As Edna goes along her adventure to figure out what has happened, you’ll meet a wide cast of characters along the way that are also locked inside the sanitarium, some of which are clearly insane and absolutely belong within its locked and confined walls. Why is everyone locked in though? Why do certain things remind you of your father and past? Why is Edna talking to nearly every inanimate object she comes across? How is she travelling back in time to her childhood and reliving certain traumatic experiences? If you’re very clever and can figure out the numerous puzzles laid out before you, or have a really good walkthough you found online because you became stuck at nearly every turn, then you’ll find out soon enough.

Just like the classics before it, Edna & Harvey: The Breakout – Anniversary Edition is clearly inspired by the tried and true mechanics of being able to take, look, talk to and interact with nearly every object in each scene. This is where your crazy journey begins, as it’s up to you to figure out how to progress with every puzzle set before you.

If you managed to play the original release, you’ll be happy to know that the visuals have been completely redone from the ground up and look much improved. Everything is still hand drawn, but is much cleaner and easier to discern overall. For those wanting to experience the classic game, you can easily switch between modern or classic visuals at any time in the menu, but it takes a few moments to switch, so don’t expect any instant swapping back and forth to compare like we’ve come to expect from the Halo Remaster with the same trick.

The controls have also been improved overall, as most games in the genre have a box along the bottom of the screen with all your options and commands, but in this Anniversary Edition, instead there’s a radial menu when you click on an object, so you have all the options you need close by. It works, and it’s not terrible by any means, but it still feels clunky, especially when you need to combine items or are trying to select a specific object in a crowded scene.

Each scene will have a small dot on any object or person that can be interacted with. It’s up to you if you want to try and ‘take’ the item, ‘use’ it, talk to it or simply look and inspect. Characters are the same, and when you try asinine things, like trying to ‘take’ a person or use something absurd, there’s always some sort of witty one-liner from Edna. Scenes can have a lot of objects and characters that can be interacted with though, so you’re going to be spending a lot of time looking at, trying to use and combine items, attempting to find a clue to how you’re supposed to progress in your current puzzle. Given the amount of hours of trial and error and eventually becoming stuck numerous times I had to deal with, you could easily spend a dozen or two hours with Edna, though I would have never finished it without a walkthrough, as some of the puzzles are extremely obtuse or vague.

While every puzzle has a clue hidden somewhere to solve it, sometimes you’d really have to think outside of the box to make the connections. Factor in that every object isn’t always used for a puzzle, or that you may need to talk to a person multiple times to progress, you’re going to become stumped for prolonged periods of time, not even factoring in the aimless wandering from room to room you’ll do, as there’s lots of back and forth backtracking to get from one end of the sanitarium to the other. While old school fans of the genre will probably enjoy the completely and challenge, it can become a bit much at times for those that may be rusty or novices.

The other major issue comes with its dialogue. When you're talking to someone and given the option to reply, there's a certain amount of responses you can choose from, each in their own box. This would normally be fine, except for the fact there's no indicator or highlighting to show which one of the responses you're actually choosing. This means if you want to choose the third response down, you need hit down twice (as you obviously default to the top selection) and then hit 'A' to choose it. My guess is that it's an oversight from porting from the PC where you'd simply click on the box you want with your cursor, but when you want to choose the seventh option down, it's annoying to have to count aloud how many times you're pressing down so that you don't choose the wrong selection.

When comparing the new and old art style, it’s clear that a lot of work went into redrawing every scene and character, as even Edna looks much better with this new coat of paint. The coloring and palette seems much brighter overall and almost like some sort of cartoon you’d watch on a popular YouTube show. At the same time, animations have also improved, but there’s lots of ‘jankyness’ to some scenes. Sometimes the movement of characters are quite fluid, whereas other times it’s quite noticeable that it’s not as fluid as it should be, sometimes missing animations altogether.

The writing is quite good and there’s a hefty amount of dialogue within, much more than I was expecting for a small indie-looking title. I was happy to see that all of the dialogue was also voiced as well, which is a great touch. The voice acting for Edna and Harvey are excellent and the supporting cast did a decent job overall as well. With tons of wacky characters and plenty of witty writing, there’s more than a few laughs to be had throughout Edna’s journey to the truth. The setting may seem a little serious at first, but contains quite a bit of humor from start to finish, even when things turn quite dark.

I miss old school point-and-click adventures and forgot how much until I got to experience Edna & Harvey: The Breakout – Anniversary Edition. While it isn’t without its faults, they are easy to forgive when fans of the genre like myself are so starved for anything new to release. While simply putting a new coat of paint on decade old game won’t make it sit amongst the greats, it was an entertaining and peculiar experience filled with laughs and giggles I’m glad I got to experience, even if I had to look up a walkthough more than a few times to see the credits roll.

Overall: 7.7 / 10
Gameplay: 7.0 / 10
Visuals: 7.5 / 10
Sound: 7.5 / 10


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