When I think of classic point-and-click adventure games, I think Sam & Max, Kings Quest, Grim Fandango, Full Throttle, Day of the Tentacle—I have to be honest, Edna & Harvey doesn’t even register for me. Granted, those aforementioned games were mostly made popular in the ’90s heyday of point-and-click. Edna & Harvey first stepped onto the scene in 2008, developer Daedalic Entertainment’s first ever title.
Edna & Harvey: The Breakout – Anniversary Edition is a curious title, given that 2020 is the game’s 12th anniversary. I guess any year’s as good as any to have an anniversary and update the game, but it seems an odd choice of name to release on a rather unimportant year. What’s huge is the changes made from the 2008 original, which was served with a much simpler and pixelated look. The Anniversary Edition completely redoes the game’s visuals, giving them a modern “adult cartoon” aesthetic, which I was rather impressed with. You can switch back and forth between graphic styles at any time in the game’s menu.
At the start of Edna & Harvey: The Breakout, you find yourself as Edna, trapped in a padded cell with your talking stuffed rabbit, Harvey. She can’t remember why she’s here, or really anything about her past. In classic point-and-click fashion, the game doesn’t immediately communicate what you are supposed to do, allowing you to toy with a variety of objects and interactions in the environment, gaining context and clues through discovery. A broken chair leg here, talk of a hidden AC vent there. Edna & Harvey isn’t a game that often holds the player’s hand. You’ll need to put together the clues yourself.
Edna & Harvey: The Breakout – Anniversary Edition Review – Locked Up
Once you get out of the initial introduction sequence, featuring Edna’s cell and the Warden’s office, things open up pretty rapidly. This isn’t a guided or linear experience, and you’ll have large swaths of the asylum open to you at any given time, meaning puzzles can span multiple floors, rooms, objects, and characters. I’ll admit, there were a number of times I was glad the game more than a decade old, as I found myself hopelessly lost with ambiguous clues about what to do next. Balancing this genre of game feels like it would be an impossible task, but I do wish this one had a few more central paths and structured puzzles rather than setting Edna loose on the whole asylum and completely leaving discovery up to he player.
Given the asylum-spanning puzzles, I often wished that Edna walked faster. The control scheme sets Edna as your kind of “cursor,” with interactive objects highlighted within her vicinity (which you can then use the right stick to jump between). It’s an intuitive and brilliant control scheme for this style of game on consoles, but with as much back and forth as I had trying to figure out a multitude of puzzles, the slow pace of the character made every bit of backtracking a slog.
That said, the seemingly endless interactions are consistently entertaining. Each object has four options: Use, Take, Talk to, and Look at (as well as being able to use inventory items with any object). The number of objects, interactions, and more specifically, voice lines in Edna & Harvey is staggering. Not everything is part of a puzzle. Not everything is a clue. But there are so many funny little Easter eggs and deeper narrative pieces that tell broader stories about Edna’s fellow patients. It’s rather easy to get completely lost in exploration and interacting with everything you can.
Of course, that’s also a detriment to the rather sprawling and non-linear nature of the puzzles, as it’s very easy to forget what you’ve done, where you need to go next, and what objects you might need as you progress through. Still, for Daedalic’s first swing of the ax at a point-and-click title back in 2008, it’s pretty amazing how well they were able to capture the spirit of the classics. And with the revised visuals, it goes from an amateurish freshman effort to something quite a bit more palatable.
Edna & Harvey: The Breakout – Anniversary Edition Review – Lost in Translation
As with its initial release, however, some of the humor and references do fall short, thanks to some things being lost in translation. It was first developed in Germany as a college project, and while the visuals and gameplay interface received a nice update, the game’s audio was not redone. It’s not that the voice acting is necessarily bad. In fact, I have to commend the voice actors for doing such a great job with the script as it was given to them. Unfortunately the translations for a number of lines and jokes are simply awkward and don’t make sense, at least in English. It also probably doesn’t help that a decade has passed since the original. There are some bizarre moments where I just stared at the screen, wondering what these characters were trying to say. It impacts a couple of puzzles too, at least minorly. It’s not a massive gamebreaking thing, but it does keep Edna & Harvey from joining the old LucasArts classics.
The Anniversary Edition update does a lot to give the game a much needed coat of polish, but it also shines a light on a few of the cut corners the game’s had since the beginning. Animations don’t exist in certain instances, making for rather awkward transitions. The interface may have been updated, but much needed quality of life changes—like the painfully long interactions needed to get into specific sections of the asylum and Edna’s slow walking speed—don’t do much to help with the slog of going back and forth attempting to solve the myriad zany puzzles the game has in store.
Edna & Harvey: The Breakout – Anniversary Edition takes the much maligned English version of the much lauded German original and gives it a fresh coat of paint that feels right at home on modern consoles, yet still retains some of the original problems that kept it from joining the point-and-click pantheon of greats. It’s got a great new art style and a fantastically intuitive console interface, but never breaks out of a kind of plodding mediocrity that keeps it from moving up from being just okay to something better.
Edna & Harvey: The Breakout – Anniversary Edition review code provided by publisher. Reviewed on PlayStation 4. For more information on scoring, please read our Review Policy.