By Marty Mulrooney
Edna & Harvey: The Breakout – Anniversary Edition is a remastered version of the 2008 point-and-click adventure game Edna & Harvey: The Breakout (released in English in 2011). Known as Edna bricht aus in Germany – where it began as the university project of Jan Müller-Michaelis aka Poki, co-founder of Daedalic Entertainment – this new Anniversary Edition features high resolution visuals, modernised technology and improved controls.
It has been almost nine years since AMO’s review of Edna & Harvey: The Breakout was published (the English language version was released on this reviewer’s 23rd birthday; I’m now 32). Despite some issues, it’s a game that has stuck with me over the years, ultimately proving itself to be greater than the sum of its parts.
Sure, the difficulty was pretty ridiculous at times (as were the loading times), there were several technical issues/bugs, the multiple endings weren’t particularly satisfying… but I still have extremely fond memories of breaking Edna and her stuffed toy rabbit out of the asylum.
These fond memories are no doubt thanks to the many positive aspects of the original game, such as the charming voice acting of the main characters, the memorable soundtrack, the highly interactive environments, and the surprisingly effective storytelling. All of these elements are present and correct in the Anniversary Edition, while many of the technical issues have now been resolved. The main improvement is the move from the outdated Java game engine – which always caused numerous technical issues and headaches – to the extremely popular Unity game engine.
The strange thing about the redrawn graphics of the Anniversary Edition is that, upon first glance, they probably won’t strike returning players as being particularly different when compared against their memories of the original game. However, going into the menu and switching the ‘Game Mode’ setting from ‘Anniversary’ to ‘Original’ is revelatory – it’s like switching a modern episode of The Simpsons back to the art style used for the very first shorts on The Tracey Ullman Show (the lack of a hotkey to switch quickly between these modes is a massive oversight and a crying shame that will hopefully be patched in at a later date).
Superbly (and faithfully) re-rendered graphics and improved game engine aside, this is the same old Edna & Harvey from 2008… which is both a good thing and a bad thing. The story is a relatively simple one, at least to begin with; a young girl named Edna (who has a stuffed toy rabbit named Harvey that talks to her) must escape from an asylum and find out why its owner – Dr. Marcel – hates her so much.
Along the way, she’ll meet a colourful cast of characters who will both aid her progress and block it. The game’s design is fiendishly clever, with the asylum revealing itself to the player one unlocked section at a time. However, while the sense of exploration and discovery is spot on, the puzzles are more of a mixed bag; for the most part they’re difficult but fair, but there are several convoluted brainteasers that will have players Googling for a walkthrough in frustration.
A hint system would have greatly alleviated some of this frustration and it’s certainly peculiar that Daedalic didn’t include one for the Anniversary Edition – the original game’s difficulty has always been a sticking point. However, plenty of charm and good writing can go a long way. No matter what the player tries to make Edna (or Harvey) do – talk to a door perhaps, or use a coat hanger on a telephone – there is always a suitably hilarious response. Simply exploring the world and being mischievious within it is a constant joy.
Finn Seliger’s soundtrack ties everything neatly together; bouncy and upbeat one minute, melancholy and surprisingly moving the next. The music that plays when Edna is ‘tempomorphing’ into the past to learn a new skill – for example, turning a screw with a chewed off toenail – is a particular highlight, perfectly capturing the warm fuzzy feeling of summers long past. Add to this the colourful graphics and even more colourful characters, and – provided you don’t mind cheating once in a while – this is the perfect way to spend a lazy weekend.
The updated controls have obviously been geared towards gamepads, and testing the Anniversary Edition with an Xbox 360 Wireless Controller for Windows wasn’t an entirely unpleasant experience. When using a gamepad, the left stick moves Edna directly and nearby hotspots can be cycled through. Verbs no longer need to be selected from the bottom of the screen either; there is now a thoroughly modern interaction wheel that pops up when a hotspot is clicked. It all works well enough, but this reviewer personally preferred using a Steam Controller emulating a keyboard and mouse. This allowed the right haptic trackpad to act as the mouse, which felt much more authentic and made it easier to explore each screen.
Before concluding this review, it would be remiss of me not to mention a technical issue that I faced while playing. At one point, I couldn’t get Edna to stab another character’s foot with a fork – even though I remembered doing so back in 2011. As a result, I couldn’t gain information needed to solve another puzzle, so I ended up resorting to a walkthrough to muddle my way through; only then could I use the fork as intended. This puzzle was bugged in the original game in a slightly different way, and it’s disappointing that the Anniversary Edition still has some technical hiccups (although there is nothing that will stop players from completing the game).
Edna & Harvey: The Breakout – Anniversary Edition takes the original game and refines it. The revamped graphics have been perfectly handled, but despite the new lick of paint some niggles have remained. The two possible endings still don’t feel particularly satisfying, but the experience of playing Edna & Harvey has never been about the destination. Taking a memorable journey with such well-voiced and likeable characters – helping them solve countless convoluted puzzles along the way – is its own reward.
Fingers crossed that Daedalic patches in a hotkey to change the graphics on the fly, and irons out some of the wrinkles. While perhaps not a bona-fide classic, Edna & Harvey has always had a certain je ne sais quoi that will undoubtedly secure its place in the annals of adventure gaming history. Highly memorable and genuinely funny, it deserves to be played at least once by any self-respecting point-and-click fan.
8 OUT OF 10