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July 2020

Edna and Harvey: The Breakout

Platform(s): Nintendo Switch, PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One
Genre: Adventure
Developer: Daedalic Entertainment
Release Date: June 17, 2020

About Andreas Salmen

I'm sure this is all just a misunderstanding.


Switch Review - 'Edna & Harvey: The Breakout - Anniversary Edition'

by Andreas Salmen on June 18, 2020 @ 12:00 a.m. PDT

Edna & Harvey: The Breakout - Anniversary Edition is a point & click adventure game that will make do without real-time particle effects, parallax occlusion mapping or integrated physics engine.

Re-releasing games is a delicate business. There are multiple ways to go about it, and not all of them are equally viable. Developers can bump up the resolution and assets and call it a day, or they can completely overhaul and remake a game. Edna & Harvey: The Breakout - Anniversary Edition is an example of the latter, as it completely overhauls the gameplay and visuals to touch up a game that may not have met popular success, but it marks a very important point in the studio's history.

In 2008, Edna & Harvey: The Breakout was the first release for the newly founded Daedalic Entertainment, a company that quickly established itself with story-driven, point-and-click adventure games. Soon after its first foray came more successful games, such as a sequel and the Deponia games. The first title is near and dear to its creators' hearts, as evidenced by the complete visual remake that elevates most aspects of the original game. After releasing on the PC last year, the anniversary edition has made its way to the Nintendo Switch with a port that holds up quite well — with a few exceptions.

Edna & Harvey gained traction as one of the few adventure titles that wasn't afraid to go crazy with its characters and narrative, while throwing puzzles at the player that were tougher than in similar titles — either at the time or since. The story was enjoyable, and it took time and patience to figure out the more elaborate puzzles. On the flip side, the art execution was lackluster, and the controls were sometimes cumbersome. Given this history, a remake makes a lot of sense.

Without too much exposition, we take control of the young protagonist, Edna, who's locked in a padded cell in an asylum. We don't remember how we got here or why; all we have is our tangled mind and our best friend Harvey, a stuffed bunny that we carry everywhere. The premise is to get out of the cell and the asylum and figure out how we got here in the first place.

Although our prospects look bleak, the game atmosphere doesn't reflect that. Since Edna has lost her marbles, navigating and interacting with the world works differently. We interact with everything until we find a solution to puzzles, and we can interact with each object in five different ways: look, take, talk, use, or use with. This is how adventure games used to play, but this could be overwhelming for modern players. The game attempts to remedy this by letting you choose to use default actions, but in order to progress, you'll eventually need to try different actions on different objects.

That can surely become tedious for some players — and it occasionally did for me — but to a certain extent, the control scheme reflects the way that Edna's mind works. Edna strikes up frequent conversations with Harvey if prompted, or she uses Harvey with objects to make a comment or find ways to overcome obstacles. Edna can start conversations with stationary objects, which are usually disturbing, hilarious, or both. Most interactions have distinct spoken lines, so it's bearable to try every interaction with every object without encountering repetitive comments. The dark and slightly unsettling humor also fits the character's sheltered naiveté and sheds light on her mental health. A few characters and areas missed the mark, but overall, the story and experience were entertaining from start to finish — an impressive feat for 15-20 hours of gameplay, depending on how quickly you solve the puzzles.

A lot of what we do is the usual adventure fare. We walk around hand-drawn environments and interact with every item in every possible way. Sometimes, we talk to characters and convince them to assist us in our breakout attempt. In most cases, that means running errands or finding a way to trade for assistance. Most puzzles involve the item inventory (as expected from the genre), but Edna & Harvey weaves in a few distractions along the way. Sometimes, running into a roadblock enables us to ask Harvey for assistance, which tells us that Edna used to be able to overcome these obstacles. These situations allow us to time travel to Edna's past in search of a memory that teaches us a new skill that's required to progress, such as undoing screws without a screwdriver or forging signatures. In these "Tempomorph" sequences, we can control Harvey to find clues to help Edna recall the solution. These sequences usually leave us with reusable skills for the duration of the adventure.

We've mentioned the game difficulty. The anniversary edition retains the structure of the original game, and while visuals and many other aspects have improved, some of the later puzzles can be challenging for impatient players. Some puzzle solutions can seem frustratingly illogical or unexpected, so you'll retry everything and turn over every stone to discover that the solution was under your nose the entire time, but it didn't seem like the logical option. That means you'll get stuck in some tedious trial and error moments. Patience or a guide can fix the issue, but it will test those who aren't familiar with these types of adventure titles, so keep that in mind.

What did surprise me is the high quality of the music and voice acting. A few voices missed the mark either in enthusiasm or in how they fit the characters, but the overall solid work supplemented the experience in major ways. Edna is trying to break out of an asylum, so expect to interact with personnel and inmates while she searches for a way out. The excellent sound work and the beautiful visuals enhance the story and writing, really making the game pop and feel substantial. When toggling between the old and current visuals in the menu options, it's evident that the game received quite the remodeling. The game isn't exactly demanding, and we did not run into any technical issues on the Switch. Regardless of the situation, the game runs smoothly and looks as good as it does on the PC, except for the ability to jack up the resolution to 4K.

Unfortunately, the controls usually get in the way on the Switch. Adventure games often aren't a good fit for a home console, but we have seen some good implementations for gamepads and touch-screen controls, especially for the Switch. Edna & Harvey: The Breakout is more or less a straight PC port, which means that we have the same gamepad control scheme as on the PC, and there is no additional touch-screen option. The controls with a gamepad aren't great. While walking through environments, we see icons indicating which items we can interact with in our immediate surroundings, anwe can select and interact with them using the right thumbstick and the face buttons. It's serviceable, but in areas where there are a ton of things to interact with, it can be tough to select the intended option, especially since the selection cursor can reset as soon as we move the left thumbstick, causing accidental selections.

Managing the inventory is equally cumbersome. The game lets you cycle through items to equip as primary, but some actions cannot be done without opening the inventory. As soon as you need to combine things or use skills, you must use the inventory to awkwardly move things around or use them together. It never felt natural, and I wished for touch-screen controls throughout the experience. That can be fixed in the future, but as it stands, it can be a noticeable hassle. If you have a PC, the Switch's portability doesn't outweigh the subpar controls. What is appreciated on the Switch is the in-game achievements.

I have a nostalgic fondness of the original game, and Edna & Harvey: The Breakout - Anniversary Edition did not let me down. It's a smart and funny adventure with a unique tone of voice. The anniversary edition is truly the best version of the game, but it doesn't smooth out every gripe that I had with the original, all while introducing a few new headaches in terms of controls on the Switch. If you don't mind that, Edna & Harvey: The Breakout - Anniversary Edition is a fun adventure that will thoroughly scratch that point-and-click (Sw)itch.

Score: 7.5/10

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