Edna & Harvey: The Breakout
The PC point-and-click adventure makes a new break for freedom on iPads.
Originally released for the PC at the beginning of last year, Edna & Harvey (named deliberately, I hope, after the invisible rabbit in the film of the same name), tells the tale of an amnesiac girl and her toy bunny as they journey to discover how she came to find herself locked in the confines of a mental asylum. In very blunt terms, it's a love-letter to those who wonder what might have become of the point-and-click adventure genre, had Sam & Max been given more time to breathe before the death-knell was temporarily sounded on the franchise.
As a result, you predictably have all of the tools of the slightly dark, off-the-wall adventure trade at your disposal. There are interactive objects which proffer options for engagement: talk to it, pick it up, use it elsewhere on another object, and so on. Edna & Harvey's major triumph is to add so much complexity to these arrangements, and every possible combination has been taken into account and accompanied with a line of often witty dialogue.
But this is also where the game struggles to deliver a coherent, satisfying game experience. Those webs of dialogue are so intricate that making progress more often than not becomes a matter of agonizing exploration. You stop focusing on solving problems, and exhaustively explore every area of a chapter instead, often with an accompanying sense of extreme frustration. The game's greatest triumph ultimately becomes its own undoing, and the puzzles are transformed into nothing more than convoluted muddles that lack a logical underpinning.
These are never more apparent than in the opening stages of the game, when Harvey travels back in time to Edna's childhood. You're attempting to escape from the asylum, and need to relearn how to undo screws from a door lock, as she once did as a youngster locked in her home basement.
After a heavy bout of exploration and interaction, you're prompted to talk to Edna to make progress. But even having received this instruction, she won't respond until you've encountered something else that's hidden in plain sight. It's unnecessary obfuscation for obfuscation's sake, and the game suffers irreparably for these transgressions.
Yet for all of its faults (and they are many, sprinkled throughout the game's finer moments), you find yourself wanting to make excuses for the game. Perhaps the obtuse puzzling and the rambling conversations are symptomatic of Edna's predicament? Too generous, too obvious. Even the game's fantastic artwork and occasionally outstanding humor can't elevate the adventure above its greater stumblings.
Thankfully the game includes a hint system, and tapping on a question-mark icon temporarily reveals every interactive object in a scene. Utilizing it is essential for making progress, and you can't help but feel that this is the game's way of rescuing itself from its own depth of interaction.
The unfortunate fact is that Edna & Harvey's best achievements (a deep script, engaging characters and unrivaled interactivity) end up buried beneath a frustrating adventure game, one that's fashioned from over-worked puzzling and meandering dialogue that fails to make a clean separation between depth of story and rewarding gaming.
What's Hot: Great characters, deep interactivity, and an extraordinarilyy in-depth script.
What's Not: The humor is hit-and-miss, and the puzzles are overwhelmed by the game design.