Edna & Harvey: The Breakout – Review

Title   Edna & Harvey: The Breakout
Developer  Daedalic Entertainment
Publisher  Lace Mamba Global
Platform  PC
Genre  Point 'n' Click, Graphic Adventure
Release Date  11th February, 2011

I’ve wondered many things in my days – none of them have been what I could possibly do with a coffee cup full of earwax or how I could travel through a building using a coat-hanger, or even how many things can be vandalised with a with a ballpoint pen… okay, maybe that last one. Edna and Harvey: The Breakout, from Daedalic Entertainment is, at first glance, a curiosity; it is one of those sleeper point ‘n’ clicks which you won’t be aware of until you turn around and find it examining your goldfish’s innards with a lollipop stick. The game is perched, gently rocking, in the niche within a niche where the quirky, funny, and surreal play; after stumbling upon it by chance, it immediately drew me in, past its kin of horrors and dramas, with an alluring art style and unlikely heroine.

You take on the role of Edna Konrad – a dreamy, surreal, lunatic with a penchant for talking to things, who has been locked up in an asylum since her father was convicted for murder, years previously. Her sidekick is the trusty Harvey – a blue terry-towel rabbit and her unflinching partner in crime. Edna’s goal is to set about escaping and, on the way, recover her lost memories. And maybe vandalise a few things for good measure. At the game’s opening, Edna and Harvey are going nowhere and getting out of their padded cell is just the first step before the whole of the asylum can be gradually opened up for exploration.

The game’s art style is, simply put, fantastic. Hand drawn characters and backdrops show every drop of love, blood, sweat, and mental illness that has been poured into them, presenting Edna – herself not far removed from that gothic enigma, Emily the Strange – and her world in thick lines, strong colours, and enough detail to give the simple style surprising life. The art is reminiscent in many ways of Tim Burton, or even a gothic version of The Simpsons and lends the kooky atmosphere of the game a gentle, sinister touch. It never ceases to be absorbing and is full of character, with each and every wobbly line and saucer-eyed individual creating a world that puts more conventional rivals to shame.

The game is presented in some familiar old-skool point and click clothes but, to be honest, it was a pleasant, almost nostalgic surprise, rather than a pain. The late, not-oft lamented verb bar is back, stripped down, and presented with the usual pictorial inventory (which needs clicking – I know, we’ve been spoiled). Even the dialogue and responses to player commands are in the style of the old adventures, with coloured text appearing on screen to accompany the voice acting to the point that it feels like a modern/retro creation. At first, it was as though a point ‘n’ click had slipped the bonds of the genre heyday and travelled through time in a tinfoil oven – but the modern conveniences of the ‘show all hotspots’ key saves it from being trapped in the more frustrating pixel-hunting traditions of its predecessors, and it shows that old mechanics can blend with the new without detracting greatly from the overall experience. There were a few frustrations with multiple clicks sometimes being needed when using items or interacting, but overall all, it ran fine.  The animation is simple, yet effective, with the 2D characters, moving with jerky charm through the 2.5D environments, which suits the overall feel of the game and art style and creates a modern mash of simplicity while being packed full of substance.

The game was originally designed by one man as a student project and he was ambitious enough to have written thousands of lines of dialogue and responses. Whereas other games will inform you in that all-too-familiar dry manner that “You can’t do that”, Edna and Harvey has a unique line for everything. Every item combo that you might try, every object that you interact with, pick up, talk to or hit with a mallet produces a sarcastic, surreal, or off the wall response, or even conversation – the sheer scale of the writing is mind-boggling. Trying to talk to the door and furniture in the cell at the start produced a grin that rarely left my face for the rest of the game and, hours in, I was happily experimenting and conversing with plants, fireplaces, and coat-hangers.

On the subject of objects, there are enough odd items and puzzles to give Tim Schafer and Ron Gilbert a run for their money, which is just as well, as there are numerous grin-inducing nods to the duo’s finest creation, Monkey Island, and that’s not all; there are a plethora of references to Star Trek, nods to The Simpsons, Misery, and Monty Python, not to mention several Monkey Island ‘Loom’ style references to the publisher’s past and future games. The fourth wall is repeatedly kicked and sidled around at the oddest moments, to hilarious effect, with jokes about the player, items, and even the game itself coming out of the blue. Nothing is too sacred for Edna and Harvey and even their creator appears as a patient in a group therapy session for game developers.


Some first class vandalism from Edna... erm, I mean... "It was him, that bloke, he went that way...!"

The pace of the game is relaxed and I felt under no real pressure to rush matters, instead, I dawdled and soaked up the possibilities of each location; behaviour that was largely abetted by certain objects. In most adventures, items either have a specific purpose, or are red-herrings with which to clutter your inventory and fog puzzle-solving. Here, however, plugged into this insane world, the possibilities open up: a simple ballpoint pen, used genuinely perhaps three times, was my favourite item.

With the game rewarding experimentation with a variety of funny responses, the asylum becomes a massive sandbox for the mischief minded. In the majority of the game’s 120 plus locations, I found something to deface with Edna’s trusty pen. Not only that but I would then usually go on to slash, prick with a fork, cut, snip with the pinking shears, and then cover the unfortunate object with ketchup and mustard for good measure. This random vandalism slowed my progress through the game considerably, as did talking to almost everything to see what would happen, but it provided a sense of childish delight that I never became bored of and allowed me to fully appreciate just how much ingenious effort was put into the writing. That the game allowed me to go this far with a variety of items was an absolute joy.

The game moulds the player into a certain mind-set and, while some of the puzzles are difficult or odd on the face of it, once you sink into the game’s – or rather, Edna’s – own logic, they make perfect sense. They range from simple ‘get this, combine that, use here’ types, to some delightfully oddball conundrums and you’ll never look at toenails the same way again. Recreating a mosquito in amber for one dino-obsessed resident was fun, as was figuring out the ticket system for the laundry-lift transport. There are a few red-herrings, but the satisfaction that comes from cracking some of the more head-scratching problems is bliss. Distracting the guard known as Bladder was a particularly inspired puzzle and I was literally bouncing with delight, and admiration for the game when I suddenly twigged and solved it. There are several, however, which truly frustrate, the main culprit coming in the game’s weaker closing part which I’ll delve into shortly but, overall, chasing down dead-ends and working through the puzzles was a genuine pleasure and rarely a chore (with a couple of notable exceptions).

As expected, the asylum is populated with a number of weird and wonderful characters and the game boasts around fifty NPCs. Each is well realised and superbly voiced; in fact the voice acting is top notch throughout – no mean feat considering the genre’s chequered background in this area. The supporting cast veers out from the typical asylum staff to the patients who include a ‘superhero’ dressed in a tin-foil outfit, a burned out stockbroker talking endlessly into a severed phone receiver, and Adrian: King of the Cushion Castle to name but a few. Each has their own back-story which can be gleaned through conversations, or by impersonating some of them during a group therapy class and they help breathe yet more life into the asylum.

In addition to the superb voice acting, the music is a gentle affair which works to compliment the theme and style of the game without being obtrusive or overbearing. Lilting kettle drums and xylophones combine with bells and chimes to produce a gentle soundtrack with a few more sinister notes thrown in – almost mirroring the story and art style.

With such an enjoyable game, it is hard to find massive fault, though there was one which did stand out for me. The game reaches a very natural and logical ending, which would allow for a perfect sequel set-up, however, it surprisingly continues and, as such, ends up being perhaps an hour or so too long, with a frustrating puzzle in between which ruptures the pace somewhat. The actual ending is, sadly the weakest part and, arguably, the only major flaw in an otherwise wonderful game. The tone suddenly changes to a more sombre one, which is fair enough from a story point of view, however, an alarming and sudden choice is thrust upon the player without warning; the options aren’t in the light-hearted or cheerfully odd vein of the rest of the game, and lead to different endings – neither of which were particularly satisfying.

Other niggles were relatively small, but the limited screen resolution was a shame.  I also occasionally ran into a frustrating trend of being unable to progress because I hadn’t had a seemingly pointless last dialogue with someone before cracking on with the job that I was now able to do.  More than once, I was running in circles trying to work out what I had missed when it was merely a brief ‘check in with this guy’ – really I should have been able to cut straight to using the object/interaction if this is what I found myself doing first.

Although the story pans out differently than anticipated, it wasn’t altogether unsurprising, but the enforced choice was a needle-jerk on the gramophone. While it made sense, and did fit, if I am honest, this and the endings (I tried both) left me with a strange feeling of dissatisfaction, as though something hadn’t quite fitted somehow or had been thrown away. Still, as deflated as I was by this, the preceding hours were more than enough to counter the feelings and I found myself looking forward to replaying it – not a common adventure occurrence for me.

The game has scooped countless awards in Germany and garnered some impressive reviews and, to be frank, it isn’t hard to see why. It is the stuff that franchises were made of and if we don’t see a sequel it will be criminal. Edna and Harvey: The Breakout is a kooky kick in the throat to anyone still banging the drum about the demise of the adventure genre; will it spit in the mainstream eye? Perhaps, and it deserves to – this game is too good to go unnoticed by all but adventure devotees and it packs enough punch in charm and character to stand out. With the staggering amount of responses, smart and funny puzzles, witty humour and writing, engaging characters, and excellent art style, it won’t disappoint. Despite a few bugbears, it deserves every scrap of success that can be handed to it in an earwax stained coffee cup and is one of the most enjoyable games I’ve played in a long time.

  • Fantastically kooky hand-drawn artwork and characters
  • Breathtaking amount of dialogue and responses
  • Puzzles are unique, smart, and funny
  • Great sense of humour and witty writing, with multiple nods to Star Trek, Monkey Island, and more.
  • Engaging NPCs and great voice acting – something which is not too common in the genre
  • Game encourages experimentation with objects and interaction to, often, hilarious effect
  • Perfect fodder for a series
  • Plunges you into Edna’s surreal world and takes you on an absorbing journey
  • Game ignores its natural end and runs on perhaps an hour or so more than necessary
  • The ending felt weak compared to the rest of the game and a sudden choice in the game’s closing seemed out of place and, as such, jarred. It led to a feeling of dissatisfaction regardless of what was picked.
  • A few more ‘what happened to them’ style character cards would have been welcome, rather than the small handful that were shown.
  • Runs in a fixed resolution of 800x600 meaning that it will be blown up to fit most monitors

Edna and Harvey is an award winning game for good reason. The oddball heroine and her world are engaging and utterly absorbing, and succeed in sucking the player in with ease. The unique, hand drawn art style and smart, funny writing infuse the game with a surreal, kooky air and, along with a great variety of puzzles help make this a sleeper masterpiece, despite a few disappointments.

The game’s humour is a standout, with odd responses, bizarre conversations, and funny reactions mingling with a rich variety of nods and fourth-wall peekaboos to keep you grinning like a loony in a foil-suit. The game deserves greater recognition than that which its home-ground can provide and is proof that the adventure genre is far from a slumbering irrelevance. Edna & Harvey: The Breakout is a highly enjoyable title and, for me, there are few duos who deserve a series more. Just give me a biro and a ketchup dispenser and I’ll be happy.

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  1. Tania Tania says:

    This one is absolutely on my to-buy list! Sounds like a really funny game that will be a lot of fun to play. Hope the endings aren’t too bad though, that can really annoy me. Ace review :)

  2. Samuel Samuel says:

    I pre-ordered the collector’s edition of this the first time you mentioned it, as it sounded great then. Having read your detailed response to the game, I’m now properly excited about getting to play it. The art style looks like it was lifted from the Horrible History series of children’s books (I’m just old enough to have been a kid still when the series first was published), and the puzzles sound like just my kind of Monty Python/Monkey Island-esque surreality and fun. I’ve not played a genuinely witty, oddball point and click since the golden age of Lucasarts, and the last game in the genre generally that I really got stuck into was Machinarium, so this promises to be a real nostalgia trip.

    Can’t wait for the game, and it’s purely on your recommendation. Great write up Lorna.

  3. Ste says:

    Wow 2 point and click reviews in as many days. Maybe the genre isn’t on its arse after all. This game does look like a lot of fun. I was disappointed to hear about the crappy ending though and the fact that its resolution is fixed to 800 x 600. But I suppose when you think that it was originally a university project it kind of makes sense that the guy wanted to keep it simple.

    Nice review though Lorna, I’ll keep my eye on this one. As I said yesterday I’m not much for P&C games anymore but it could be an impulse buy if its cheap enough. Speaking of which do we know how much it is? Also will it recieve a Steam release?

  4. Lorna Lorna says:

    Cheers for the comments folks, very much appreciated and the game was a joy to play. I highly recommend it as it isn’t much of a resource hog, so a big system shouldn’t be needed.

    @ Ste – The collector’s edition retails at £14.99 on Amazon. I have never seen Lace Mamba stuff on Steam, so I doubt it, however, they have their own online store for downloads but the prices are very high. The ending wasn’t bad bad, I was just suprised by the choice and a little deflated, but the game is very much worth it. For one guy to have done the majority of all this himself is seriously impressive.

  5. Mark R MarkuzR says:

    I am SO going to play this. I was considering playing it on the laptop to combat the screen resolution issue but remembered that the laptop is also 1920×1200 so it doesn’t matter either way. I think it’s more of a “chill out in the lounge” sort of game than “huddle up in the games room” though so it’s definitely still heading for the laptop. Having watched several of the puzzles come to a somewhat ridiculous conclusion, I can’t wait to fathom everything out for myself… although I’m glad I was there to witness one particular puzzle as there’s literally no way in hell that I’d suss that one out on my own. I overthink too much, over-analyse, expect that there’s going to be a subtext when really that may not necessarily be the case… and that particular puzzle (you know the one) would have had me stumped as I wouldn’t have noticed what was going on. Ever.

    In terms of the art style, I adore it. If I was capable of illustrating, that’s how I always imagined mine would look – thick shaky lines, solid colours with enough gradients to add realism… it’s perfect as far as I’m concerned. I’m jealous of the designer’s talent… and mindset!

    Beautiful screenies too, makes me want to play it sooner rather than later. This is a keeper :D

  6. Edward Edward says:

    This game sounds massively up my street and I might have to invest in this sharpish for my point and click fill.
    Fantastic review, and I hope the game goes on to be a big success :)

  7. Ben Ben says:

    I don’t know why but I love the art style in this :) Once I get my laptop I’ll be looking at getting some of the smaller games such as this as think they’ll fit my style of play nicely.

    Have the collectors edition saved in my Amazon list for future reference :)

  8. Mark Marks says:

    Im not a huge fan of the point and click genre, i tend to find myself stuck just clicking randomly on everything. Still like you said, the visual style and the quirkyness of it makes me want to take a look.

    I might just pick this up. Great review Lorna! :D

  9. Kat says:

    The moment I have a decent working computer I want to play this! Looks so quirky, love it!

    I know one thing that can be vandalised by a ballpoint – my old bloody sofa *glares at child* :)

  10. Lee says:

    What a brilliant sounding game, does it not get tricky with it’s randomness though and have you just end up trying to use everything with everything?

  11. Adam Adam says:

    The screenshots alone sell this but the review goes so much further. Pleased to see that the art for the game reflects the creativity in gameplay and humour and that the end doesn’t quite measure up to the rest of the adventure sounds like a really minor thing to my gaming brain. I’ve never really been one for game endings, I find that they never quite live up to what you expect or can’t do justice for that brilliant section in the middle.

    A definate pity that the game doesn’t support higher resolutions as I’m sure that it could look truly stunning in the PC equivalent of 1080. Lets hope to see more of Edna & Harvey :)

  12. [...] point ‘n’ click has been a resounding hit in Germany and we fell in love with it when we reviewed it here at GLHQ. It focuses on the surreal lunatic, Edna Konrad and her terry-towel rabbit, Harvey. [...]

  13. [...] the UK release of kooky, point ‘n’ click fest, Edna & Harvey: The Breakout – reviewed here – but those gamers who enjoyed the, at times, surreal adventures of Edna and her questionable [...]

  14. Tom S. Fox says:

    The “show all hotspots” button is not really a new feature. It already existed in Simon the Sorcerer.

  15. Lorna Lorna says:

    It can be considered a modern feature or ‘convenience’ due to the fact that all good adventures will (and should) have it in place, whereas, despite adventures such as Simon having it, it was not commonplace. It is therefore a modern convenience for that reason.

    Nowadays it is awkward for an adventure not to have one and it is always preferable to mention it regardless, as it isn’t always those who are familiar with adventures who read these reviews. Our goal isn’t to satisfy nitpicking, but to try and draw new blood into a genre which needs all the support it can get before we stop getting UK releases of great titles such as this all together.

  16. Tom S. Fox says:

    Why can’t you guys ever concede a mistake instead of being jerks to your readers who point it out?

  17. Lorna Lorna says:

    Because it wasn’t a mistake. How is anyone being a ‘jerk’ by disagreeing with you? That sort of attitude is petty and unjustified. If you can’t see my point that it can be considered a modern convenience because it wasn’t previously prevalent but now is, then I think that is more your problem, Tom. If you had bothered to properly read my response, you might have taken in my point a little more. Whether Simon had it or not is irrelevant if it wasn’t uniformly commonplace as it is now. If you think that we don’t have the right to reply or argue with a point that we disagree with, especially when someone has already been arrogant and antagonistic elsewhere on the site, then I’m afraid you’re mistaken.

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