Edna & Harvey: Harvey’s New Eyes – Review
After a wait of over two years since the release of the original Edna and Harvey title, the sequel/spin off, Harvey’s New Eyes, has made it to UK shores, thanks to Daedalic finally getting Steam to sit up and take notice of them. Ever since the developer’s first kooky-yet-charming game was released I’ve been eagerly pacing, waiting for the sequel. But now it’s here… I hate to say that I feel somewhat let down.
Harvey’s New Eyes is a point and click adventure set in the same world (and town) as Edna & Harvey: The Breakout. This time, however, the action is centred around Lilli, rather than the ‘away with the fairies’ Edna.
Lilli is a blonde haired, angelic looking girl with the weight of the world on her shoulders as she spends her days at an oppressive convent school, under the yoke of the harsh (and decidedly sinister) Mother Superior. Bullied and beset on all sides by dismissive or downright unpleasant pupils and staff, Lilli seemingly takes everything in her stride, brushing off the worst of the abuse and convincing herself that it is something else. This is where the game shows off its dark roots for the first time; Lilli’s coping mechanism is to transform anything unpleasant into something else, her mind misinterpreting insults, actions, and situations in order to shield her.
This ‘glossing over’ manifests itself physically in the form of censor gnomes. Whenever something unexpected and gruesome happens to someone around her (which is often the case), a rather odd gnome can be found, painting the scene pink and shielding Lilli from reality. This sets up an intriguing undertone to proceedings and I was interested to see where they would go with it. Not far, as it turned out, which was rather a shame.
Harvey’s New Eyes pulled me on a rollercoaster, but not in that exciting way; rather, my emotional train went from an odd disengagement, to interest, which led to enjoyment, absorption, intrigue, and then got derailed utterly by the ending. It makes it a hard game to cover. On the one hand, Daedalic can barely put a foot wrong – they have risen swiftly to become stars of the adventure genre, and there are many of their stellar hallmarks here – however, this just wasn’t… special. It wasn’t especially charming or funny, and didn’t really live up to its potential. It was good, and had some standout moments of brilliance, but it wasn’t great. And after Deponia, I’m used to great.
That said, Harvey’s New Eyes, for the most part, is Daedalic doing what they do best. The art style is as gorgeous as ever, with saucer-eyed characters appearing in all their hand-drawn quirky glory in detailed, but simple, locations that rarely fail to stand-out. The western town location was an interesting reflection of the actual town, and, overall, the game looks lovely; dark or bizarre scenes are well-presented, with atmosphere and character imparted with ease.
The voice acting rises far above what much of the genre often provides, and is well performed, with each voice perfectly fitting the characters, and bringing the dialogue to life. The score, again, is excellent, with a diverse range of music to reflect the varied locations. From the imposing, regimented gothic organ music dominating the convent, to the distinctly western-themed town, to the quirky riffs of the asylum, it was a delight, and helped to weave an absorbing atmosphere without intruding or distracting.
As far as the puzzles go, they are satisfying (and delightfully oddball, at times), with no real obtuse nasties getting in the way, and comprise the usual blend of inventory puzzles and larger problems (which now come with a tutorial to stave off the frustrations that pop up when you aren’t certain what you are actually supposed to be doing). These larger puzzles/mini-games are also skippable, thankfully – although this will lose you Steam achievements, so be warned. One of the standouts is the pizza problem, but the best was the last puzzle of the game, which was an inspired turn-based RPG scrap with opposing teams of themed Harveys. I genuinely loved it and, once I got the hang of it, I couldn’t help but think it would be a great browser-based mini-game. The mechanism with which Lilli learns to overcome the rules buried deep in her mind is also a smart addition, and leads to some interesting puzzling, as the real world and that of her subconscious share puzzle solutions.
The game’s few familiar faces and nods to places from the first game will raise a smile, and, on the whole, the NPC contingent is well written and often pretty inspired, including the Shibuya Power girls, parodying the tweens obsessed with Japanese culture and comic icons, and the off-the-wall phrases that such characters shout ad nauseum at one another. Contrary to what I had thought when starting out, the player doesn’t need to have played the first game, as Harvey’s New Eyes stands alone well enough, although those familiar to this world will find a reasonable amount to smile about, and will be prepared for the more surreal aspects of the game.
As is often the case with adventures, no matter how good a game may be, the ending is so often the one crucial element that can make or break it. If the end of E&H: TB was a letdown, this was worse. It took me a long while to put my finger on how I felt, and what I came up with was ‘cheated’. It felt rushed, as if the devs had just run out of surreal track and lopped it off, leaving the pleasant locomotive, which had been slowly gathering steam for what promised to be an interesting finale, to screech to a halt and kiss wall.
The choices were poor, and the outcomes pointless, regardless of what was chosen; there was no attempt to explain or elaborate or to give a hint of what happened next to the girl we’d grown attached to over the last ten or so hours. Perhaps as bad was the twist, which wouldn’t have felt out of place in an episode of Dallas – while it could be construed as realistic under the circumstances, it left a sour note lingering when all was done, rather than something satisfying.
It is a crying shame because so much else was spot-on, and I wanted so very much for this game to soar. Instead, I feel as though it just coasted, never reaching the heights of its potential. I still love the world, the art style, the vocals, the puzzles, the sheer bloody ingenuity, and, of course, Harvey… but I can’t love Harvey’s New Eyes, however much I like, admire, and appreciate it, and that is a sad feeling.Pros
- Quirky hand-drawn art style is as gorgeous as ever
- A good score helps to build the atmosphere
- NPCs are all engaging and well voiced
- Some smart puzzles, making use of Lilli’s mindscape as well as the real world
- The RPG turn-based puzzle was unlike anything else I’ve ever come across and was highly enjoyable
- The game felt small – smaller than E&H: The Breakout… whether or not this is actually the case, I don’t know
- Wasted potential
- A deflating ‘twist’, which led to feelings of being cheated, in tandem with…
- Iffy ending(s). It felt as though the game just abruptly packed up and headed home, without making any proper effort
After waiting for what seems like an age for the follow up to Edna & Harvey: The Breakout, Harvey’s New Eyes is rather a mixed bag, which contains more nuggets of disappointment than it should. True to form, Daedalic succeed in many familiar areas, with a gorgeously kooky art style and character that spills into every nook, from the NPCs, to the score, to the often oddball locations and puzzles.
However, the primary problem with the first Edna title is also to be found here, with the ending being a big letdown, in no small part thanks to the lacklustre outcomes. An uninspired twist felt cheaty and, overall, the game felt as if it was simply clocking out, uncaring of the lost potential, unexplained aftermath, and ‘is that it?’ taste left behind.
This key problem aside, Daedalic have still produced a good game, with much to love and enjoy, and although there are issues, it still rises above many in the genre, which is testament to their abilities. It will last a good ten hours or so and offers up a smart, diverting, and gorgeous looking playground – something at which Daedalic excels. Harvey’s New Eyes is a good game, just not a great one, and with all the talent and imagination lurking at Daedalic’s fingertips, that stings.
Last five articles by Lorna
- Does It Matter If You Play Them?
- A Letter From Skingrad
- Controller Issues
- Best of 2013: The Game That Ate Christmas
- Best of 2013: Much Obliged