iPad Game Review: Edna and Harvey: The Breakout Review
Reviewed by Guy Dayen
If you've ever wondered what it would be like to wake up trapped in an insane asylum, with no idea of how you got there and why you're being held against your will, then Edna and Harvey: The Breakout is just the game for you ! Fans of point-and-click games, as well as gamers who enjoy challenging puzzles, will also find much to like in the saga of Edna and Harvey. (I don't use the word "saga" lightly, this game weighs in at one and a quarter gig - so clear that iPad!) Keep in mind that most everyone you meet is insane, or intent on keeping you in the dark, and you will begin to understand why this game won't be a short and easy twenty-minute diversion. To solve the mystery of Edna's past, you'll have to invest quite a bit of time and thought...
Edna, our favorite loony (ah, but, is she ?... yeah, she really kind of is!), wants to escape her padded room and find out just what has been happening in her life. Her past is a blur to her, thanks to the ministrations of an evil doctor (the creepy doctor Marcel, natch!). But bits and pieces are floating back to the surface of her troubled mind, and our Edna is keen on leaving her cell and investigating the vast asylum she is being held prisoner in. Lucky for her, she has help. Her faithful friend Harvey (who, unfortunately for Edna, happens to be a real stuffed bunny and not a pooka) is there to help her out of this predicament by providing a much needed source of stability (OK, this word I did use lightly...) and by helping her focus her wandering thoughts. Harvey can also help Edna go back to her past (at least in her mind, such as it is...), which is very helpful in finding clues to the mystery, and, let's admit it, a pretty rare ability for toy bunnies to possess!
The game is controlled by the classic point-and-click movement and interactive hot spots scheme. The game responds well and provides timely hints if needed. I found the controls very intuitive and well-implemented. Moreover, a recent update addressed a few issues with directional arrows and hot spots, so the gaming experience, in terms of mechanics, is pretty much frustration free.
The gameplay focuses on unraveling the mystery of Edna's past. Why is she in the asylum ? Why does Doctor Marcel not want her to remember who she was and what she knew ? Was Edna's father really a murderer ? All these questions and more must be answered during the course of the unfolding story. Puzzles and riddles are tricky here, especially because Edna is dealing with a host of mentally unstable characters, while not being the most mentally alert person herself. Even Harvey, our "voice of reason" in this game, is prone to encouraging Edna's more undesirable traits and behaviors. Patience and trial and error will be well-rewarded though, as there is a great deal of satisfaction in cracking each puzzle and problem in turn to advance the action. It's a great game; well worth the asking price and sure to keep you busy for a good long while.
Cute stuffed bunnies notwithstanding, be aware that this is NOT a game for children or even young teens. The themes that are touched upon (murder, insanity, kidnapping, abuse, violence, etc.) make this an adults-only game. The styling may be quite cartoonish, but the level of difficulty in the challenges and the story elements put this game beyond the reach of the younger crowd.
As mentioned above, the game is quite cartoonish. There is little attempt at realism here; everything is drawn in a very flat style, and with bright colors. That doesn't mean that the art style is overly simplistic. There is a lot of humor to be found throughout the game. Keep an eye out for background details in the various scenes - you will chuckle more than once, I guarantee...
One point I should mention is that this game could have felt very claustrophobic, since Edna and Harvey spend so much time in the asylum building. The developers deftly dealt with this issue by making the asylum quite a vast structure, and by having Edna wander on the outside of the building itself (as well as in the bowels of the beast) and giving us very varied locations. Also, there is the "time travel" aspect of the story, which permits Edna and Harvey to revisit different locales in her past life; another great way to bring in other places and characters.
The musical soundtrack and the sound effects are secondary in Edna and Harvey: The Breakout. Not to say that they are an afterthought. On the contrary, it is evident that a great deal of care has been lavished on every detail of the game, but it is the voice acting that is the star of the show here. Edna and Harvey encounter a myriad of characters, and it is those interactions that advance the story. Each character will provide, willingly or otherwise, important information and vital clues to the mystery that is Edna's past. There's no possibility to play music from your iPad's library, but this is not the type of game where you'd want to do that, so I don't miss it at all. I'll listen to music later, when I want to relax. It's time to play detective here, not time to play DJ!
The dialogue is well-written and often quite funny. Once again, though, I must point out that it is meant for a more adult crowd. Many of the interactions and references will go over younger heads, and some of the vocabulary is unsuited to younger and more sensitive ears. Reserve Edna and Harvey for the more mature members of the family.
I really enjoyed playing Edna and Harvey: The Breakout. It's a challenging game that kept me busy for quite a while. I must confess I even had to resort to a walkthrough on a couple of occasion to get me over particularly devilish little puzzles. Don't abuse this, though. The real fun is in figuring things out yourself and trying out different strategies. Make use of the many Save Slots available in the game. They are a godsend in case you take a wrong turn and things start to go south in a hurry. Every time I unraveled a piece of the story, I made sure to save so I would have a good checkpoint to go back to. There are plenty of Save Slots, so use them for sure !
While some people may balk at spending six dollars for an iPad game (which in my opinion is being a bit unreasonable, considering that a movie or a paperback book will cost you ten buck or more these days), I think it is money well-spent. You will be challenged and entertained, and your little grey cells will get a good workout. The game is well-written and filled with an irreverent humor that is sometimes lacking in the gaming industry, which often takes itself a little too seriously. Make space for Edna and Harvey on your iPad. You won't be disappointed.
Ratings (scale of 1 to 5): 5
Graphics: 4.5 Bright and cartoonish style, but filled with details and humor. Sound: 4.5 You won't be humming Edna's theme, but the voice acting is top-notch. Controls: 5 Easy and responsive controls make this a fun and frustration-free gaming experience Gameplay: 5 Edna and Harvey is a very unique twist on the classic point-and-click genre, and the inventive puzzles make the game an interesting and fun challenge.
Playing Hints and Tips:
- Remember to save your progress often. Don't overwrite the same save slot all the time. Save different checkpoints to allow you to explore various strategies and approaches. - Toenails... That's the only hint I'll give you, but it's a good one! Good luck!