You may know Daedalic Entertainment as the creators of the critically acclaimed Deponia adventure game, which was released earlier this year. This German developer is much more than a one trick pony though, with a small backlog of titles under their belt, and as evidenced by their Edna & Harvey series. The first game, Edna & Harvey: The Breakout was released early last year, but was met with mixed reviews due to issues with its interface and translation into English. As a point-and click-adventure game in the style of some of LucasArts’ early titles, these were obviously big problems, which was a shame since the game’s story and setting were actually quite well regarded. Learning from their mistakes, Daedalic Entertainment have put together an indirect sequel, and the good news is that the quality is much higher this time.
Unlike the first title, and despite the name, you don’t play as Edna this time around. Instead, we’re put into the shoes of Lilli. She’s an innocent, blonde haired young girl, who always does what she’s told. Living at a convent, and constantly under the opressive eye of Mother Superior, she goes about her daily chores. She’ll do whatever it takes to get the job done, and with her innocent attempts to solve the puzzles presented to her…a few people might get hurt. Badly. Events start to take a darker turn, and what at first appears to be a fairly tame, colourful adventure quickly transforms into something more. What we have in Edna & Harvey: Harvey’s New Eyes is a very competent point-and-click adventure game, which features the usual staples. There’s a range of helpful and harmful NPCs to interact with, and an inventory system for colleting useful items, which can also be combined with each other. There’s nothing particularly new going on mechanically, but like its predeccesor, the game sets itself apart from others in the genre with its story and setting. It’s a bit of a dark horse in that regard, telling an often twisted tale of delusion, with a cast of characters who don’t always appear to be entirely sane.
Fortunately, the game’s script is up to the job. The game has been fully translated from the original German, and it’s clear that a fair bit of effort has been put into making sure that the story is just as entertaining for English speakers. The writing is often clever, and the game’s ever-present narrator really adds to the experience. Sometimes he’s sarcastic, sometimes he’s a channel for (the largely silent) Lilli’s thoughts, sometimes he’s just there to make fun of the current situation. He’s not afraid to break the fourth wall at times, and it’s often quite funny. The narrator has heaps of different lines for when Lilli tries to combine various inventory items, and some of them are quite entertaining. For example, trying to combine some coins with random items prompts the narrator to say: “Lilli would have liked to use the money to solve all her problems. Unfortunately, this wasn’t a browser game”. The irreverent, often dark humour is applied liberally, and it was enough to get a chuckle or two out of me during certain scenes. The game’s puzzles are fairly creative, and showcase the often bizarre elements of Lilli’s environment. Actions like making a punch card out of swiss cheese, blowing up a pigeon, and contacting the dead are all par for the course, and that’s without getting into Lilli’s frequently entered trances.
Edna & Harvey‘s first chapter in particular features frequent violence, in a passive aggressive way, and what’s particularly interesting is the way that the game handles gore. It’s present, but since we’re viewing the world through Lilli’s eyes, we only see a distorted version of reality. Little gnomes mysteriously appear and paint over anything unpleasant, leaving a bizarre trail of pink coloured areas. As the game continues though, Lilli gradually begins to lose her innocence. The game is full of crisp, high definition artwork, with support for various resolutions all the way up to 1080p. The art style is very minimalistic, with fairly simple drawings and colouring. This is intentional, and it works well as a vehicle to illustrate the world from Lilli’s perspective. I wasn’t entirely sure about it at first, but the simple style has a surprising amount of charm to it, and it quickly grows on you. Don’t let the brigth visuals fool you though, as the game contains plenty of darkness beneath the surface. The animation is fairly basic, however, featuring simple movements which can give the game a slightly cheap look. This is a little unfortunate, but not ultimately too distracting. However, it would have been nice to see actions closer to the smooth movements on display in Deponia.
The game’s music is definitely one of the low points. The amount of background music is unfortunately small, and what is there will tend to loop. A lot. It’s not that the music itself is inherently unpleasant, but any charm that it may have had is quickly lost. On the other hand, the game is fully voiced. The good news is that the quality of the voice work is reasonably high, with almost every character sounding well cast, and actors who are able to convey the required level of emotion/inflection. The narrator in particular does a really good job. There are a couple of exceptions though, but they don’t take too much away from the overall experience.
Depending on how clever you are, it should take you about 10 hours to puzzle your way through the game. There’s no doubt that Edna & Harvey manages to weave together a solid story, creative puzzles and crazy characters into an enjoyable experience. The end result is a game that’s sometimes intruiging, often humorous, and more than a touch disturbing. It’s a good mix, and it makes Edna & Harvey: Harvey’s New Eyes one adventure game that’s definitely worth a look for anyone remotely interested in the genre.
Pricing: Edna & Harvey: Harvey’s New Eyes retails for $20 on the Steam store.