Not Without Issues, But Lots of Fun
I suppose the first thing I need to say is that I really enjoyed Edna & Harvey: The Breakout. It’s a fun game with a lot of positives. The voicing is, for the most part, very good (especially with Edna and Harvey themselves, which is fortunate as they’re the voices you hear by far the most). There is a lot of recorded dialogue, too – Edna typically doesn’t make generic responses, but will say things tailored to the action you’re trying to do which is neat to see, as it’s something that doesn’t happen so often in adventure games now that dialogue is recorded. It’s always funny examining objects or even trying to combine or getting to comment on them (and it’s quite fortunate for reasons I’ll go on to explain).
The characters are largely likeable, they have distinct voices and looks, and the environments are wonderfully vibrant. The game has a lovely sense of humour, especially in the asylum, and the games makes self-referential digs at itself which are often hilarious for adventure game fans (and at other times cover game shortcomings, like a character being able to teleport… or the animators were too lazy to draw animation). Once you get past the first few puzzles, there is a really large area for you to roam about in and explore, making it very difficult to get stuck. If you explore properly you’ll nearly always find hints about what you need to do and even if you’re not making much progress with one objective, you’ll often find something else to look at, which may lead you to the answer of the other. There are a few puzzles that are a little obscure (the group therapy correct dialogue choices really threw me personally), but thankfully most aren’t.
The game has some lovely little touches of detail, like the fact that Edna is quite a destructive person, and thus can create senseless destruction wherever she goes. Whether it’s doodling “Edna was here” on random things or breaking things, it’s often quite funny, and in one puzzle became particularly amusing for me: I was trying to send a blanket to get washed and had put ketchup and mustard on it, cut it with scissors, a broken chair leg, a knife, a fork… and naturally none of this quite worked.
The game also actually lets you reuse objects rather than having the “item only use for one puzzle” dynamic some adventure games have. I think I used that polo mallet more than anything else… okay, a lot of the time it didn’t work, but seeing Edna try and smash things with it (again, each with its own unique dialogue) was often worth trying it out anyway. There are also red herrings: completely useless items that you suddenly realise later on that you’ve never used in the whole of the game. That makes things interesting.
That’s not to say this game is perfect. On the contrary, it has quite a number of issues. First and foremost is that the interface isn’t always reliable. Sometimes trying to use an item from the inventory doesn’t actually work (it doesn’t register that you’ve clicked ‘use’), which is a little frustrating but certainly not game breaking, but there are one or two areas where it’s timed, making it frustrating if it takes too long as the interface is acting up. You can walk right back there and try again, but it’s still a little annoying.
Saving on my computer took more time than I was expecting, which isn’t a massive problem but worth nothing if you save every time you make progress, like I do. Sometimes the descriptions don’t quite match what’s going on: I examined a car that I’d opened the door of once, and it still referred to it as if it was closed. A guard threatened to turn the air conditioning “back on” when it was already on (and ended up with it turned off), which I at first thought might be intentional, but then somebody else play what must have been a different edition where it correctly referred to it as “back off”.
While it didn’t personally bother me, some people might complain that the animation isn’t very varied; characters just make the same constant hand movements (this is most noticeable with Doctor Marcel and the group therapy woman). The flashbacks are very fun (and I loved the character design of young Edna), so I was sad when I found out there were only three of them: I think the game would have benefited from more, although what is there is generally very well done.
After you leave the asylum, the rest of the game feels a bit too short and rushed to me. That’s not to say it’s bad, I was just expecting something a bit longer. The tone shifts too which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, and although I saw the revelation of what happened coming (despite this I still think it’s a great reveal), I think the last bit really is too rushed (especially re: how reliable Harvey is as there are further implications there). The endings are both interesting, though not necessarily fully satisfying if you want a happy ending, although the epilogues are good to see.
So there are certainly issues, and I won’t deny them – but why am I giving the game four stars? Because I rate games on how much I enjoy them, not on their technical prowess. The game may have issues, but I still had a lot of fun with it and would heartily recommend it, shortcomings and all.