Some games rely on graphics to entice players to pick them up, while others rely on strong multiplayer offerings to sell a game which can often feel incomplete in the single player front. Especially nowadays with the “always online” games such as Destiny 2 being so popular sales wise, emphasis on a good story mode was slowly diminishing. Thankfully, some developers stick to the art of storytelling within gaming, an art which looks to be on the rise again from what we have seen in very recent announcements and online conferences.
Games such as Edna & Harvey: The Breakout, which will be making its Nintendo Switch debut, are a part of the family of storytelling. It may not be the most serious of tones, but it has an element of real-life which many of us tend to brush under the rug – mental illness. The main character here, Edna, is in a mental asylum locked for being presumed mad. All because she talks to her friend Harvey. Well, we have to say that Harvey is a rabbit, but he is still her friend, no? Even if Harvey is a bunny plushy he is still her friend, no? Weird questions aside, you control Edna and find yourself locked up in a prison cell.
The game is a point and click adventure, very well suited to the controls of the switch as you move with the left analogue stick and flick through the available interaction options with the right analogue stick. Unfortunately, there is no use of the touch screen for this 10th Anniversary Edition so it lacks to use the full functionality of Nintendo’s latest, but given the nature of the game, it would have been better to keep the game as simple as possible.
You start off inside a sound-proofed prison cell, with only your stuffed bunny Harvey, a chair and a table, and a frustrating prison guard just outside your cell. You cannot see him, but in some ways you can talk to him. In fact, you can talk to pretty much ANYTHING you see on your screen. This is thanks to the interaction menu, toggled with the A button, which lets you navigate through 5 main options being Use, Take, Talk to, Look At, and the most crucial “Use Active Item With.”
The options are pretty self-explanatory, so there is no big mystery to unfold here, but the “use active item with” is very important to progressing the game, as it lets you interact with an object using another which you may have picked up earlier in the game. Incredibly enough, there is a unique dialogue for every item you decide to perform any of the five actions with, and then again there may be different outcomes depending on circumstances.
The latter is especially seen with people, so it really becomes a branching exercise to see whether you can get the right answer out of the right people. The possibilities are almost endless!
What is most charming about Edna & Harvey: The Breakout, apart from the adorable cartoon graphic style, is Edna’s personality. She is just a girl roaming around a mental asylum, but her sarcasm will have you smiling all throughout the game. She has incredibly witty remarks, and she also very rarely ventures into 18+ territory; no worries though, it is only jokes which aren’t very easily understood, meaning the game is safe for children to play for sure.
Edna tends to not back down on her ideals and thoughts, which gives rise to comic exchanges with other characters roaming the asylum, even including mocking other characters.
Her friend Harvey can also be of great help from time to time. You can consult with Harvey by selecting him in the inventory, located to the lower right of the screen. Choosing the “Use Active Item With” option when Harvey is the selected item will have the terrycloth bun speak his mind in regard to the item you are investigating. Replies can range from a reasonable range of options which could pave the way forward to simply Harvey imitating the questioned object for a short one-two with Edna.
Harvey also is crucial to the game’s progress as he is able to take Edna back in time, to rediscover something essential in order to go forward. In these flashbacks, the plush toy becomes playable too, and switching between him and Edna is key in order to make your way forward throughout the game.
Harvey’s character complements Edna’s amazingly well, making for a duo well worthy of the main stage. You could almost define it as a trio if you include yourself. Edna sure does, as she breaks the fourth wall in occasions to crack jokes. This one was for “recognizing” a drawer as made from very fine wood for example.
The amazing thing here is that the dialogue for the drawer is completely optional, so if you never tried to prompt it, you would have never seen the response. Yet it’s in the game, which displays the care and effort developers Daedalic Entertainment have shown the game. It is the dedication to be praised time and time again, on the 10th anniversary of The Breakout.
All this praise for a game does not mean that it is perfect, as it does have a few shortcomings. First of which is that there is no tutorial for the game. Ok it is a point and click, but you never really know what to do and where to begin with at first, so some small pointers would have been useful in the beginning to help you get the hang of things. I admit I was a little lucky in various instances of the game, sometimes by having picked up the correct item and some other times I triggered the correct action simply from curiosity.
I am not bashing on the trial and error formula of the game, as without it you definitely will not discover the charm behind it. It is just that sometimes the game seems unreasonable in how to progress forward, and only by some lucky strike you manage to get the correct way through.
Another minor shortcoming of the game is that it can feel a little bit clumsy to navigate through the various prompts, especially in crowded areas with plethora of items to investigate. As mentioned before, you scroll through the available options with the right analogue stick, but if you flick it incorrectly you have to start over. Some items need sequential scrolling to get through to them, which can make the task a tad frustrating when you flick once or twice incorrectly. No big story here but it does get irritating when you keep scrolling to find what you need.
Edna & Harvey: The Breakout overall thoughts
Ultimately, Edna & Harvey: The Breakout is one of the games I enjoyed the most lately. It has a very simplistic feel to it, thus making it one of the most plug-and-play experiences I have had in a while, and being on the Switch makes that process even faster. I loved the story it portrays, while shows some awareness for mental illness which is not explored not nearly enough in gaming. If you want a game which can last for a bit but keeps its charm all the way throughout without being all too heavy with big-budget flashiness, then this is definitely a game I recommend. Feel free to pick it up from the Nintendo Store HERE.