Review: Edna and Harvey: Harvey’s New Eyes
If German developers Daedalic Entertainment have followed the old adage that we should write what we know, It doesn’t take a lot of conjecture to say they weren’t very popular growing up. For the second time in the last 3 months the developers have released an adventure title starring a hopeless outsider struggling to fit into a world where seemingly everyone is against them. Perhaps the outsider protagonists reflect the nature of being an indie developer making adventure games in 2012, that to make the kind of throwbacks Daedelic has been churning out it takes acceptance of an uphill battle where every trend in gaming is against you.
But where Rufus from Deponia, Daedalic’s release in August, was a self-centered hedonist who earned the animosity of those around him, Lilli, the almost silent star of Edna and Harvey: Harvey’s New Eyes seems to be a victim of circumstance.
She’s an “innocent” school girl that isn’t fit for anything at the convent where she lives, not even to rake leaves. Mother Superior seems to despise her and most of her peers feel the same way. It would seem completely hopeless for Lilli if not for her one friend Edna. But When Mother Superior calls in a famed psychologist Dr. Marcel to deal with the children’s misbehavior, her friend must go on the run. Also, I should mention that Lilli has a habit of killing everyone she comes into contact with.
Avoiding specifics, the story is actually pretty dark, and deals with free will and independence, and the idea that for every rule there is a situation where the right thing to do is to break the rule. While it’s conceptually a game that explores moral grey area- is it always wrong to lie, should children always listen to adults-Daedalic misses the opportunity to present meaningful examinations on their topics. While the exceptions to the rules are sometimes funny, they don’t really teach Lilli much outside of highlighting the other overriding theme of misplaced authority.
In Deponia, Daedalic’s humor could sometimes come at the expense of emotional resonance, it’s less the case in Edna and Harvey. Partly due to the lack of emotional scenes, but also thanks to a slightly keener sense of comedic timing.
The strangest comedic choices in Edna and Harvey are the odd gaming meta jokes. (MINOR SPOILERS AHEAD) In one situation the game narrator says “what Lilli did was completely devoid of logic and she could already hear the uproar of the online reviewer.” In another, what appears to be a quick time button press is revealed as a floating energy pill.
It’s not that the jokes are bad, they just seem out of place and unnecessary. I’m all for games being meta and self-referential, but in no other ways is this a game about gaming. It’s a small complaint, but it makes the game seem less refined and more scatter brained.
Mechanically, the game sticks to old school adventure rules, while also including puzzles that vary the playing style. Expect to get stuck from time to time on some outlandish solutions.
The art style of Edna and Harvey is cruder than Deponia. It seems like a flash game by comparison, lacking the lushness and detail. With that said, the style actually works quite well for the universe of the game. The soundtrack and voice work are where Daedalic continues to shine, both are topnotch.
So which of the two Daedalic adventurers are better? It’s truly a matter of taste. Edna and Harvey is the ballsier game, more off the beaten track with its hypnosis, alternate dimensions, and dark humor, while Deponia is the more focused with its traditional narrative. Either way both games deserve the attention of adventure gaming fans.
With practice comes perfect, hopefully Daedalic can soon translate all their practice into a truly great adventure game for the ages.
Summary: Another solid adventure offering from a developer that deserves a loyal following
About David Willming
Amateur filmmaker, music junkie, and a gamer with a penchant for all things indie and/or weird