Edna & Harvey: Harvey's New Eyes
First posted on 07 March 2013. Last updated on 07 March 2013.
Edna & Harvey: Harvey's New Eyes, from German game developer and publisher Daedalic Entertainment, is the sequel to Edna & Harvey: The Breakout. Though a flawed but memorable gem, the original game in the series has paved the way for the intrepid developer to release other more ambitious adventure game titles such as The Whispered World and A New Beginning. This follow-up game is not only a solid adventure but also marks the passage of time for the developer from its humble beginnings to become an established adventure game development studio.
In the game, the player takes control of Lilli, a young girl living at a covenant school. A seemingly well-behaved child, it soon becomes apparent that there is an extremely dark side to Lilli, an unintentional potential for violence that continually bubbles beneath the surface. Other children often die when they are around Lilli for too long. Surely, that is just a coincidence, right?
It admittedly sounds like a dark premise, but fans familiar with the original game will be best prepared for this sequel's careful balancing act of dark storytelling laced with tongue-in-cheek humor. Lilli is essentially a mute protagonist for the majority of the game—she constantly makes noises and attempts to speak, but the actual dialog is always spoken by the other characters around her, who have the spookily accurate ability of always understanding what Lilli is trying to say. The game also features an extremely sarcastic and embellishing narrator, who provides a running commentary as the player solves puzzles and the story progresses.
The story itself is difficult to describe without giving too much away. The game starts with Lilli doing chores for Mother Superior, the cranky and overly strict old lady who runs the covenant school. These chores often end with an "accident" where another child dies, but instead of blood and gore, strange gnomes are shown painting pink sludge with brushes. Is Lilli insane? Or can she just see what others cannot?
It is certainly a clever, albeit risky, move to feature a brand new protagonist in a sequel, as it offers the player a totally different (yet equally strange) view into the world of Edna & Harvey. This is not to say that there are no ties to the original game—both Edna and Harvey return, as do several of the asylum inmates and the evil Dr. Marcel. In fact, a large part of the game is spent helping Edna, who is Lilli's best friend, to hide from Dr. Marcel, who has been brought to the covenant school to tame its supposedly rowdy and disobedient pupils. It is also suggested that he is trying to hunt down Edna, which is somewhat understandable given their troubled history.
Harvey is featured in a much more unusual way in the sequel. Dr. Marcel is using the stuffed rabbit to hypnotize bad children and stop them from engaging in certain naughty behaviors, such as playing with fire or touching sharp objects. This plot device later figures into the gameplay as well—once Lilli has been exposed to the hypnotic rabbit, she is unable to misbehave. Trying to do so will result in her being shocked.
At certain key moments in the story, usually just after Lilli tries to misbehave, an evil looking red eyed Harvey will turn up and place her into a trance—hence, the game's title: Harvey's New Eyes. These trances transport Lilli to a fantasy world that has roughly the same layout as the real world locations but is much more bizarre, filled with unusual characters such as the gnomes she always sees in the real world when another child dies. Lilli must defeat the evil Harvey in each of these fantasy worlds. Once she has done so, she can then engage in a certain naughty behavior in real life. As Lilli collects more and more of her old naughty abilities back, they can be chosen at will in the real world—though only a single ability can be unblocked and used at a time.
Despite the unlocking and use of these abilities as the game progresses, the core gameplay is still that of a traditional point-and-click adventure. The difficulty is not excessive for the majority of the game, though some puzzles rely on somewhat twisted logic even in the real world. An example is when Lilli uses a balloon wrench to loosen a bolt—the game even breaks the fourth wall to acknowledge that this nonsense will no doubt catches the attention of game critics. However, such wacky logic can be easily forgiven, as the game never advertises itself to be serious. There are plenty of inventory items to manage, but not so many that they feel overwhelming.
Sadly, some puzzles are presented as mini-games (a particular example involves a memory aid chart) which often descend into tiring games of trial and error. These puzzles can usually be skipped, but they can be frustrating to solve in that there is no hint system to help the player figure them out without skipping chunks of the game. Most of the puzzles are fair, but the difficulty spikes can be punishing.
The graphics are absolutely gorgeous despite a lack of animation in the environments and on the characters themselves. The cut scenes are presented as still images with some basic animation, but they match well the overall art style of the game well. These is a lot of exploration involved, but the wealth of hotspots, unusual characters, and beautifully drawn locations will ensure that the player never gets too tired of playing even when the player is stuck.
Originally released in 2011 in German only, the game boasts solid English localization. The strong voice acting sells the comedic material well. The only badly voiced character is Doris the lunch lady, who sounds so hoarse that it becomes almost unbearable to speak with her. Luckily, she only plays a small role in the game. (To be fair, her character is supposed to be horrible, so the voice may actually be appropriate if not exactly enjoyable to hear.) The music is superb, ranging from a lazy French sounding tune that also serves as the main theme song (with hilarious vocal accompaniment during the end credits) to moody tracks that play whenever the story takes a dark turn.
Edna & Harvey: Harvey's New Eyes is an enjoyable adventure game that does not take itself too seriously. The colorful presentation combined with the dark undertones of the story makes for a delightful mix. Fans of the series will be delighted to see some hugely enjoyable ties to the original game (including a return to a key location that is a joy to revisit). The final scene features a marmite twist that the player will either love or feel cheated by. There are 3 separate endings—all are too brief and can be chosen from before the final credits roll. Despite the difficulty spikes and twisted logic that at times may damage the game's pacing, Edna & Harvey: Harvey's New Eyes is a superior sequel and lengthy adventure that any adventure game fan will not want to miss.