As video games continue to grow and evolve, the fundamental aspects of specific genres have evolved as well. A shooter of today shares little in common with mid 90s shooters other than the fact that you shoot guns. Adventure games in particular have taken a very interesting evolutionary path. At some point after they began dropping in popularity with decline of Lucas Arts and Sierra, there was a fundamental split in adventure game design philosophy. On the one hand you’ve got very modern style adventure games that have all but ditched the point and click roots of the genre. These are games like Heavy Rain, L.A. Noire, and the Walking Dead, which tend to feature a bigger scale and more cinematic and action elements. On the other end of the spectrum are the smaller, mostly indie adventure games. I’ve reviewed several of these over the past year, and they all focus more on delivering an enjoyable experience in the very classic point and click mold rather than evolving the genre. As you may have guessed, Edna & Harvey: Harvey’s New Eyes from German developer Daedalic Entertainment, falls squarely into the second type of adventure game.
Harvey’s New Eyes is the second game in the Edna & Harvey series, but this time around you play as a new protagonist, the seemingly sweet and innocent little girl; Lilli. The first game’s protagonist, Edna, is still in the game, but instead of being the main character she serves as Lilli’s only friend and confidant at the convent where they live. The best aspect of Harvey’s New Eyes is without the doubt the writing and humor. The game has a lot of genuinely funny laugh out loud moments, but at its core it is a very dark comedy. While Lilli may look like a sweet child, she winds up racking up a serious body count by the end of the game. She never outright murders anyone, but it just so happens that her attempts at doing chores, helping Edna, or just going about her business results in horrific and fatal accidents for her classmates.
The way she gets people killed would be quite funny in its own right, but the key to the humor is the game’s narration. In most point and click adventure games, the main character has an internal monologue, usually when you view objects. However, Lilli’s dialogue usually amounts to “umm” and “uh huh” when in conversations, so the narrator is the main source of insight. The narrator is omnipresent, offering Lilli’s motivations, commenting on the situation, and sometimes giving the player subtle clues about how to proceed. What makes the narration so great is just the excellent writing. It is very tongue in cheek, with a lot of fourth wall breaking, sarcasm, and referential humor. The actual plot is perfectly serviceable, but the humor is what really brings everything together.
As I mentioned before, this game sticks very close to the design of classic point and click adventure games, though it does have a few unique elements, if you’ve played an adventure game you should have no problem understanding the main mechanics here. The game involves mostly puzzle solving and dialogue, and these aspects are done quite well. I found the difficulty to be absolutely perfect. What tends to kill adventure games for me is when a puzzle is just too obscure to use any kind of logic to solve, but that was never a problem in Harvey’s New Eyes. All the puzzles have fairly logical solutions, and I almost never got stuck for more than a few minutes. That’s not to say the game feels easy either, it always feels like the puzzles require some sort of thought to solve without being too obvious.
In addition to the typical “combine item” and “use item on environment” puzzles, there were a fair amount of logic based mini games to mix things up. I found these to be pretty interesting, though you have the option to skip them if you don’t like variety in your adventure games. I have to mention though, there was one late game sequence involving pizza topping and color blindness that you could not skip for some reason, and of course this was also the most confusing and poorly designed of all these sequences. Some of the mini games involve having to remember a lot facts, but in every case other than the only one you can’t skip, the information is listed on screen. I know going on about one sequence is a bit nit-picky, but the pizza mini game basically requires you to take notes, and even then it isn’t very clear how to solve it. I eventually completed this sequence after an inordinate amount of trial and error. However, other than this one sequence toward the end of the game, I was very impressed with the puzzles.
Aside from the mini games, the only other unique element of the gameplay is the concept of behavioral restrictions. About a third of the way through the game, Lilli is subjected to a radical new hypnosis based child obedience technique by the evil Dr. Marcel which basically creates a set of behavioral restrictions in her. These are restrictions like, “you must not play with fire”, “you must not drink alcohol” and “you must not play with sharp objects”, among others. These restrictions basically stop you from doing certain things, but at specific point in the game you can enter Lilli’s subconscious and remove a restriction. Even then, you can only subvert one restriction at a time, so you must choose the correct one to ignore based on the situation. This adds another layer to the puzzle solving, but didn’t really affect the game as much as I was expecting; though the sequences in Lilli’s (very strange) subconscious were pretty cool.
Harvey’s New Eyes has a very distinctive look to it. The game uses 100% hand drawn artwork, and it has a very unique style. The visuals here are a lot more subjective than most games. With something like Battlefield 3, anyone can look at it and recognize that they achieved high quality photo realism with the visuals, but with Harvey’s New Eyes, appreciation will vary more based on individual tastes. I’m sure they achieved exactly what they were going for the visuals in Edna & Harvey, but I can see some people not really liking the style. I, however, do quite like the visual style, even if some aspects of it are low on detail.
I mentioned earlier that the narrator is fantastic, and luckily the rest of the voice work is quite good as well. There are some intentionally over the top performances as well as some more grounded ones, and it all fits great with the story and the game’s humor. The music is mostly good, with a few standard background tracks and some event music as well. I quite enjoyed the music that plays in Lilli’s subconscious, though I am somewhat indifferent to most of the looping background music. The music is perfectly fine, but for some reason it didn’t jump out for me as much as other aspects of the game.
I was actually quite surprised with how much I really like Edna & Harvey: Harvey’s New Eyes. It’s an extremely well written game with some great humor and well made puzzles. It’s also a pretty long game, clocking in at over 10 hours. Like most point and click adventure games being released these days, it’s not going to do much to win over those that don’t care for the genre, but if you’re a fan of point and click games, you can’t do much better than this in 2012. Edna & Harvey: Harvey’s New Eyes is available now on Steam, and is a fantastic value at only $19.99.
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- Great Writing
- Hilarious Tongue-In-Cheek Narration
- Interesting Puzzles
- Well Done Dark Humor
- Frustrating Late-Game Sequence
- Appreciation of Art Will Vary