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Monday, 17 March 2014

Edna and Harvey: Harvey's New Eyes.

Edna and Harvey: Harvey's New Eyes.

Point and click adventure games are where I got my start gaming, and in the lieu of particularly varied or breathtaking gameplay, where they shine tends to be in the charm factor (here's reason why Tim Schafer's games are so popular, the man has charm oozing out of his ears), where the nonsensical whimsy of them draws you in.

Edna and Harvey: Harvey's New Eyes, is the perfect example of that kind of charming whimsy. Playing as Lilly, a sweet and virtuous convent school student, you set out to free your friend Edna from the clutches of the Mother Superior and evil psychiatrist Doctor Marcel. Over the course of the game, you manage to murder almost everyone at your convent school and several people in the town beyond, and must navigate both the confusing and nonsensical puzzles and a series of mental blocks – rules like 'don't contradict adults' – enforced by robotic rabbits, that can only be removed by passing into a strange mirror world. As the game goes on, you leave the convent school, pass through the town beyond, and finally head to the asylum where Edna was once a patient, all the while accompanied by a soothing and often sarcastic narration.

The gameplay is smooth and fluid, but more or less everything you'd expect from a point-and-click adventure game, with a few twists: In the second and third acts, when mental blocks come into play, only one block can be switched off at any one time, requiring strategic thought; and at several times during the game the gameplay radically changes, such as during the 'final boss battle' with the Mother Superior, where the game morphs into a JRPG-style chess-esque battle.

But the game's story shines. It's a fairly simple yarn about Lilly helping Edna escape, but there isn't a dull or unamusing moment in the game, and the dialogue and situations cross from 'amusing' to 'laugh out loud hilarious' very frequently, and often in very unexpected ways. The opening act, in which through a series of 'accidents' you slaughter your way through the entire student body of a convent school (along with a clown and a historian) with Lilly blissfully oblivious to the bloodshed, was one of the most strikingly hilarious things I've seen in a game for a while, and it was fun to see how everyone would die become loomingly obvious, even as the game cheerfully refused to admit what was happening.

While point-and-click adventures, if not well-written, can start feeling stale fast, Edna and Harvey: Harvey's New Eyes constantly keeps things fresh and interesting. There are a few surprisingly prescient jokes there too, like when a robotic rabbit remarks that suitable places for children include 'a Rolf Harris concert'. The game was released four months before Harris' arrest.

It's an underrated gem of a game, and one which you should check out on Steam if you have sixteen pounds to spare. While people have been holding Broken Age up as an example of an excellent modern point-and-click, in my opinion Edna and Harvey: Harvey's New Eyes fits that description much better – no offence, Schafer. I still love you. We shall be wed at dawn.

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