Kissed by madness
At the moment it isn't clear, whether "Edna bricht aus" (literal translation: "Edna breaks out") will ever be released outside of Germany. At least for the time being, most visitors of this site will therefore not be able to play this game and writing a review may seem rather pointless. However, such thoughts are only trivial, when something really needs to be praised...
"Edna bricht aus" is a classical 2D point&click adventure, that's everything but modern. In fact, it could have been released 10 years ago as a quite similar product, but that doesn't matter. This quirky low-budget project is so uncompromisingly creative, that the technical side of things is absolutely negligible.
First of all, this game has a delightful cast of wacky characters to boast, with a lovely protagonist in the forefront. Edna is neither brave nor sexy, but she has a charming sense of humor, a jaunty esprit and a serious mental-health problem. She is completely nuts, but in a quite endearing way, that made me immediately care for her. Another good thing about this lady is, that she always carries Harvey around, who is a blue-coloured talking stuffed bunny. Harvey can be described as the dark side of Edna's schizophrenic mind, standing for her passion for all things wild and antisocial, dirty and rebellious. And even though he's only a soft toy, he's probably the coolest imaginary sidekick since Tyler Durden. His comments are adding lots of hilarious humor to the games many comical situations. And when you keep in mind, that his personality is only a product of the anti-heroine's mind, it adds an interesting layer to her as well.
Quite fittingly this strange duo, a lunatic girl and a talking toy, has to escape from a mental asylum. One could argue they belong there, but it also smells like evil conspiracy. All the signs are that Dr. Marcel, chief of the asylum, has erased Edna's memory, because she once knew something, he wants to keep secret. There's a mysterious connection between pro- and antagonist, a dark secret, a forgotten memory. In the end there are two ultimate goals: escaping from the asylum and finding out more about Edna's past.
The game starts rather slow with Edna being caged inside a padded cell. But once you've managed to get out and begin to meet the rest of the characters, the game begins to shine. There's a former stock market speculator, who first lost his money and then his sanity; a crazy Zen-Buddhist, who's wearing an aluminium-suit; a manic woman, who loves a depressive man; an old fellow, who thinks he is a frock coat (and at one point actually climbs into a washing machine) and many more. The weird characters turn this game into a really special affair. Thankfully most of them are very well voiced. There are a few exceptions, but at least the really important characters have just the right actors.
What's important: most of these characters are not only funny, but also quite lovable. In the worst case this game could have been nothing but a cheap comedy, that makes some fun of mentally disordered people, but thankfully it isn't. The many conversations are full of sometimes silly, sometimes hilariously funny jokes, but the characters never degrade to pure laughing stocks. Some of them are even dark and scary, like the mysterious Keymaster, a frighteningly intelligent madman, with whom Edna must cooperate, if she really wants to flee the asylum.
Plot elements like that, where you're forced to sign a pact with the devil, add a serious and dark note to the game. It would be an absolutely wrong presumption, if the visual style brought you to think, this game was aimed at children. Behind the joking attitude lurks actually a well conceived story, that deals with mental delusions and other serious stuff in an absolutely surprising manner, that hasn't been seen very often in video games. Edna is in fact somewhat like an emotional roller coaster ride: at one moment lovely and funny, the other moment dark and sometimes even tragic. It may not become apparent at first sight, but the game slowly unfolds a really cool plot, that gets highly dramatic towards the end. This is perhaps, what crowns the experience.
When it comes to gameplay, "Edna bricht aus" is a standard adventure, but a fantastic one. It's in many ways more reminiscent of older classics than it takes the modern route. An example is the interface: instead of having one of those "smart cursors", the game allows precise commands by giving you buttons for the actions "look", "take", "talk" and "use". What's more: the game's environments are filled with all kinds of manipulable objects. Unlike many of its modern counterparts, Edna has no "empty screens". Hotspots are everywhere, sometimes dozens within a single location. As your inventory soon gets filled with all kinds of stuff as well, this enables experimentation to a degree, that wasn't seen for a while. It also makes the whole thing more difficult, of course.
The game is surely tougher than its average contemporaries, but it's not unfair. The solutions to the mostly object-based puzzles are – consistent with the game's general style – sometimes quite insane, but they have their own weird logic, that can be figured out. For those, who listen carefully, the game is also providing numerous clues. The right idea often jumped during conversations to my mind, in which the writers frequently indicate ways to get rid of a problem. To separate the useful from the preposterous is up to you, of course. And it's not an easy thing.
One of the nicest aspects about Edna is, that the game keeps you entertained, even when you're stuck. No matter what strange idea you may have, the game has an answer for it. That's the reason, why experimenting with all that stuff in your inventory is so much fun. You can try out everything: you can use Harvey with every hotspot you can find and listen to his comments, you can talk to doors, chairs, bathroom mirrors and television screens, you can use all kinds of things with all kinds of persons – the game will react on it. A standard answer like "This won't work!" does simply not exist, here.
Do yourself a favor: don't run through this game using a walkthrough. Try out things, experiment with your inventory, use Harvey, amuse yourself. Even when you don't make progress for a while, the humorous outcomes of your efforts are worth it. And while all of this is pure old school adventuring, it's by no means something ordinary. Edna may not bring innovations to the genre, but it uses an old concept in such a fresh and original way, that the result is nevertheless outstanding.
I don't feel like wasting my energy with blathering about some minor annoyances of a great achievement. Of course, a double mouse click to leave the current location without having to watch the walking animation would have been a nice feature, that's unfortunately missing here. No big deal, unless you're in a pedantic mood.
What's really a matter of taste, are the graphics. I suppose you just take a look at the screenshots here at Mobygames, to get an idea of what I'm talking about. It looks old, it's 2D, the maximum resolution is only 800x600 pixels. Those people with a technological fetish will certainly hate it, others might discover, that the game's style is almost perfect. The only drawbacks are in fact the animations, which are either awkward or non-existent, and the music, which gets repetitive very soon. The game is actually quite long, but features only five or six short musical pieces, which are looped again and again. On the other hand, especially the theme, that's played during flashbacks, is really nice. And anyway this is no reason to trash such a brilliant game.
The Bottom Line
Edna surely makes no compromises. This game is remarkably different from anything else, you can find on the market. The general gameplay style may be typical LucasArts fashion, but the developers fortunately understood that retro isn't chic, when it just copies everything old; retro is chic, when it adopts certain elements from the past and forms something original with it. With its magnificent story, its cool setting, memorable characters and charming humor this is exactly what this game does. The result is great entertainment and a pleasure to play.