A creepily characterful and impressively detailed comedy asylum escape cartoon point-and-click adventure game from then independent German studio Daedalic, for which many of the reviews in the English-speaking press have been bafflingly low.
For neophytes to the point-and-click genre, perhaps it will test their patience too far. But for serious adventure fans, an unmissable slice of gaming history, as it started a raft of defiantly different titles from the same studio that maintained its independence from 2007 until May 2014.
Even taking into account that the only official English version has two serious (but fixable*) bugs, several puzzles that ask a little too much of the player's imagination, and that it occasionally lacks clarity in animation, this game deserves more attention.
Those negative aspects certainly prevent this game from approaching the upper echelons of adventure gaming or being recommended to players new to the genre, but its depth, its engaging and original story, and its many challenges will give regular adventure gamers, or simply lovers of a good tale, many moments of satisfaction.
Perhaps it's the unashamedly old-shool approach to puzzle-based gameplay that resulted in those scores, as seems to be the increasing trend in game reviewing. But it's exactly those aspects, the tricky but satisfying puzzles, the taunting clues, the asides and terrible puns that often had me staring blankly as often as chortling away, that give this game character, making it game enjoyable and underlining the player's feeling that a lot of effort has gone into it.
This game is fully-voiced, and in this case, that really means something. The sheer number of voice lines included to cover virtually every item interaction is something I've only seen elsewhere in another 2008 game released slightly later, A Vampyre Story, made by ex-Lucasarts members, and featuring a similarly creepy tale and sarcastic female protagonist. Breakout's voice lines gave a real sense of character to Edna, our less than sane avatar, and her soft toy sidekick, Harvey, which is what adventure games are uniquely able to excel at - making you believe the people and situations.
Staying with the Vampyre Story comparison, since both games were heavily influenced by 1990's LucasArts titles: Vampyre is what a team composed of programmers, writers and artists with decades of experience and greater financial backing might produce: polished and slick. On the other hand, for a first attempt at a game made largely by a single student in his spare time, Breakout is impressively close in terms of ambition and detail, if not execution.
It's all those factors contributing to the game's believability that allows the story to make a pleasing transition in mood towards its latter half, where dialogue clues will increasingly give the player the sense of a shift in the way they think about the main character. Exactly where this happens will vary between players, but it's neatly done.
While the characters are colourfully drawn both literally and in terms of character, with a great attention to the details of their likes, dislikes and small personality details, and several characters are "cute", it's worth noting this isn't a game for very young children. It may not be clear from the game's marketing material which shows the potential heroine clutching her toy rabbit, who is her co-star, but certain sections of the game contain some rather gruesome cartoon violence. Nothing that would worry a teen or adult - we're talking Itchy and Scratchy here - but enough that it might frighten someone younger.Final thoughts:
An underrated and creepy game with many laughs, but its oblique clues hidden within obscure item combinations and the leaps of logic required for certain puzzles mean it's probably not for those who are new to point-and-click adventures, especially if they are very young children. It's a three-star game, but it shouldn't be left to languish in the pile of the one or two star games it's often thrown in with.
Bug fix Footnote:
*To fix the English version's bugs with the kitchen menu and ending scenes, visit the Breakout section of the Steam Community Guides