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The classic point 'n' click adventure genre has recently seen a resurgence of interest with the release of the Tales of Monkey Island series, the Sam and Max episodic series and the special edition re-releases of the original Monkey Island titles. Runaway: A Road Adventure is unfortunate in the sense that it was released during an extended and seemingly never-ending drought of adventure game development/excitement, with the mainstream of gamers focusing their attention on MMORPGs and the like. For die hard adventure gamers such as myself Runaway was a lovely surprise and delivered a solid oldschool experience just when I had resigned myself to the fact that the days of 2D adventuring were over. It is my hope that this worthy title will find its way into the hands on newcomers to the genre and that it receives the attention it deserves.
~ [ Storyline/Writing/Voice Acting ] ~
You play as Brian Basco, a college student not long from graduation, a graduation which will be on hold for the foreseeable future; Gina, an exotic dancer on the run from the mob, finds herself on the business-end of Brian's car. He takes her to hospital, saves her from assassination and the pair join forces thereafter in an effort to find out who wants them dead and why.
The game takes you to numerous locations around North America and introduces you to a plethora of unique and strange characters, some of whom want to help while others have less than admirable designs upon your life.
The writing and the voice acting are fairly mediocre for the most part. The voice of Brian is especially bad, with the actor sounding like a reasonably convincing computer generated personality. He stresses the wrong parts of sentences and pauses where he shouldn't; he sounds like he doesn't speak English and is instead reading the lines phonetically in a strained American accent. Most of the other characters carry themselves a little better, though.
The game was developed by Pendulo Studios, which is a Spanish company. The translation of the game's spoken lines and textual content into English was apparently done on a budget, but it's not so bad that it makes the game unplayable, it'll just take some getting used to.
The game has a strange sense of humour, again most likely due to the translation. You know what you're hearing is supposed to be funny but it rarely if ever elicits laughter from you. That said, the humour succeeds in lending a charming warmth to the game, which is indeed one of the game's strong points.
The game contains some moderate, inexplicit violence and sexual innuendo, as indicated by the ESRB "Teen" rating on the box. I honestly don't know why it received a rating at all, but there ya go.
~ [ Gameplay ] ~
The game remains true to the classic 2D graphical adventure format, with all of the player's movement and interactions being performed using the mouse. The object of the game is to have conversations with the NPCs who populate the game, pick up and use the items which pepper the game world and use some combination of these to solve puzzles which allow you to progress. The difficulty of the puzzles varies from pretty easy to mind-numbingly lateral and illogical. Having conversations with NPCs once isn't enough, you need to ask them about everything and everyone, then if you progress a little further by solving a few puzzles or talking to other NPCs you have to come back and talk to the first one again to see if any new talking points are available. Once you understand that this is how the game works it becomes less of a problem, but it can make for some tedious gaming.
The more difficult puzzles will infuriate you, especially so when you discover the completely irrelevant solution after several hours of trying to figure them out logically. Luckily there are plenty of walkthroughs on the web which will help you with these parts, so you'll never be entirely stuck if you decide to give up on some particular puzzle.
The game can't be criticised for this, though. Almost every adventure game I've ever played has at least a few of these irritating puzzles thrown in; it's one of the hazards of adventure gaming, unfortunately.
~ [ Graphics/Performance] ~
The system requirements for this game are so low that it's barely worth mentioning them, but for the sake of completeness:
[CPU]: Pentium 200 MMX or better/equivalent (I don't even think they make these anymore)
[RAM]: At least 64MB
[Graphics Card]: Literally any card or on-board chip will work fine
[Hard Drive Space]: A full install will require 1.4GB, or a partial install with the audio being run from the game disc will require 630MB
The graphics were produced using 3D models which were rendered in 2D, making them look much more substantial and polished than standard 2D graphics. They have a cartoonish feel to them, which fits in nicely with the overall tone of the game. All in all they hold up quite well even seven years later.
~ [ Installation ] ~
The copy of the game I have (the DVD version, as opposed to the three-CD one which is also available) doesn't appear to have any copy protection on it, because you don't need to keep the disc in the drive to play it, which is pretty much standard operating procedure for most PC games. I'm quite pleased with that; I hate having my disc drive occupied unnecessarily, and I don't like using No-CD cracks if I can help it.
Installing the game can be done in two ways. You can install everything from the disc, which will take up 1.4GB of space on your hard drive, or you can install only the game files which means you need to keep the disc in the drive so that the audio can be accessed "on the fly". This method only requires you to have 630MB of hard drive space free, but obviously slows down the game's loading times depending on the speed of your optical media drive.
~ [ Conclusion ] ~
If you enjoy adventure games like Broken Sword, Discworld and the Monkey Island series you will undoubtedly enjoy Runaway: A Road Adventure. Remaining true to the oldschool adventure formula Runaway delivers a highly enjoyable gaming experience. The game is currently going for under a fiver on most websites; you can't go wrong.
Runaway a Road Adventure starts of with Brian getting ready to move home and get prepared for university. In the run up to this there are little problems which end up as big problems unless you can solves them. There are clues scattered all over the place and in the most unlikely of places.
There is a significant amount of humour which helps get you through the puzzles which are slightly harder than normal. You can play the game at three different levels depending on your experience of this type of game. It did take me a little time to get into the mindset of the writer which is a big advantage in solving the problems and puzzles.
The game map is quite big since you can pretty much go anywhere, but a lot of places are red herrings. As the story unfolds and puzzles are solved you do feel yourself getting more and more involved with Brian and the strange array of people he encounters on his quest.
The graphics although a bit cartoon are refreshing and add that bit of sparkle to the game, not that the game is anywhere near being dull. You can save the game at any point and go have a coffee while you ponder over your current dilemma. It is available in various good computer stockists and the price does vary quite a lot to search around for the bargain. It is a really good game, and one you will return to many a time in your long endeavour to get Brian to college......................eventually we hope.