Adventure games are far from being a common occurrence in the videogame industry with most being delegated to a niche status. Oh sure, there’s the marketing muscle behind the strangely popular, Myst franchise but most adventure games have to scratch and claw to get noticed with word of mouth being the biggest drivers for games such as the excellent Syberia. So when an adventure game lands on our front steps, we’re usually are a bit curious about it since you don’t see the major PR machine behind these types of games.Runaway can best be described as boy runs into girl (pun intended) and hits the road as they escape the pursuit of mafia thugs. You play as Brian, a college student who is heading out to California to start graduate work at Berkeley. His academic venture gets sidetracked when he hits a damsel in distress, Gina who has witnessed the murder of her father at the hands of some surly characters. Brian decides to help Gina escape her pursuers, which is not surprising considering her stunning looks. The story is pretty straightforward in its homage to the premise of young innocents on the run from the mob.Runaway is a visual wonder with its stylistic cartoon look. The hand-drawn art is really a delight to look at and oozes polish, which should help to widen the game’s appeal. This is no Saturday morning cookie cutter animation as the level of visual detail is most impressive. The characters are consistent with the total look of the game but the voices are a bit of a letdown on a visual and audio basis. The lip movement is a bit too simple (chomping jaws) and facial expressions are pretty much limited to eye movement only. The voice acting is also inconsistent especially with the lead character, Brian. Part of the problem is the corny dialogue but the voice actor seems to be trying too hard to sound like a nerd. The other voice acting is acceptable and I found the gangster voices to be entertaining and humorous to listen to. Fortunately, there are no complaints with the cool jazz soundtrack, which does an excellent job in setting the game’s tone.The gameplay won’t be a surprise to adventure gamers since it sticks to the tried and true, point and click method of investigating objects. There’s a heavy emphasis on puzzles, with the major focus on how to combine objects so they can be successfully used in the game. The combinations are for the most part logical but some gamers might be put off by the laborious method of finding the objects as well as the linear fashion of using these objects. First of all, you must point and click on a lot of different objects to ensure you don’t miss anything. The problem is that many of the items you need are not out in the open so you end up clicking on anything that might have an item inside of it such as drawers, boxes, trashcans, etc. Gamers who are used to playing adventure games shouldn’t have a problem with this but newbies could get frustrated early on. There is one helpful feature, which is the inclusion of an audible click anytime you move your mouse pointer over an interactive object. This helps to eliminate on every single object. The only downside is that some of these objects do not provide any a*istance for you.Once you do point on an interactive object, you left-click on it to find more information about it or right-click to use it. From there, you can grab the object and put it into your inventory for use later on. Once you start collecting items, you’ll begin to think of ways of combining them so they can be actually useful. The combinations are interesting and will take some thought to figure out but fortunately, they are not too far-fetched.This brings me to one major concern, which is the linear nature of using objects. There will be times when you’ve figured out what needs to be done to move on in a level but you can’t until you triggered every event. A perfect example of this occurs when Brian visits Gina in her hospital room. There are various objects in the room and the adjacent bathroom but more are needed so your first thought is to go out the open window to see if you can sneak into another room. The problem is that you can’t go out the window until you examine a hospital map, located on the outside the bathroom door (tells you there is a nearby storage room). Why can’t you discover this on your own and why can’t you go out the window without looking at the map? This rigid linearity appears more than once and becomes a glaring weakness when considering the creativity involved with solving the game’s challenging puzzles. There should be more of an open-ended approach to the scripting, which would be much more consistent with the creativity required to figure out how to combine objects in your inventory.Runaway probably won’t appeal to a mass audience due to the combination of its difficult puzzles and linear gameplay. On the other hand, experienced adventure gamers should find the involved storyline and challenging puzzles interesting enough to make the game a worthwhile experience.
Founder and Editor of PC Invasion. Veteran PC gamer of over 22 years.