Follow the cross-country escapade of a young couple fleeing the mob in Runaway: A Road Adventure. Well-received in Europe prior to its North American release, Pendulo Studios' Runaway tells the story of Brian, a recent college graduate who is on his way to California when he accidentally befriends Gina, a New York club singer being pursued by an underground crime family. The two embark on a journey full of unexpected twists and turns. The graphics have the cartoonish look of a stylized comic book, while gameplay revolves around inventory-based puzzle-solving typical of the genre.
Your main character is Brian Basco, a recent graduate on his way from New York to California to start his doctoral studies at UC Berkeley. While running some last-minute errands, a beautiful singer named Gina runs in front of his car while trying to escape a pair of mafia goons. Brian, who apparently hasn't had a girlfriend in a very long time, falls for her immediately and gets suckered into Gina's predicament. And so begin the adventures that take him across the country as they try to find out why the mafia wants the crucifix Gina's father gave her before he died.
If either Brian or Gina were actually likable characters, it would be easy to sympathize with their troubles, but Gina is manipulative and Brian is a whiny weasel. Most of the other characters Brian and Gina meet are very interesting and generally more likable than they are. Despite these problems, the story is intriguing enough and has enough twists and turns to want to see it through.
One of the hallmarks of adventure games is the search for unusual quest items, and "stealing" them is very often necessary. This isn't a problem in other games, but in Runaway, the thefts feel slimy. It's strange to feel guilt when you pick up an item belonging to another character in the game (and this comes from someone who steals everything not nailed down in RPGs). Brian tries to rationalize his larceny and destruction of property with flippant remarks such as, "He probably won't mind," or "I'm sure she doesn't need this," as he steals someone's shotgun, so perhaps it's the character's need for justification that makes the act feel worse than it is. (The decisions he made at the end of the game did nothing to improve my opinion of him, either.)
Some of Runaway's story is told via attractively rendered 3D cutscenes, while others use the in-game engine. Graphically, Runaway is quite nice to look at. The characters are shaded and every one is completely unique. The rendered background artwork is cartoony and full of lots of little details. All that detail becomes a bit of the problem, however, as it can become very difficult to find some of the objects you need to complete your puzzles. Far too much of the game is a pixel hunt, and some of the objects you need blend in with their surroundings so well and have such a small activation boundary that it's almost luck when you stumble across them. It would be nice if adventure game designers would add a "cheat" key to their games to light up every object on the screen that can be interacted with. Barring that, making items which can be picked up a bit more obvious would be nice.
As if that weren't enough, Runaway's pixel-hunting problem goes a step further. Some containers can be searched multiple times to find even more items. If you don't realize this while playing, you could easily become frustrated to the point of giving up on the game. Even worse, one container needs to be searched twice at one point, and after you complete another series of puzzles, you need to search it yet again -- that particular puzzle was just plain cruel. Not all the puzzles are this bad, however. Some of the puzzles are funny and interesting, though, and a joy to complete; in those cases, you can't help but smile when you complete the last step and see the results of your work.
The music in Runaway is worth noting. The title song is by the Spanish rock band, Liquor, and is terribly good in its own right. The in-game music is also nice and fits in well with every scene. The voice acting, on the other hand, is basically forgettable. Brian's voice is the most annoying because he whines all the time, made all the worse since he's the main character.
While all these problems would seem to imply the title is not worth downloading, the opposite is true. Runaway is actually a decent little adventure game. It's certainly not the best adventure game ever made, but it's not a disaster, either. The story and many of the puzzles are far too interesting to dismiss.
People who downloaded Runaway: A Road Adventure have also downloaded:
Runaway 2: The Dream of the Turtle, Secret Files: Tunguska, Secrets of the Ark: A Broken Sword Game, Sam and Max Hit the Road, Secrets of Atlantis, The: The Sacred Legacy, Runaway: A Twist of Fate, Return to Mysterious Island, Sam & Max Episode 1: Culture Shock
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