Players meet up again with Brian Basco and Gina Timmins in Runaway: Dream of the Turtle as they explore over 100 different locations during their adventure. Gamers begin on a plane headed for Hawaii. Brian and Gina are taking a well-deserved vacation, but before their plane lands they find themselves in danger. Throwing Gina out of the plane, Brian rides the jet down and survives the crash landing only to discover Gina has disappeared. Gamers must navigate Brian through locations including a wilderness cabin, a hidden science lab, and a ranger cabin to locate items and clues that help players solve puzzles that take them one step closer to Gina's location and the party behind all the trouble. Designed to look more like a cartoon than a video game, Runaway features over 30 animated characters to control and interact with. For example, one puzzle requires players to jog an avatar's memory by feeding him raw salmon.
Do you remember Brian Basco? We first met him in 2003 - a boyish, charming, naive student on the verge of an ordinary life. Ordinary, that is, until he met the stripper Gina and was thrust into an improbable situation with the Mafia and other assorted quirky characters. Their adventures translated into a game, Runaway: A Road Adventure, that met with mixed reviews, some liking the colorful graphics and bizarre storyline, others panning the obtuse puzzles and frequent repetitiveness. Four years later, how are Brian and Gina doing?
We find our couple vacationing in Hawaii. In an effort to find a more secluded spot, they hire an ancient pilot with an ancient plane. After all, who could resist the lure of the Tiki Falls? Near the end of the flight, the pilot collapses, Brian pushes Gina out with the only parachute, and Brian himself somehow crash-lands the plane in the middle of a jungle. What Brian doesn't yet realize, but we do, is that Gina appears to have been shot on her way down. And so our adventure begins.
This huge game will have us visiting over 100 different locations, including the aforementioned jungle, a secret military installation, Alaska, a yacht, tropical beaches, a Tiki temple, and a sunken galleon. Through six chapters, we'll meet 30 characters no less diverse than the locales: Joshua, the mad scientist; Lokelan, a man collector; Tarentula, a venomous beauty who loves spiders; the corrupt and rather mad Colonel Kordsmeier; Knife, an Australian surfer; plus, of course, Brian's beloved Gina and others, both revisited from A Road Adventure and new to this story.
Let's get technical for a bit. The manual is one of the finest I've seen for any adventure title. It's clear, funny, helpful and even provides a synopsis of A Road Adventure. This look at Runaway 1 is also displayed through static scenes within the options section of the game itself. A mini-walkthrough is included for the first part of the game. An example of the humor is displayed when discussing graphic options if "you have a computer as old as Otto's cuckoo." When encouraging the need to thoroughly explore the environment for clues, the manual suggests, "Be patient, nobody will laugh at you, except me sometimes."
Runaway 2 is completely mouse-controlled. Brian is presented in third-person fashion and moves throughout individual scenes looking for clues (hot spots), gathering inventory, talking with characters, using that inventory to solve problems. The manual advises that if you can collect it, it will be useful at some time. Each of the six chapters is self-contained, and there's no need to go back again to visit, although that option is there. Inventory doesn't carry over to the next section. A left-click on an object brings up a description, while a right-click presents possible options, such as use, open, push. Moving the mouse to the top of the page brings down a menu or inventory tab. Saving can be done at any time.
Although the manual suggests your inventory may include a "miscellany of things worthy of a flea market," I found that generally it wasn't overly cluttered. Through direction from Brian, it's typically clear what needs to be used, combined, etc. Perhaps one problem has to do with the occasional need to revisit the same location or conversation in order to find a clue not present the first time through. This was a major concern with Runaway 1 and still is a concern now, but less so than earlier.
Sometimes this player didn't have a clue and couldn't do what needed to be done. In spite of the built-in "hand holding,", I found two gameplay areas that troubled me - obscure hot spots and obtuse puzzles. I don't like to consult walkthroughs, but on several occasions I had to, either to make sure there was a hot spot around where I thought it should be but apparently wasn't or, worse yet, racking my aged brain over the most obtuse and obscure puzzle without a hint of resolution. After the walkthrough consult on these several occasions, I typically didn't feel "aha, why didn't I see that," but rather reacted with "that was really bizarre, how could they expect anyone to get that?"
Of course, "bizarre" is one of the descriptors one uses to describe The Dream of the Turtle. Fortunately, that term mostly applies to the story and characters. With cel-shaded graphics that are beefed up from Runaway 1, this update gives us extremely colorful and detailed locations all over and under the globe with a story line that is outrageous, silly, improbable and yet appealing. The characters are just as off-the-wall. The script is large, full of in jokes (some of which escaped me), with such goofy comments as, "this Capote puppy is the most popular urinating toy to come out in decades - all the rage in Europe." Generally, it works, in large measure because of the fine voice acting, good music and sound effects - all in very different locales.
Not wanting to risk giving anything substantive away, I'm going to leave the review at this point. One potential spoiler I will mention, though, is that the conclusion is more like an ending to a serial, suggesting more to come. Even though the game took me 20+ hours, and I feel I got my money's worth, this was still rather anticlimactic. We seem to running into this quite a bit lately, with my favorite adventure thus far in 2007, The Secret of Atlantis: The Sacred Legacy, also showing an indeterminate ending looking for a sequel. I'll accept this with The Dream of the Turtle, as long as we don't have to wait four more years for a follow-up!
Runaway 2 improves on its predecessor in every way. It's bigger, more colorful, even more wacky. Locations and characters are outlandish, as is the storyline. Obscure puzzles and hot spots, as well as occasional repetitiveness, still plague this release. Yet those flaws become minor and are overwhelmed by the flash and style of this peculiar world. I found that, like a Mel Brooks comedy, I could only manage playing sessions in small doses, but I would still give The Dream of the Turtle a hearty recommendation, especially if you enjoyed Runaway 1.
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