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Runaway: A Road Adventure Review
publisher: Dinamic Multimedia
developer: Pendulo Studios
P200, 64MB RAM, 630MB HD
|ESRB rating: T
release date: Aug 28, 03 (released)
|» All About Runaway: A Road Adventure on ActionTrip|
True classic adventure games are a rare find these days. Bush Senior was still in office when the Monkey Island games topped the gaming charts. In this day and age of gaming, it's all about instant action and quick reflexes - maybe some excessive clicking if you're an action-RPG buff. I think the phenomenon of one-handed browsing and the Internet has a lot to do with it, but I digress... Contemporary designers would never put gamers through the ordeal of having to put a golden tooth inside a helium balloon in order to have that balloon float through an open tavern window, so that they can later pick it up outside. They just won't do it! Such puzzles are considered sacrilegious nowadays. They're misleading, and would make you actually sweat a bit before you proceed to the next cut-scene. Luckily, there are still people who believe that the S&M sub-culture of the gaming genre deserves some recognition, and maybe a classic adventure game with irrational puzzles, lots of frustration, hair pulling and screen searching to rekindle the old spirits.
Cooling off for the summer.
Damn, I dropped my keys in there.
One such developer is Pendulo Studios, who actually had the guts to release a classic, point and click 2D-3D adventure game entitled Runaway: A Road Adventure. But, when I say classic, I'm referring more to the concept rather than the game's exterior. Runaway's visuals are tweaked and tailored to fit some of today's gaming standards. The game has been released in Europe some time ago. Finally gamers across the North American continent (that's left of the Atlantic Ocean you know) will get a chance to enjoy this unlikely underdog from the Spanish team at Pendulo Studios.
Our road adventure begins in the bustling city of New York at the turn of the century - year 2k to be exact. Without knowing how or why, Brian, a student on the verge of graduating from college, is attacked by Mafia gangsters.
During his desperate getaway, in the company of a mysterious striptease dancer (she's yummy!) he ends up meeting a wide range of unusual characters: ex pro ball drag queens (think Dennis Rodman), Ahnuld like thugs and more.
But which ones are trying to help him and which ones are planning to blow his head off?
You will have to be very patient and resourceful to figure it out, without forgetting that nobody is who they seem in this explosive mixture of murder, money, ambition, santerķa rituals and deception...a whole lot of deception.
Naturally, one of the pivotal aspects of any adventure game is its storyline. Runaway: A Road Adventure opens with a sequence that's somewhat reminiscent of the 80s teen flicks starring folks like Christian Slater and Emilio Estevez. In fact, you could safely say that the folks at Pendulo saw one too many of these movies. The opening scene shows our main character, Brian, sitting in one of those "Hollywood producer" like chairs and going over the events that led to his big road adventure.
Although you might not notice it right away, it's clear that; inadvertently or not; the designers borrowed some of the ambient from movies like Ferris Bueller's Day Off and Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure. Just like in the 80s teen movies, the plot is cheesy and full of archetypical characters. This is not necessarily a bad thing given the fact that many people very much enjoyed the light-hearted nature of these movies. Things are not so simple in Runaway, however. The plotline might seem teen friendly, but you'll be surprised to find out just how much adult humor and some "graphic" violence there is in this game. It's like the guys at Pendulo who fed off 80s teen movies grew up in the meantime and decided to spice things up with some mature content that will surely appeal to the older audience. The result of such a concoction is one rather wacky potpourri of characters and ideas that works out pretty well in the game if you give it a chance.
My objection to the story is that it was obviously written by Europeans. The text was possibly proofed or translated by stateside copy editors, but that didn't really do the trick. At times, the dialogue will sound very awkward and stiff considering that the accent should be on informal US slang. Some of the characters might start out sounding genuine enough, but then they'll use some overly formal phrase that will seem totally out of place. For example, Brian will mention something along the lines of a "strong medicine against pain," when he could've just said "painkiller." It's like the team at Pendulo tried too hard to Americanize the game, without being able to spot some subtle language discrepancies that went unnoticed. If we take the dialogue in GTA: Vice City as being completely intrinsic to the American mentality, then, it's kind of easy to figure out who wrote the story in Runaway: A Road Adventure. But even these subtle language discrepancies are not evident all the time. Some of the lingo will sound pretty legitimate; it's just that the writing isn't consistent enough. The same can be said about the voice acting. The main character, Brian, sounds very unconvincing at times, while some other characters may sound very colorful and authentic - like some of the stoned hippies in the abandoned Western city.
This bus ain't goin' anywhere.
So, you like 'em large, eh?
After a while though, the splendid art work, coupled with a very catchy soundtrack are certain to win you over. Pendulo deserves plenty of praise for successfully merging 2D backgrounds and 3D characters. The best part about this is that the 3D characters; with soft edges, real-time lighting and shading effects; blend seamlessly and perfectly into the 2D backgrounds and almost look like 2D characters themselves. Pendulo has included approximately 100 settings that are visually rich, containing 30 interactive characters, all displayed in 1024x768 and 16-bit color, along with a rich soundtrack containing 24 unique tunes. The art work is expressive, full of life and it does wonders for the in-game atmosphere, and the music is just as good. Some of the characters are "quite the characters," so it will be pretty easy to disregard some of the downsides I've mentioned and immerse yourself in the story.
Finally, I should say a thing or two about the puzzles. After all, this is a classic adventure game. Make no mistake about it, Runaway: A Road Adventure is one tough adventure title. As always, there are the completely irrational puzzles - this one time I had to use some tool on a motorbike in order to knock off one of its parts and use it to ... err ... what was it that I used it for? I forgot... Anyway, puzzle solving is made that much harder by the fact that it's VERY hard to spot all the objects on the screen, even when you know where they're supposed to be. The team at Pendulo has done very little; if anything; to make them discernable from the insignificant background details. You job is made even tougher by the fact that the mouse pointer needs to hover a bit at the EXACT spot where an important clue lies in order for the text to appear above it. It's not enough to simply drag the mouse cursor across the screen while looking for clues. As I said, there are about 100 settings in this game, so you can imagine just how hard it will be to spot all the important clues. I admit that I simply couldn't do it. I had to use a walkthrough at one point, and to be honest, I don't think I'd ever find all the objects in the game, even if I spent too months aimlessly dragging the cursor across the many game screens! I said it once, and I'll say it again: this is one tough point and click adventure! Granted, some puzzles will even seem fairly logical, in their weird and wacky way; like filling a bunch of empty lipstick casings with lead and using them as bullets, but other times, you'll just spend countless hours looking for the damn clues on the screen.
Still, isn't that the very reason why classic adventure gamers are said to belong to the S&M sub-culture of the gaming population? After all, it all comes down to your personal affinities. If you happen to be a classic adventure fan, I advise you not to miss this one. It may not be the Monkey Island substitute you've been looking for, but it sure as hell is good enough given the sorry state of the classic adventure genre today.
8.0 Very Good
An enjoyable point and click adventure game, lovely artwork, excellent implementation of 3D models, great soundtrack;
Some questionable voice acting, writing is a bit off at times, it's very hard to discern important clues on the screen - this makes the game a lot harder than it should've been.
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