Runaway: A Road Adventure

Moby ID: 5453

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Critic Reviews add missing review

Average score: 77% (based on 55 ratings)

Player Reviews

Average score: 3.8 out of 5 (based on 95 ratings with 5 reviews)

Worth playing, definitely.

The Good
Runaway's greatest asset is its characters. Both Brian and Gina are quite engaging, revealing enough of themselves to draw in the gamer, while still being mysterious enough (particularly Gina, who doesn't have a lot of screen time) to keep up interest in a sequel. The side characters are a blast as well, especially the residents of Douglasville.

I prefer game soundtracks that are a little more tuneful than they are atmospheric, and Runaway's is the opposite. Nevertheless, the music serves its purpose. It isn't particularly memorable, but it does create atmosphere, tension, and relief when it should. The sound effects, however, are as good as any I've ever heard in an adventure game. As you play the game, you'll never be reminding yourself of the fact that these sounds were recorded in a studio. Everything plays back clearly and at an appropriate volume - including the voices, but I'll be talking more about that later.

It's no secret that I'm a huge fan of cel animation, and Runaway does it one better by using cel-shaded 3D models. The backdrops are gorgeous, the character designs are perfect, and it all comes together to make the best graphical presentation that I have yet seen in an adventure game. You may disagree if you don't care for cel animation, but there's my opinion. Runaway's graphics can be best appreciated during the ending, which I won't give away - but I will say that it is visually beautiful.

And speaking of the ending, I definitely consider it to be among the game's strengths. It has an unmistakably cinematic feel that many other games have tried (and most often failed) to evoke. I could probably name a few of the creators' favorite movies now, and that isn't necessarily a bad thing.

The Bad
I'll start with a negative point that others may find in Runaway, which did not detract from my enjoyment: The game is very linear and, as such, does not have much replay value. There are no alternate endings, no alternate ways around puzzles. If you've played the game through once, you've seen it all. That said, linearity doesn't stop me from playing through the first Gabriel Knight game every couple of years. Give me a great linear story over a mediocre story with many paths, any day.

That said, Runaway doesn't have a great story. I was really looking forward to playing a game with a storyline like a classic road movie, and Runaway isn't it. (Talk about an untapped mine of ideas for another adventure game, though!) In fact, as it is, Runaway's story is pretty ordinary. Aside from one unexpected plot twist, you'll probably be able to call each upcoming shot before it happens. This is less of a shortcoming than one might think, though; the characters will hold your interest even when what happens to them is exactly what you expected. More on this later.

I disliked the fact that Pendulo created an intriguing character in Gina, then didn't use her as anything other than eye candy. In fact, aside from the fact that Gina is quite an attractive bundle of polygons, you'll probably end up liking Sushi Douglas, spunky mayor of Douglasville, quite a bit more. For all her prominence in being splashed over every advertisement, Gina is basically a bit player and does little more than pop up on occasion to remind you why you're on this adventure. The fact that there is virtually no interaction between the two leads makes the love interest factor seem too contrived.

I mentioned Runaway's voice acting earlier. Regretfully, I consider it among the game's weak elements. Sure, the accents are fairly fake-sounding, but I don't have a huge problem with this. After all, it is only a computer game (although that kind of statement is exactly what separates computer games from films - ironic, when you consider the fact that fifteen years ago we all thought that computer adventure games would be the dominant form of entertainment in America today). The voice actors actually read their lines well, and the vocals are recorded as well as I've seen/heard in an adventure game, with little to no artifacts from compression. The problem - and it's a terribly distracting one - is that the actors obviously read from scripts that contained no information about the context in which the lines should be delivered. This is a difficult issue to describe without actually being able to show an example - but it results, all too often, in characters speaking with way more emotion than a situation requires. This creates conversations, for example, when a character might say, "WHAT?!" (As in, "WHAT?! You washed my white dress shirts with your pink undies?") When, in fact, the character was supposed to be saying, "What?" (As in, "What? Yes, I'm listening.") It's a huge distraction, as I mentioned, and it makes the game come off looking like an amateur production - in stark contrast to the visual element, which holds up very well when compared to any other title on the market today, regardless of genre.

Lastly, Runaway's puzzles are just not very good. I found myself dipping into a hint book way more often than I should have, and it was always due to one of two reasons: Either the object I was looking for blended too much into the background and I didn't see it despite lots of pixel hunting, or the object was always there, and I saw it, but Brian didn't see it and couldn't do anything with it until some other requirement was satisfied. The fact that you have to pixel hunt in practically every screen, then come back and do it again later to find what Brian missed, artificially lengthens the game and seems to have been done to disguise the weak puzzles. If you have actually managed to find the item that you need, the puzzles in Runaway probably won't present that much of a problem. This is obviously the game's weakest point, in my opinion. The challenge shouldn't be in hunting for the right pixel. We've had mouse-driven adventure games for more than a decade now, folks. The earliest text adventures clearly told you what items were available in each room, but you'd hardly detract from most Infocom titles due to a lack of challenge. Make the tools more clearly defined, and challenge us to figure out how to use them. That's how you create great playability in an adventure game.

The Bottom Line
I'm going to be blunt, here. Given the characters and basic premise, Runaway isn't the game that I would have made. The game is enjoyable more for what it promises than what it actually delivers. Ten years ago when heavy hitters like Sierra On-Line and Lucasfilm Games could be counted on to release a half dozen great new titles each year, a game like Runaway might have been lost in the shuffle. These days you won't find a half dozen great adventure games in any given year by any number of developers, and that works to Pendulo's advantage. Since adventure gamers don't exactly have a wealth of choices, Runaway comes off feeling like a hit title. Let's be honest - if you've been playing adventure games at least since the early '90s, Runaway probably won't crack your all time Top Ten.

Don't let this stop you from buying it, though. At a price (currently) of under fifteen dollars US, it's an easy call to buy Runaway and get a couple nights of quality entertainment. Despite the few detracting elements, Runaway has an extremely high fun factor. The memorable characters and excellent production value should keep you glued to the screen until you finish.

Adventure gamers love their sequels, and it should come as no surprise that Runaway 2 has already been announced. I pulled no punches in criticizing the weak elements of this game not because I didn't enjoy it - quite the opposite, actually - but because I would love to see Pendulo achieve greatness with their next game, rather than merely hinting at it. Things like weak puzzles and under-realized voiceovers are the kinds of things you'd expect from a first project, but atmosphere and memorable characters are more important. With a great basic premise, two charismatic leads, and an engaging realistic modern-day setting underutilized in a genre too laden with fantasy, Runaway has everything that an adventure game series needs to be truly classic. With a little luck, Pendulo might get there with its next title.

Windows · by Eurythmic (2663) · 2004

If you liked the Broken Sword games, you'll love Runaway!

The Good
I couldn't wait to get Runaway, but I never thought I'd get a chance to play it. It was released first in Spanish and it took 2 years for publisher to be found for the English version. It was well worth the wait!

First of all, Runaway is good and long. It takes quite awhile to get all the way through the Six Chapters. Each scenario is different than the last, so the plot keeps you interested. The story is modern and unique with twist and turns - you really don't know how it will come out in the end. And speaking of the ending, it's great! (Be sure to watch the entire thing ... all the way through the credits and beyond. You'll be glad you did!)

The colorful graphics are as realistic as can be expected from drawings. Some of the locations are truly picturesque. The characters are rendered to depict their personalities - eccentric and quirky. The animators did a great job on coordinating the lip-sync with the speech as well as everything else that moved. Objects don't stick out like sore thumbs like in other games and look like part of the scenery or room. (More on this below.)

Overall I'd rate the sound as excellent. The music is modern and original with an upbeat pace. I enjoyed every single song and tapped my foot to quite a few of them. A subtle melody can be heard when an important objective has been accomplished. Sound effects are blended in so well that none of them seem out of place. The voice acting was also well done (in the English version). Each character's voice sounded like you'd expect it to sound. I did notice duplicate voices for several of the characters, however - Gina's especially.

I enjoyed the puzzles, which are based on interaction with inventory objects and other characters. Although none of them are particularly hard, some of them had me scratching my head - only to find out that I had missed finding the right item. The linearity of the game might bother some players, but after awhile I got used to it. So many things don't become available until Brian has done something else. The first time Brian searches a trash can, for instance, he says he doesn't see anything he can use ... UNTIL someone mentions it. Digging into the trash can a second time, after the conversation, he will find something new.

There are no action elements whatsoever .. it's pure adventure style play. I was glad there were no mazes or slider puzzles. And all of the puzzles seem necessary to the story - none of them were added needlessly. And ... you can't die!

I had absolutely no technical problems installing or playing the game, even though my Pentium II 200MMX barely meets the minimum requirements. (I did need to use the Low resolution setting, though, to smooth out the scrolling graphics.)

The Bad
Only a very few things detracted from my gaming experience. Most of them are design elements.

  • Each time you start the game, you must insert the first disc, no matter where you last saved.
  • The chosen options don't seem to "stick". In other words, if you want the volume at its loudest point, you must set it with each new start.
  • Brian walks too slowly through some of the scenes, and there is no way to make him run.
  • Finding items on the screen can be tedious because they blend in so well with their surroundings. You must use your peripheral vision to watch the words at the bottom of the screen. You should scan the cursor across the entire screen slowly and carefully, looking for changes in the text.
  • When saving a game, a new slot is picked automatically. Although you can erase saved games, it would have been nice to be able to choose to overwrite an old one. (On the plus side, there seems to be no limit to the number of games you can save.)

    **The Bottom Line**
    This is a modern tale with upbeat music and an engaging story. It's an adventure about two young people running away from danger and using whatever resources they come upon to do it. Help comes from the people they meet and things they find during their escape. What begins with a chance meeting turns into a friendship and then a romance. By the end of the game, you may find yourself actually caring what happens to Gina and Brian. Heed the "Teen" rating because of the Mafia-type violence (killing), but there is no blood or gore. There are also some "drag queen" characters and nuances to that effect. Otherwise, there is no offensive language or sexual content and everything is tactfully presented.
  • Windows · by Jeanne (75935) · 2003

    One-line summary not available

    The Good
    New Spanish company Pendulo Studios developed an adventure game called Runaway: A Road Adventure, in an attempt to resurrect the adventure genre. In this mystery, you play Brian Basco who is glad that his application for a position at Berkeley University is accepted. He immediately drives down to California, but ends up hitting a gorgeous nightclub dancer. Brian takes her to hospital where he discovers that her name is Gina, who is targeted by gangsters after she watched her father get murdered. Brian also finds out by helping her, his life is also in danger.

    Runaway is a point-and-click adventure along the lines of the Broken Sword games. Since I have not yet played any of the BS games, I can't tell you how the two compare. Although you need to control the game with the mouse, there is no command line, no icons, just a single mouse cursor which morphs into an icon if you can interact with it. So you don't have to click multiple times, you only need to click once. I like how the cursor morphs into icons. I did not see a similar thing in other adventure games, and it is quite new to me.

    There are six chapters in the game, and each chapter has an objective. For example, in chapter one, you have to find some way of waking Gina and getting out of the hospital before the thugs come by. In chapter two, you need to find the mystery of the crucifix, and in chapter three, you and Gina are held hostage and the both of you must escape. Each chapter has more exciting objectives to complete.

    The graphics are excellent. They contain a mixture of 2D and 3D, although I did not notice the 3D in the game, maybe except for the cut-scenes. The graphics fill up the whole screen, meaning that nearly half of the screen isn't cut off by icons or commands. Each background is hand-drawn nicely. The environments look stunning, and these include the museum, the Arizona Desert, and the ghost town of Douglasville. These are the only three locations within the game, and out of these three, I enjoyed walking around Douglasville. There is so much to do in this town, and so many people to interact with. As for the resolution that the game uses, Runaway uses the highest resolution (1024x768). At the time, this was the highest that adventure games would run in.

    The game's musical soundtrack includes over 24 songs, but I was too busy playing the game to hear them all. Some of the music that I actually stopped and listened to are great. The sound effects are what you expect from old cartoon shows and cartoon-like adventure games.

    Nearly all the characters you meet help you on your quest. Some of them are quite funny to listen to, especially Oscar and Rudger. Along with the graphics, all characters are well drawn. I like how hot Gina looks: sexy and the way that exotic dancers and striptease artists look like. If she was a real person, I would make sweet love to her on a beach. But of course, I have to establish some sort of relationship first.

    There are three CDs that the game uses, and you are asked to insert all CDs both while installing the game and while playing it. Two chapters are installed on each CD: one and two on CD #1, three and four on CD #2, and the rest on CD #3. This means that Runaway asks you to insert a CD every second chapter.

    The Bad
    When I brought this game, I knew that the game was from a Spanish developer, so I had the strange feeling that the character's voices would be in Spanish. But in the end, it turned out that they were in English. To tell you the truth, the voices were originally done in Spanish, but later got translated into English. As a result, the game suffers from poor lip-syncing in some parts of the game.

    As mentioned earlier, you do have to insert each CD throughout the game, to load every second chapter. This wastes a lot of time, which I found annoying. You are asked to insert CDs during install, which I also said, so there is no need for this. Before starting the game, you have to insert CD #1 due to the fact that the bloody StarForce program kicks in.

    The Bottom Line
    Runaway is filled with mystery and suspense, as you, the player, must protect a nightclub dancer from a group of gangsters who are bent on killing her. During your travels, you interact with heaps of characters who go out of their way to help you on your mission. The graphics, sound, and storyline is great, going along the lines of the Broken Sword games. There are six chapters in the game, and in each one of them, you need to complete a series of goals that include escaping from a location and getting to a specific area the hard way. Apart from the shocking lip-syncing from the characters when Runaway was translated, a major problem that I had was inserting CDs during the game. There is a DVD version of the game, so that would have been fixed in that release, but I can't tell because, as of this writing, I don't own a DVD drive.

    Windows · by Katakis | カタキス (43087) · 2006

    One of the responsibles of adventure gaming comeback? I hope so.

    The Good
    I spent a lot of evenings playing that game and felt that I have fallen in a time portal or something, Runaway is what the adventure game purists have been waiting for. In a time where this genre seemed lost forever, the Spanish company Pendulo Studios brought us a 2D point and click commercial adventure game reminiscent of the most classic ones. It hasn't got any arcade sequences or any timed puzzles!

    The graphics were good too, more or less updated to its time but keeping a "retro" feel.

    I first hated a bit the main character Brian, for being so perfect in his own pedantic way and a bit dumb-arse in some occasions, but by the end of the adventure I felt some empathy for that poor guy, and I think that's a good work as the main character personality makes a good progress through the story. There were some charismatic characters too, the type of characters you would like to see again in a sequel.

    The Bad
    Well, I hate having to come with bad comments for that game, but we must face that Runaway has got some things that can bother the player in some moments.

    I could say that the pixel-hunting is a pain, but that wasn't the most annoying thing I found, well people, it's like this: The plot it's predictable. In some moments of the game the plot reached such limits of silliness that I found myself hitting my forehead so hard that it could have been possible for my brains to expel out from the back of my head. I also felt that way when trying to solve some puzzles that could have some other really viable ways of being solved, but no, you must think and do things as the game designers would do.

    The Bottom Line
    The money I spent on the game was worth of it, Runaway feels like one of the old adventures from the 90s, a must buy for all adventure enthusiasts! I would finish with that line: The game has an 80% of good things and 20% of bad things. At the moment I'm writing this review there is a sequel to Runaway on the works, I hope they solve all the faults from the first game and give us an almost perfect adventure game that it's capable of reviving the adventure genre.

    Windows · by Depth Lord (934) · 2005

    Reviving the adventure Genre? Yes and No

    The Good
    Runaway appeared on the games market in a time where everybody wondered: Will the graphic adventure genre survive? It made a bold statement by winning dozens of awards in the computer gaming press for being a fun game with smooth comic graphics and good voice overs. (I can only speak for the German version here).

    The Bad
    But Runaway has a major downside and that is its pixel hunting puzzles. In every chapter of the game there are at least two puzzles that require you to find a grey item on a grey wall. You can either spend hours searching the locations with your nose glued to the screen, or refer to a walkthrough.

    The Bottom Line
    Nonetheless, the game is worth its money. It is almost a classic comic adventure with fresh characters (a physics nerd and a femme fatale). It features a relatively intriguing story and keeps you motivated with good in-game animations.
    Adventure fans should definetely give it a shot. Everyone else might want to check out the demo first.

    Windows · by Isdaron (715) · 2003

    Contributors to this Entry

    Critic reviews added by jaXen, Jeanne, COBRA-COBRETTI, Wizo, Patrick Bregger, Zerobrain, Picard, Riemann80, Kohler 86, vedder, Caliner, Xoleras, Jan Geerling, ryanbus84, Emmanuel de Chezelles, Rodrigo Steinmann, Alsy, Cantillon, Parf, Víctor Martínez, Alaedrain, Paul Franzen.