Runaway - A Road Adventure
Relase date Spanish version: 06/2001
Release date German version: 11/2002
Developer: Pendulo Studios
Publisher Spanish version: Dinamic Multimedia
Publisher German version: dtp
USK: 12 years and up
A review by slydos 24th November 2002
For over one year the German fans looked enviously to Spain, where this unusual adventure game had already been released. Dinamic Multimedia, the Spanish publisher, wanted to publish the game in Germany too, had however then to announce insolvency. Hopes to get this game somewhere outside of Spain had sunken deeply. Beside the adventure fan community, that did not give up to write petitions and emails, we have to thank the open-minded German publisher digital tainment pool that nevertheless everything turned into good. Dtp already published "The Longest Journey" on the German market and proved with "Runaway" once again that they have not only their ear at the market but also understand to launch a good product exactly there.
While I am writing this, "Runaway - A Road Adventure" is already well on its way to become "cult". Whether the advance praise is justified, will be examined now.
Brian Basco studied physics and with his 24 years hasn't only his diploma under his belt but also a prospective doctorand position in Berkeley, California. Everything was plain sailing in Brians life and he packs his car in a New Yorker suburb to start his journey across the USA. Before he leaves, he wants to fetch a long ordered book from the central library in Manhattan to take it with him to California. This decision however changes his life!
On the way to the library a young woman runs into his car and Brian carries the unconscious beauty to the Soho hospital. There she tells him a fantastic story about her father and a crucifix that he entrusted her, short before he was killed by some mafiosos. These guys are now behind Gina Timmins and won't hesitate to kill her. Brian gets involved with Gina's story and this brings him into unbelievable situations on their escape across the United States...
"Runaway - A Road Adventure" comes on 3 CDs as well as a funny-informative manual in a DVD box. The DVD box itself is again in a sturdy eurobox - so there's something for everyone: the space-savers can keep CDs and manual in the DVD box, the collectors place the beautiful box on the shelf.
There are 3 options, how much to install on hard disk: from minimum 631 MB over medium 876 MB up to the full installation of 1,95 MB. (the actual minimum installation of 631 MB contradicts the indication on the box of 400 MB). The more you install on your hard disk, the rounder should the game run, however also the maximum installation doesn't get by without inserting the 3 CDs in each case when reaching a certain point in the game.
The installation runs without problems and one can here or also in the Windows menu select the kind of graphic card and also get the the entire manual in pdf-format. Likewise there is an automatically installed link to the Runaway-homepage, where you cannot only receive well prepared information but also help e.g. in the forum. There is also help available over a special, liable for costs hotline where as addition the original character voices of the game offer support. An official solution guide is also in the works and will be published at the beginning of December 2002. It should contain besides tips and solutions also the background story and presents the main characters in detail.
As sure as fate you're not left alone as a Runaway player if your'e stuck somewhere. The contact with the gamers is not only intended on the different communication levels but particularly desired!
The Intro (it can be skipped with the ESC-key) is unusual - in a corner of the otherwise black screen Brian sits very cool with dark sun glasses in a chair and begins to tell us his unbelievable adventures of the last weeks ... his story is interrupted by downright movie-like and rapid cut scenes about his departure and meeting with Gina.
After that we reach the concise main menu. Here you get everything you need one-stop: besides the usual menu options like "save", "load", "quit", "resume" and "delete" (savegames) we can adjust all game settings here like volume, subtitles etc.. - thus we need no further menu. We can also save our settings or restore standard settings. There is also room for a small picture of the current scene.
The game begins in the hospital, where they tranquilized Gina with tablets. Brian, who isn't really sure, whether he should believe everything, Gina told him, however wants no risk and tries to divert the pursuers in any case ...
"Runaway - A Road Adventure" is a 3rd-person-game totally controlled by mouse. Additionally there are some hotkeys, with which one can likewise carry out mouse functions, e.g. calling the main menu with ESC. Normally we change to the main menu by placing the cursor at the top of the screen and clicking on the computer icon.
We store the savegames together with a picture and our own text input (umlauts permitted), savegames are unlimited and can be scrolled.
The standard shape of the animated cursor is a cross. We can move Brian with it. If the cursor transforms into a magnifying glass, we can look at objects and listen to Brian's information in speech and text. The hand cursor lets us take up or manipulate items and with the bubble Brian can start conversations. If the cursor becomes an arrow, Brian can leave the current scene, doubleclicking means changing to the next scene at once without delay. But we can't let Brian ran faster within scenes by doubleclicking.
Beside the computer icon at the top of the screen we find a bag, which represents the inventory. A click opens it in full screen mode. We can't only select and look at objects but also combine them within the inventory. While combining, you often have to smile about Brian, who is visible in a window, when he knuckles down hiding from our eyes, combining different objects and making a rustling sound. Items that are no more needed disappear and are removed at the latest at the beginning of a new chapter.
Selected inventory objects are taken over by the cursor and light up over a hotspot. With a left-click you can try to use them. They disappear again by right-click. Hotspots are suggested by a sound, apart from the change of the cursor and a text description. This noise is a good reference, but can also be switched off. Loading saved games as well as leaving the game is quickly executed. The controls are simple and clear, you don't need any introduction and can use them intuitively. There are sufficient save slots and the accessibility of all important options and the inventory is excellent. You can hardly do it better!
Brian's tasks consist of using the correct objects at the right time at the correct place. These classical inventory puzzles are imaginative and absolutely make fun. You seldom can't go on by own thinking, trying this and that until you get the enlighting idea. It is to be considered, that our hero is a genuine physicist and knows about the reaction of materials e.g. under influence of coldness and heat - a real McGyver thus. Brian often shows us the correct way with his suggestions. In order not to make the puzzle solution too simple, here and there an important object is hidden well against the cursor of the players. In addition you can only solve certain puzzles if you've got the necessary information before, e.g. by a conversation. So you can already see that "Runaway" is principally a linear game, what doesn't mean, you should not try first to take up everything you can get and examine all scenes in every detail.
Brian can of course look at a whole set of interesting items and hotspots, but often can use them not until much later or can't use them at all. A nice puzzle in Mastermind-style must be solved too, and a jar filling riddle likewise. All tasks can be solved with logic or common sense, but perhaps you'll need here and there a bit longer. Dealing with the tasks is always far from drudgery or frustration. Altogether "Runaway" offers a middle degree of difficulty with well balanced challenges, is however never unfair - so it's a game for everyone including beginners. I personally needed approx. 20 hours for "Runaway", whereby I kept myself intentionally away from forums with Runaway solution threads, in order not to spoil the game.
Brian is often in dangerous situations, but cannot die or be bumped off in any other way. There are neither action nor skill elements. Violence - yes there are some unpleasant situations - takes place automatically in film scenes.
The graphics in comic style are really mind-boggling. In 100 different scenes from New York over Chicago to Arizona Pendulo Studios created really great, colored environments. An eye candy! There it's double fun to seek out well hidden items!
In addition 3D-characters were created with a special technology and converted then into 2D. In the game the characters are equipped with anti-aliasing, which is however also disengageable. Proportions, movements, gesturing and mimic belong to the best ever seen in a comic adventure! Though Gina doesn't play an active role, but if you would have the choice between her and a 3D-chick from "Largo Winch", would your decision take long ?
Beside Brian and Gina we have to deal with 20 NPCs, scurrile, funny, wacky, helpful, stressed, cunning, dangerous or mysterious. Each character is not only graphically a unique nature, but has also his or her own story and peculiarity.
The many impressive film sequences, which nearly reach full screen size are however still somewhat rough and do not reach the quality of the ingame graphics. However they are produced very dramatic and exciting and strengthen the impression of a good hollywood-like movie production. Cut, perspectives, camera, close-ups... all this lets assume that not only adventure games loving programmers but also expressed film specialists were at work here.
Great importance was attached to lip-synch and to 80% that is very well succeeded. I had the impression that the suitable mouth movements were particularly adapted to the German pronunciation and not only taken simply from the Spanish prefiguration. Nevertheless the close-ups are not completely congruent and also too inelastic in this respect, because only the lower face zone moves, while eyes and for example brows remain motionless. I stress that particularly, because I just got to know the perfect example of it in "The Cameron files 2".
Already in the intro we are taken by Liquor's cool title song with the voice of Vera Domíngez: "Run away if you can!" The sound track, background music and sound effects were likewise finely co-ordinated and are components of the good general impression and the unique atmosphere.
The voices of Brian and the other characters are casted with professionals up to the smallest role, for example Beate Hasenau gives Mama Dorita a mysterious character with her ghost-invocating dark breathy voice. Despite the serious basic plot of the game, humorous dialogues or scenes were not neglected. The three Drag Queens are particularly on the ball and I had to smile for example about the short scene between the Mafia runt and the one-eyed killer. You nearly cannot get enough of watching and listening. So those relative long monologues of Brian as storyteller between the chapters or the longer video scenes with dialogues are by no means boring. Everything fits perfectly and is under no circumstances exaggerated. The team-play of music, sound and speech is simply inspiring and a further highlight! Also perfect work was done with the German translation and adaption of the texts. I couldn't find any translation or spelling mistakes, as they can be even found in "Monkey Island 4, with a giant apparatus behind the localization of a game. So also the test crew contributed their part to the fact that the game delight isn't clouded by any slip of the tongue.
"Runaway" does not have to stand for beeing compared with other games because it is a class of its own. It has perfected the elements of the classic point&click adventures and offers highest quality in all fields. The original, exciting story full of drama and humor, new sympathetic characters, well balanced puzzles, great graphics and sound, perfect handling and the movie-like effect lets small reductions concerning the cutscenes and the noticeable linearity hardly carry weight. In addition developer and publisher tried very hard not only to create a wonderful game but also an interactive environment and a good support, to help the gamers in the best possible way. Who does not know Runaway yet, should buy it. Who already knows it, should get it for his friends!
- 80% - 100% excellent game, very recommendable
- 70% - 79% good game, recommendable
- 60% - 69% satisfactory, restricted recommendable
- 50% - 59% sufficient (not very recommendable)
- 40% - 49% rather deficient (not to be recommended - for Hardcore-Adventure-Freaks and collectors only)
- 0% - 39% worst (don't put your fingers on it)
Minimal system requirements:
- Windows 95/98/2000/ME/XP
- CPU 333 Mhz
- 32 MB RAM
- DiectX 8.0 compatible SVGA-graphic card and sound card
- 8x CDROM-drive
- 640 MB free disk space
- Windows XP
- P IV 1,6 GHz
- 512 MB RAM
- 16x DVD-ROM (Artec WRA-A40)
- nVidia GeForce 2MX400 64 MB graphic card
- Sound card DirectX-compatible
Click Screens to magnify