Runaway: A Road Adventure
Review by Jen
A wacky and improbable story. Wacky and improbable puzzles. Wacky
and improbable characters. These are the mainstays, practically
the Gilgameshes, of third-person inventory gamesthey've
been there since the beginning. They've been done and redone several
hundred times each. I'll be right up front with you: I find myself
somewhat less than thrilled that these games are still being made.
Along comes Runaway, three years in the releasing, if
not the making, having originally been introduced in Spanish,
in Spain, and slowly wending its way throughout the various continents
and languages until, finally, we are presented with the English
In it, we find ourselves playing as Brian Basco, a young university
student who has just accepted a prestigious berth in a graduate
program at Berkeley. He sets off on his cross-continental drive
and immediately runs down a woman with his car, and thus we are
introduced to Gina. Brian becomes sidetracked not by lust for
this woman but rather because he wants to do the right thing.
He picks her up and drives her straight to the hospital, wherein
begins the game proper.
Runaway is an odd amalgam of other games and movies, little
bits of this and that from here, there, and everywhere, and wholly
derivative of these sources. It attempts to pay homage to a variety
of things but only two of its inspirations rise close enough to
the surface to become recognizable. The primary movie Runaway
brings to mind is Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, with
its busload of transvestites stranded in the middle of nowhere.
You see how this all plays into my "wacky and improbable"
thesis for this review?
The overarching gameplay model for Runaway, I believe,
is the first Broken
Sword (although many nods are given throughout
to other games of yore). Gina is to Brian as Broken Sword's
Nico is to George, cast as a maybe-unrequited love interest
and purportedly a central character in the game but unwittingly
relegated (by the men who designed the game) to merely
a foil, the raison d'etre for the pickle that Brian (or George)
finds himself in, time after time.
Runaway is almost flavorless, with no new ideas and no
new puzzle types. Gameplay is 99% "get the plunger from the
bathroom to give to the plumber in the living room to make him
expose the putty knife in his butt crack for you to grab and use,
instead of the machete that you already have in your inventory,
which still doesn't work, dammit, no matter how many times
you try it, to cut the vine that you need to repair the ladder
to the attic, which you pick up and put in your pocket and carry
off to Timbuktu in order that you may climb the tree and get the
apple that will finish off the bad guy" type (this is not
an actual example from Runaway, of course, but it is
totally representative of the kinds of puzzles found
In addition, there are some frustrating pixel hunts, wherein
the hotspot is of the magnitude of three molecules or so, as is
the item said hotspot is indicating.
At least there are no mazes.
Runaway's graphics are a thing of animated beauty, on
the other hand. The screens are carefully and lovingly drawn,
and work on the characters' faces and expressions is very well
done. Cutscenes are fuzzier than the actual gameplay screens,
and often there are too few frames of animation; nevertheless
there is some pretty darn good cartooning in these.
I have to admit I had some fun playing Runaway, even though
I groaned out loud at some of the design choices where the game
could have either gone a new and interesting direction or taken
the same old well-trodden path of its predecessors. I had been
going to give it the Thumb Up when I first finished, but the more
I thought about it, the crankier I got. I don't know why we are
subjected to an endless barrage of these kinds of games being
fobbed off on us in some kind of misguided effort to turn back
the hands of time, gaming-wise.
This turned into kind of a general rant at Runaway's expense,
didn't it? Well ... in the interest of fairness to prospective
buyers, I'll sum up with this: You will like this game if you
have played only a few third-person inventory games before and
are not sick of them yet or if you just can't get your fill of
this type of gameplay. There is nothing whatsoever inherently
wrong with Runaway, taken as an individual product and
not as a member of the group "all third-person inventory
adventure games," and it really is well put together for
a representative of its subgenre. But I will go ahead and give
it the Rotten Egg anyway because that's how I feel about it in
my heart of hearts.
Release Date: August 2003 (English)
Four Fat Chicks Links
Pentium 200 MMX (PII 233 recommended)
64 MB RAM (128 MB recommended)
631 MB free hard disk space (1.4 GB recommended)
DirectX-compatible graphics card with support for 1024×768
and 16-bit color
8X CD-ROM drive (24X recommended)
Where to Find It
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