Runaway: A Road Adventure Preview

In this adventure game from Pendulo Studios, you'll try to help a beautiful stranger escape her troubles with the Mafia.


Runaway: A Road Adventure

Pendulo Studios' Runaway: A Road Adventure has had quite an adventure these past few years. Originally developed in early 2001, the game has already been released in various parts of Europe, where it has been a hit with the gaming press. More than two years later, the game is finally coming to North American shores, courtesy of Tri Synergy. We recently got our hands on a playable US beta version of Runaway.

Runaway's 2D and 3D elements blend together nicely.
Runaway's 2D and 3D elements blend together nicely.

From what we've seen so far, the localization efforts are coming along nicely. The script has been translated quite well into American English, and the voice acting in Runaway is excellent--the game's characters are portrayed by actors whose voice qualities seem to match well with the characters' visual appearance. These qualities help mask the slight distraction of the characters' moving mouths not quite matching the words being spoken.

You'll assume the role of Brian, a recent college graduate from New York. At the outset of the game, Brian starts a cross-country road trip to begin work as graduate student in applied physics at the University of California at Berkeley. He takes a fateful detour into New York City to retrieve a book and ends up accidentally running over a beautiful woman named Gina. After taking her to a hospital for treatment of some minor injuries, Brian learns that Gina is a lounge singer who has just witnessed the murder of her father at the hands of the Mafia. The mobsters also seem to be after a mysterious crucifix that Gina's father gave her shortly before his death.

From there, Brian and Gina's adventures take them through a variety of locales, starting at the aforementioned New York City hospital, moving on to an archaeological museum in Chicago, and then sending them to a remote Southwestern desert and a deserted ghost town near a lost Hopi village. Along the way, they'll meet a variety of colorful characters, including a group of transvestite entertainers, a midget informer for the Mafia named Munchkin Bob, and a nutty alien hunter who camps out in the desert wearing a "telepathic helmet."

Runaway's graphics are rendered in a colorful, cartoonlike style. The characters are fully 3D, while the environments contain both 2D and 3D elements, resulting in a comic-book-like look and feel. The game's environments offer plenty of detail, and the characters blend in well within them. As you complete puzzles, you'll sometimes unlock cutscenes that are rendered with the same visual style as the actual gameplay. The cutscenes advance the story and sometimes offer subtle hints on how to complete later puzzles.

Munchkin Bob is just one of many oddball characters in Runaway.
Munchkin Bob is just one of many oddball characters in Runaway.

Like many graphical adventure games, Runaway's gameplay centers on puzzles. You'll collect items in the environment and combine them in clever ways to get past obstacles or solve certain problems. For the most part, the puzzles in the early game seem to be logical--the solutions aren't unfairly complex. One issue we have noticed so far is that sometimes the game locks you onto a very linear path--the ingredients to some puzzles aren't revealed to you until after you complete another puzzle. For example, you may examine a jar early on in a level, and Brian will remark that there's nothing of interest in the jar. Later on, after completing a few puzzles, Brian will find a needed item in that same jar. This requires you to backtrack over previously explored areas if you get stuck, just to make sure you've unlocked every item.

Runaway: A Road Adventure seems to be shaping up into a solid adventure game, with colorful characters and an engaging story. Tri Synergy recently confirmed that the game will ship in early August, so adventure game fans don't have long to wait.

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