Runaway: A Twist of Fate Review

Like its predecessors, Runaway: A Twist of Fate is a romantic comedy masquerading as a point-and-click adventure.

As a romantic comedy, Runaway: A Twist of Fate works pretty well. As an adventure game, not so much. Pendulo Studios' final chapter in the trilogy recounting the travails of lovable goofball Brian Basco and his erstwhile girlfriend, Gina Timmins, sacrifices gameplay for a whole lot of story in this mostly traditional point-and-click adventure. While you might enjoy this chick-flick-mimicking romp as a gorgeous animated movie with two likable leads, the dialogue is windy and not nearly as funny as it thinks it is, and the puzzles are thin and predictable. It's not a great way for this charismatic series to go out, and even Runaway veterans will probably be left feeling flat.

Puzzles are convoluted but not all that tough once you wade through the wordy dialogue.
Puzzles are convoluted but not all that tough once you wade through the wordy dialogue.

The story is a little offbeat, especially if you finished the previous game, Runaway: The Dream of the Turtle. That game took place on a tropical paradise and ended with an abrupt "to be continued" conclusion, while its follow-up begins in New York City with Brian dying in a mental hospital after being convicted of a murder he didn't commit. Other than the characters, nothing directly connects this game to the last one right away. You have to wait until past the midway point before things start to connect, which is frustrating for those who have been following the trials of this pair since 2003 and want a more immediate payoff. The only upside of this fresh start is how it allows newcomers to jump on board with the new game and not feel as if they've missed anything.

The personality of A Twist of Fate follows in the footsteps of the two previous Runaway games. Lush production values remain the highlight. The exaggerated faces and backgrounds gives the game a unique aesthetic which fits in nicely with the cartoonish vibe of the storytelling Nothing is taken seriously, even a supposed murder and time spent locked up in Happy Dale Sanatorium (where the slogan is "You'd be Mad to Go Elsewhere"). In a game like this, it's perfectly natural for a dimwitted pretty boy like Brian to have wide eyes atop a lantern jaw, for goofy sidekicks to resemble cartoon Steve Buscemis and fat Elvis impersonators, and for the heroine Gina to rock a spunky look with cocked eyebrows and Sophia Loren lips.

Voice acting is equally luxuriant. Every character comes equipped with excellent, if intentionally cheesy, spoken dialogue. But you can have too much of a good thing. Most conversations drag on far too long, forcing you to wade through lots of unnecessary wordplay. Even worse, lines often give center stage to dumb jokes a lot less funny than the writer thought they were. The only real exception is Brian's nutcase buddy Gabbo, who has a lot of funny tics, like how he shouts "Bananas!" in the middle of sentences for no reason. Even the music is a strong point, with the tunes perfectly reflecting what's happening on the screen and adding to the interactive-movie atmosphere.

Puzzles are simple point-and-click item collections, resulting in a short game where you do nothing aside from picking up odd bits of rubbish and experiment with this stuff to see how it might solve various dilemmas. Chances are you know this tune very well. In every scene you hit F2 to highlight the hotspots on the screen, and then you pick up whatever you can and go straight to the obvious solution if one presents itself or start playing around until you stumble upon what you need to do.

Cartoony graphics even feature some characters you might recognize, like the Steve Buscemi look-alike Gabbo.
Cartoony graphics even feature some characters you might recognize, like the Steve Buscemi look-alike Gabbo.

Just about everything is at least somewhat convoluted, so you do need to use some adventure-game logic. When breaking Brian out of his tomb, for instance, Gina has to go through a crazy sequence of actions, such as flash-freezing a glove and translating an Ikea-esqe coffin assembly manual with the help of a dead Swede (well, actually a crooked medium with a Swedish-English dictionary). So much for just heading down to the local hardware store for a sledgehammer. Still, even though you need to make outlandish leaps of logic, there are few enough items and locations in the game that it's never difficult to figure things out. Trial and error gets you through in a jiffy even when Sherlock-ian deduction fails. And even if you do somehow happen to get really stuck, you can fall back on the in-game hint system (although some of its hints are more cryptic than the actual puzzles they purport to help solve).

Runaway: A Twist of Fate is an adventure for those who just want to enjoy the ride. It's an interesting enough story with likable protagonists and great graphics, even if the dialogue is stretched out beyond all limits of patience at times, but the actual game-playing part of this adventure leaves a lot to be desired. There isn't much challenge, nor is there any innovation over what developers like LucasArts and Sierra were doing well over a decade ago, so what you've got is more of an animated movie than a game.

The Good

  • Impressive production values
  • Likable lead characters and an appealing romantic-comedy-like story

The Bad

  • Not very challenging
  • Illogical adventure-game puzzles all based on picking up objects
  • Overly wordy dialogue

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