Genre: Mystery Comedy Adventure
Release Date: March 2007
Note: Originally published 15 March 2007
If you like 2D comedy/action 3rd person point ’n’ click inventory adventures then Runaway 2 is one of the best of its kind to have been released in a very long time. Skeptics, of course, will not be content to just take my word for it and demand an explanation, and since that’s why you’re here...
For everyone who has yet to play the first Runaway, let’s journey back in time to meet Brian Basco - a physics graduate - who has just accepted an offer to complete his doctoral studies in California. It's a dream come true, but as he begins his journey, a small detour to pick up a book changes his life forever as he hits a girl who dashes in front of his car. The girl’s name is Gina and this ‘fortunate’ accident will thrust the two of them headlong into the adventure of a lifetime.
Runaway 2 opens with Brian and Gina on vacation on the Hawaiian Islands, preparing for a flight to the Tiki Falls on Mala Island. For some unknown reason though, all trips to Mala Island have been cancelled and the couple will have to rely on the only person that is willing to fly there: Old Otto and his even older hydroplane. Despite Brian’s objections, they board the plane only to have the inevitable happen: Brian will find old Otto unconscious in the cockpit, with the plane losing altitude fast. With only one parachute available, Brian forces Gina to jump out of the plane, and braces for the crash landing. And that’s where the game starts.
The first thing that struck me like a slap in the face was that Brian has completely changed from the nice, likeable geek ofRunaway 1 to your every day, common spiky hair/soul patch dude. Not a particularly welcome transformation, but we need something to appeal to the mainstream masses, don’t we? In defense of the developers, this transformation could be justified as Brian’s lifestyle changed dramatically after hooking up with Gina and that could have had an affect on his appearance (it’s always some woman, isn’t it?). Regardless, relating to the character was more difficult this time, simply because I don’t particularly fancy identifying with a “trendy dude.”
The story is definitely the strongest point of Runaway 2. Brian will set off to find where Gina landed and help her out, if needed. The game is split into 6 chapters, with the plot unfolding and becoming more convoluted with each step forward. And not in his wildest dreams would Brian ever imagine that on the way he will get involved with the military, travel to the arctic, get in touch with aliens and come across mighty old-time pirates. How does this all blend together? I really want to tell you everything since I loved the story so much, but I can already see the pitchforks being equipped and the torches being lit, so I’ll control myself. You’ll just have to play the game to find out. Will that be easy and fast, as most games these days? Hell no! Will it be lengthy and challenging, like all adventures should be? You bet your bottom!
Overall, there is a perfect balance between action and humor. Action? Now that is a word that can make many an adventurer cringe. Don’t worry. There are no action sequences or timed sequences or stealth sequences or anything else some developers have the delusion belong in an adventure game. By “action” I mean the pace of the story and the turn of the events that provide total engrossment, while at the same time the humor lightens the atmosphere where and as needed. And for frosting on the cake, the story is narrated in a very unique manner. How did the developers achieve all that? Boggles the mind, huh?!
On equal level with the brilliant story are the memorable characters. From the hard-ass Colonel Kordsmeier to the obnoxious top chef Archibald; from Tarantula, the deadly shrew and her army of, erm, tarantulas, to the phony TV adventurer Deeeeeeean Grassic, all characters have been carefully crafted, capturing exactly the essence of what they are meant to represent. But not only will Brian meet new faces, he will also reunite with old friends and acquaintances from the first game. For that reason I strongly recommend to play Runaway 1 first, if you haven’t already. Although there is an “About Runaway 1” video available in the options screen, you won’t get to know all the characters as well as if you played the game itself, let alone that you won’t get almost any background on situations and items that are linked to the sequel. But if you insist on playing Runaway 2 first, then watching the “About” video is an absolute necessity.
Speaking with the various characters requires dialogue trees that lead to sub-trees etc. Dialogue is very important, not only to understand but also to progress the story. I encountered one little problem though. Every time you have exhausted all tree options with a certain character, talking to that character again will show all the original dialog options so you can hear the dialog again, if you want. Occasionally, something new may have appeared that could be missed if you are not careful. But the problem does not lie there. There are a couple of cases where the new dialog option needed to progress the game is not obvious, because it doesn’t appear in the main dialog tree but rather in a sub-tree. Just talking to the character again will not show anything different unless you reselect a certain dialogue option that will lead to the sub-tree with the new option. At some point in the game, feeling completely stuck, I looked at a walkthrough only to find out that I had to talk to someone about a subject I had already exhausted in order to find the new dialogue option in the sub-tree. Thankfully, this only happens once or twice, so if you’re really stuck, try talking to everyone about everything again.
The puzzles are strictly inventory-based. It is a very common occurrence, especially nowadays, for inventory-puzzle adventures to be either dead easy or roam the plains of absurdity. Once again, Runaway 2 manages to find the golden mean, providing challenges that will simultaneously tax your brain and your imagination. Overall, I found the puzzles completely satisfactory, and, after the toughest of challenges, I was left with a feeling of accomplishment rather than a “What the hell was that?” Of course there are instances where the scales tip towards absurdity, but we adventurers can forgive a couple of slip ups – and after playing this game, you’ll never eat fast again!
Now, those who have played the first game are probably wondering, “But what about pixel hunting?” Pixel hunting is, of course, a relative term, but it's self-explanatory that trying to find a 1x1 pixel sized item qualifies as such, and the firstRunaway had its own share of this extreme sport. Worry not though, for developer Pendulo learned from its mistakes and you will not need the eye of an eagle and the hand of a surgeon to find pixels in haystacks. There’s even another nail, which is now easy to spot!
Visually, Runaway 2 scores quite high, with gorgeous, colorful hand drawn characters and backgrounds, that sometimes seemed like they’re nodding towards Monkey Island 3, and brilliant, movie-like cut-scenes, that can be paused using the space bar mind you, which is always one of the most welcome features in a game. Unfortunately, I can’t say the same about the music, which is divided into two extremes. On one hand there’s beautiful background music, varying according to location. On the other hand the soundtrack of the game is one of the most appalling I’ve ever heard in an adventure game, featuring mainstream R&B and hip-hop sounds that made my eardrum feel as though it had been rubbed against a cheese grater. Of course if you are into this kind of “music,” you probably won’t share my opinion of the soundtrack. Some nice voiceovers complete this high standard, with the aforementioned exception, presentation ensemble.
Apart from the dialogue sub-tree issue, Brian’s new look, and the atrocious soundtrack, I can’t find anything else that I could complain about in this game, no matter how hard I try. I did encounter a couple of minor glitches but they didn’t really affect the gameplay, and the “ending” may not sit well with some people – I wasn’t too wild about it to be honest. That’s about it. I do need to set history straight though. At some point in the game, when you come across a statue of Neptune, make this correction: Neptune is not a Roman god that the Greeks called Poseidon. Poseidon is a Greek god that the Romans called Neptune! Let’s not forget that, to put it in the words of Eddie Izzard, “The Romans invaded the Greeks and stole their gods.” Nitpicking? Oh well…
Overall, everything that makes for a highly enjoyable adventure is present. Brilliant story and characters, clever and challenging puzzles and a gripping pace, all presented almost perfectly. The few issues encountered can’t even be taken into consideration when playing this marvelous game. Along with Hollywood Monsters & Runaway, Pendulo has now established itself as one of the industry’s top adventure game developers. You will be missing out greatly if you skip this gem.
Final Grade: A
Pentium IV 1.6 Ghz / Athlon 1600+
128 MB RAM (256 MB for Win 2000/XP)
32 MB DirectX 9-compliant video card (min 1024x768 16Bit)
DirectX 9-compliant sound card
DirectX 9 or higher (included on disc)
2.5 GB free hard drive space