The Low Road Review
The Low Road Review
Noomi and Turn are clever and flippant but neither is a person I could empathize with. Expect to spend 5 to 6 hours taking the Low Road and much of that will be spent listening and watching.
Posted: 08/11/17 | Category: Review | Developer: XGen Studios | Publisher: XGen Studios | Platform: Windows, Mac

Genre: 2D Point-and-Click Adventure
Release date: July 26, 2017

A Shift in Direction  
 

XGen Studios is an independent game development group with a long list of published games that span PCs, consoles, mobile devices and the web. Founded in 2001, the group hails from Edmonton, Canada. They are best known for their large inventory of online games but have also released 14 internally-developed titles including Super MotherLoad and Defend Your Castle. Their newest game, The Low Road, is a bit of a departure for XGen. It is a classic point-and-click adventure that has been in development for over 3 years. When introduced at the 2016 Game Developers Conference held in San Francisco, The Low Road won Best in Play.

A Bunch of L.I.E.S.  
 

The story follows Noomi Kovacs who is a recent graduate of L.I.E.S., an institute of higher learning that trains “exceptional spies.” She has just been hired by Penderbrook Motors to engage in corporate espionage. Her boss, Barney “Turn” Turner, has confined her to desk work. This does not sit well with Noomi so she puts a plan in motion to beat the system and get a field assignment as a “real” spy. Trained in the art of subterfuge, she takes the Low Road…lying, cheating, blackmailing and stealing to further her agenda.

Noomi’s efforts gain the attention of the CEO of Penderbrook Motors who relies on “outside intelligence gathering” to maintain his competitive edge. His latest covert operation has gone south in a big way. To cover his tracks, he sends Turn and Noomi into the field to search for a kidnapped scientist and a missing agent. This turns out to be a complex assignment, filled with unexpected plot twists and turns.

The Lowdown  
 

For most of the game, you are controlling Noomi by clicking to move her from scene to scene and to interact with the unusual characters she meets along the way. A couple of segments are played by controlling Turn. There are some find-and-use inventory scenarios and a dozen or more puzzles which are very easy to solve. Puzzles emulate “real” spy activities such as pick-pocketing, opening locks, splicing tape and locating tracking signals. You even have the opportunity to throw a punch when words fail.

TheLowRoadInTxt1

In keeping with classic adventuring, there is A LOT of dialog to wade through. You do not have the option of speed reading and clicking to continue. Instead, you must listen to the voice actors speak every single word. Over time, I admit that listening became burdensome, as I grew weary of the voices used for several of the characters.

There is an explicit save function with multiple slots which I appreciate. However, if you are in the middle of a tricky encounter, the save function may be temporarily disabled. At several points in the game, your choices may result in an early ending to the story. With on-screen text, the game outlines how things turned out and what happened to each of the main characters. The Low Road then rewinds back to the decision point and lets you respond in a different way and continue with the game. I enjoyed several “early endings” and laughed out loud as I read how my lack of spy skills had impacted Penderbrook Motors, Noomi, and Turn.

Unique Sights and Sounds  
 

The Low Road takes place in the 1970s and reflects the fashion and trends of the time. The graphics are done in a unique style that XGen notes is “inspired by gouache painting.” This was a new term for me so off to Google I went to discover that gouache is a type of paint that is a water medium more opaque than regular watercolor. Hmm… Regardless of how it was inspired, the artwork in The Low Road is very different, in a wonderful sort of way!

TheLowRoadInTxt2

One of my favorite aspects of the game is the original soundtrack composed by Eric Cheng and featuring songs performed by his character Win Well. Listening to the music in The Low Road is a real treat and several tracks caught my attention as I played.

At the end of the game, I had mixed feelings about The Low Road. I loved the graphics and the music. The story is clever and well-written and XGen has done an admirable job of creating a classic “retro” adventure. However, I would have liked to have had the ability to speed read dialog and not be required to wait for spoken parts to finish before moving on. While some of the dialog is important to the story, much of it is chit-chat (a human activity that I have minimal patience with in real life). I also did not form any kind of emotional bond with the story or characters. Noomi and Turn are clever and flippant but neither is a person I could empathize with. Expect to spend 5 to 6 hours taking The Low Road and much of that will be spent listening and watching.

On a poignant note, The Low Road credits Skye Boyes as the creator. As the founder and CEO of XGen Studios, Skye passed away in late 2015 just before his 33rd birthday. At the time, he was actively engaged in developing this game. His wife, Kaelyn, took the helm of XGen and his team has continued working to bring The Low Road to market. I’m sure he would be exceptionally proud of his group!

 
Unique graphics and original music make this a pleasure to see and hear
+ Traditional point-and-click adventure with a good story, quirky characters, and unexpected plot twists
The “Rewind” feature with descriptions of alternate game endings is very cleverly done
 
Game is VERY dialog-heavy, without an option to speed read and skip ahead
Some may consider that the game is on the short side, given the current price point 
 Logo
 
 
Trailer:
 

System Requirements

MINIMUM PC:
OS: Windows 7
Processor: 2.0 GHz Dual Core
Memory: 2 GB RAM
DirectX: Version 10
Graphics: DirectX 10 Compatible Video Card
Sound Card: Embedded
Storage: 6 GB available space
Additional Notes: 16:9 monitor recommended  
 
MINIMUM Mac:
OS: Mac OS X 10.10
Processor:  2.0 GHz Dual Core
Memory: 2 GB RAM
Graphics: DirectX 10 Compatible Video Card
Storage: 6 GB available space
Sound card: Embedded
Additional Notes: 16:9 monitor recommended  
 
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JustAdventure
Leif
Leif from XGen here. Thank you so much for taking the time to play and review our game. Just wanted to let you and your readers know that almost all the dialogue in the game can be skipped by pressing the spacebar. I'm sorry that this wasn't made clear before you had the chance to play through!
Posted Date : 08/15/2017
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