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Splinter Cell
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Runaway: A Road Adventure
RunawayMany thought the genre of classic adventure gaming had died a long time ago, but instead it had been in a Sleeping Beauty kind of slumber, only waiting for the right prince to come and shake it from its sleep. Similar to the fairy tale, it was far from certain if and when such a thing would finally happen. After all, the adventure Runaway from Spanish developer Pendulo Studios had already been completed but was lacking a publisher who would introduce the game into the German market. Finally, DTP was won as the right partner who then translated the game and released it by the end of last year. Ultimately, it was worth the effort, as Runaway emerged as an astonishing commercial success.
Chapter 1The game's protagonist is Brian Basco, who narrates the (interactive) story in retrospect. He's on a study trip across the USA when all of a sudden beautiful Gina bumps into his car. As Brian learns later on, Gina is on the run from sinister Mafia thugs who, in their search for a mysterious crucifix, murdered her father before her very eyes. Being now in possession of the artefact, Gina is unfortunately discovered and escapes onto the street where she meets Brian's car head-on. Brian takes injured Gina to the nearest hospital where she can turn Brian's attention towards her predicament before she looses consciousness. At this point in the game, the player takes control of the situation for the first time and is left with the task to get Gina out of the hospital again before her father's killers can find her out.
Graphics & sound:
Chapter 2Although Runaway seems to be taking a step backwards with its traditional 2D graphics, it is by no means overshadowed by games that take a somewhat half-hearted approach to 3D environments such as in Monkey Island 4. With its hand-drawn graphics, the game shows off with highly detailed background settings and smoothly animated characters. Only the rendered cutscenes leave a negative impression due to their comparatively low quality - basically, this is surprising as the game occupies 3 CD-ROMs (the full installation requires 2 GB of disk space). At times, the characters' lips don't move synchronous to what's been said, but that detail aside the game sports superb voice-overs. Also the score unobstrusively supplements the game's atmosphere in most situations. Runaway even comes along with an exclusively recorded title theme that isn't too bad but might not suite everyone's taste.
Chapter 3The game can be entirely controlled via the mouse, your keyboard can take a break in the meantime. Thanks to the intelligent cursor that, depending on the object, automatically adopts the right command such as "Look at" or "Use", you will have no difficulties controlling the game. However, when you want to use an object stowed away in your inventory, you have to access the inventory and drag & drop the object into the gaming environment before you can apply it to another object - a method that needs getting used to. What's more convenient is that you can cut long distances short by double-clicking on the screen exit of locations you already visited - a feature you learn to appreciate in later stages where you have to oscillate between several locations frequently. When chapters are made up of several locations, you can also travel faster by making use of an area map.
Chapter 4Naturally, you have to solve a series of puzzles in the course of the six chapters. Be it in the hospital, the archaelogical museum, or the desert - you'll be soon lost without brains. Fortunately, most of the puzzles can be tackled easily enough by applying some logic and in part require you to combine two objects in your inventory. Sometimes you can catch the decisive hint by listening closely to conversations, or by simply looking at the object in your inventory, resulting in a more detailed description of the item in question by Brian. Similar to many other adventures, Runaway has a very linear structure, making it necessary to solve the puzzles according to a predetermined sequence. The drawback of structuring the game in such a fashion is that certain objects become "visible" only when Brian is in need of them for the tasks ahead. Searching a container like a waste-paper basket for contents and finding nothing doesn't necessarily mean that it's empty. This unusual policy of "unlocking" objects can give you some pause, and leads to a frantic search of all locations you already visited as you simly cannot find the fitting object.
Pendulo Studios





very good

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Pros & cons:
Chapter 5All in all, however, the positive aspects of Runaway outweigh the points for criticism. Apart from the rigid structure, the comparatively short time to finish the game, and the moderate fun of the dialogues in contrast to, say, Broken Sword, you're still left with nothing less than the best adventure of the year. Runaway puts an end to the dry spell fans of adventure games had to endure, and deftly plays with "old" virtues such as nice 2D graphics and excellent user-friendliness. It doesn't really matter, therefore, that Charles Cecil, founder of British Revolution Studios and developer of the popular Broken Sword series, considers 2D adventures an outdated thing. But even beyond any ground-breaking innovations, the likeable and in part kinky characters such as the group of drag queens, the motivating story, and the logic puzzles ensure that you can enjoy one of the most cultivated adventures in quite some time.
The game's success might now lead to the development of a sequel. So far, no tangible details have been disclosed, but rumour has it that both developer Pendulo Studios and publisher DTP aren't disinclined to a successor. Until then, we can spend some more time on Runaway and look forward to a suddenly brighter future of adventure gaming - towards Broken Sword 3.
© 02-23-2003 by CE