Fans of the point-and-click adventure genre will undoubtedly be familiar with the Runaway series. Developed by Spanish team Pendulo Studios, the original entry – Runaway: A Road Adventure – made its way onto PCs across Spain in 2001, before being localised for Germany, North America, the United Kingdom and the rest of the global market over the following few years. It followed the formula of Broken Sword to its own success. Now, Bulkypix have published an iOS port of the title. Will you want to take this adventure on your touch-screens, or just…runaway? (creative, I know)
Brian Basco is a physics degree owner from Columbia, who was on his way to California to do his doctoral studies at Berkeley’s Applied Physics Department. But, Brian remembered that he forgot to pick up a book he’d ordered from a downtown bookshop in Manhattan and so he took a slight detour to do so before heading back onto the main road towards the West Coast. This decision leads Brian to discover – in his own words – “that your life can be turned upside-down in just one tenth of a second.” As he was driving through, a woman, panicked, ran out into the street and in front of his car, causing a collision between the two.
Out of good conscience, Brian takes the woman to the hospital, where he learns that she – Gina – is being hunted for witnessing the murder of her Father, the guilty party being Mafia men who are after a crucifix in her possession. Why they desire this seemingly ordinary piece of wood is the question that drives Brian’s curiosity. From here, the duo embark on a journey to find its importance, whilst being pursued by the villains. The story takes some interesting turns and can be played through in less than 6 hours (not a speed-run). If you like anything in the vein of its inspirations – the aforementioned Broken Sword and Monkey Island games – then its structure and style of story-telling will be familiar, but enjoyable to you.
I’ve mentioned this before, but some would imagine point-and-click mechanics to be easily adapted and translated into the touch interfaces of our iDevices, but that’s not the case. Should it be? Quite possibly, but often times the simplest approach is made; tapping is the equivalent of clicking. Makes sense, right? Yet considerations such as surface size and touch radius aren’t made. Unfortunately, in Runaway: A Road Adventure, there are a few issues with the interface as it relates to this and a couple other aspects of gameplay. Firstly, tapping on objects should be easy enough…except when they’re bunched together and you keep accidentally selecting the wrong object that’s just too damn close to the one you want.
A tap and drag “mouse-over” functionality would have been appreciated here, effectively mimicking a mouse cursor as you scan the foreground/background with your finger. Also, the text that tells you what you are interacting with is sometimes obstructed when dragging an item from your inventory – accessible by tapping on the box icon on the toolbar (with also includes a ‘clue finder’ button) at the bottom of the screen – unless you want to do so from the top of the screen; a much less natural way to play. An option to move that type to the top of the screen would’ve solved this admittedly minor problem.
Otherwise, it’s nice to see the actual puzzles provide a challenge having not played the original release and knowing the solutions beforehand. And yes, I did use a walkthrough for some parts (bring on the noob jokes)…but mostly because some steps in a solution require specific interactions before the action needed would be enabled, even though the relevant items would already be in my possession. If I have a stamp and clay bowl, why can’t I just combine them to make the necessary mortar and pestle without engaging in one more line of conversation that I’ve already done before acquiring the ingredients!? But I digress…
Visuals and Audio
Visually, Runaway: A Road Adventure is very crisp and rich with colour. Now, it’s not one of those games whose graphics quality or aesthetic appeal degrades over time anyway – being that it was drawn and animated in the post-bit art era – but it looks great on the iPhone 5’s retina display nonetheless. Because of the reduced screen size, it can be difficult to spot certain items of importance, however.
The original music and voice-track has been retained and re-used; the only disappointment of which is the fact that the recording quality has not been improved in any fashion. It’s a somewhat hard ask, but hearing the background static whenever a character speaks is not exactly pleasing to the ear. Then again, if you’re not an audiophile or the like, you may not have an issue with this at all.
Runaway: A Road Adventure on the iOS can be a significantly frustrating affair. On an iPhone or iPod Touch, your ability to select specific, smaller or more hidden objects can be extremely impeded by the smaller screen, especially when many objects are clumped together. The helpful clue finder alleviates some stress in seeing some of the more indistinct items in a scene, but an iPad owner would rarely need it, for at least exploring the scene through tapping is inherently more accurate in their case.
Simply pressing and dragging a finger over the screen to highlight interact-able objects as you hover over them, ala a mouse cursor, and letting go to interact with them has been implemented in point-and-click iOS ports before and would have worked wonders here. All that being said, everything else that made the game a cult hit – from the story, to the charm and puzzles – is intact, and with the bonus of taking the game on the go at a fraction less than the current digital PC version’s price, the game can be deemed worthy for those who have not yet experienced Brian and Gina’ s first journey.
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