Review & Revisit: Runaway 2

Runaway2Today I’m revisiting my review of Runaway: The Dream of the Turtle, the second game of the Runaway adventure game series. I distinctly remember not liking the second Runaway as much as the first one and after struggling to play through it again, I now remember why. If you’re wondering why I even bothered in the first place, it’s simply because of the cliffhanger ending and also because I wanted to remind myself of the story of this instalment before I start the third game, A Twist of Fate.

Anyway, on with the review…

Gameplay: 3/5 – Technically speaking the gameplay hasn’t gotten any worse since the last game with the interface being fairly self-explanatory. However, two things kept bugging me. One was that many large and even medium-sized areas in the game have scrolling mechanics and due to the small hot-spot areas of most items in this game, it makes difficult to stop Brian in order to take a look.

In addition, walking around is just a pain, especially on Mala Island beach where I had to resort to entering smaller locations to make it more swiftly across the area. The game just has really bad layout for a point-and-click adventure game where you would expect most interactive items to be visible on the screen all at once. In addition, I think key items were consistently placed out of focus or off to the side of the screen where I tended to miss them which is just an incredibly intolerable adventure game faux pas.

These may all seem like minor annoyances but they honestly just made playing the game feel like much more of a chore.

Graphics: 5/5 – Here’s one area where the game has definitely gotten better compared to the last instalment. The mix of cell-shaded 3D characters and hand-drawn backgrounds is much cleaner than before. In addition there’s some excellent variety from the lush jungle environments to the dark temples, the icy Alaskan section to the rather unexpected but delightfully pirate-oriented time-trip section.

Animation: 4½/5 – I also have to give this game credit for its vastly improved animation work. Not only are the cutscenes much cleaner than the last game, there’s just a whole lot more of them. In addition in-game animations are excellent and the previously rather dull speech-cycle close-ups look much better than the first game. However, while the animation work is a whole lot more impressive, I felt there were also a lot of redundant cutscenes which honestly didn’t need to be there (how many frickin’ times did we need to see Brian dive to the wrecked pirate ship, honestly). This is a minor flaw but it dragged the final act of the game a little bit unnecessarily which is why I’m chopping off half a point.

Music: 4/5 – Technically speaking the music is pretty much as good as before and the production quality is very high. There weren’t as many stand-out musical pieces though and I really missed Liquor’s Runaway-theme from the last game. The opening theme of this game wasn’t bad or anything, but I just personally preferred the first game’s theme better.

Sound: 4/5 – I do have to admit that the voice-acting has gotten a lot better since the first instalment. Firstly, while the voice-cast has been expanded considerably, we still have the familiar voices of Marc Biagi, Lani Minella and Chris Wilcox all returning to their signature roles from the last game, with Jon St. John giving some additional voice-acting awesomeness to the game. This creates a nice sense of continuity with the last game along with all the new voices which add more variety. Secondly, the translation effort was much better than last time with the dialogue sounding much more natural than before (though Marc Biagi still gets a few quirky Brian lines in as well). However, even with the improved dialogue, I found that often the game simply didn’t explain my goals very well and this was something I got fed up with. Also, I spent a lot of time going over the same dialogue choices over and over again because the game simply doesn’t prevent you from talking to people when they have nothing new to say. Also, some of the characters and especially Joshua are just annoying to talk to – which is why I can’t give the game a full score.

Plot: 2½/5 – I think by far the weakest aspect of this game. I find the lackluster nature of the storyline to be a combination of the fact that it’s based around one of the worst characters of the first game (Joshua) and that especially at the beginning of the game, almost all of your problems are caused by Brian acting like a real jerkwad. The game does thankfully pick up about half-way through and especially towards the end, but the fact it ends on a cliffhanger sort of prevents from ever reaching okay status. This game is clearly just a warm up for the third game, on top of which the plot just doesn’t go anywhere.

Difficulty: Frustrating – It might have been just my dislike of this game affecting my perceptiveness or maybe I was just being a tad sloppy, but you also have to understand that it is a linear game and that I have actually played through it once before. Never the less, I had to check a walkthrough more than a dozen times because I honestly couldn’t figure out what to do. Part of this at least is due to very poor puzzle design, where the game simply doesn’t give you a clue or hides important items off to the sides and away from your line of sight. Another problem is that you have to buckle down and really talk to everybody about everything. Also, even though the dialogue of the first game was admittedly very forced at times – I felt it kept you informed of your goals a whole lot better whereas in this game, you often have to accomplish many seemingly minor goals before finally getting to the thing you’re actually after. Plus, sometimes the game just expects you to go randomly trying inventory items on things you would never think to use them on (like the bottles of wine).

Score: 77% – Part of me really does want to like Runaway 2. It certainly improved in many aspects that were a little weak in the last game, like the graphic bugs and the slightly clumsy dialogue. However, the game suffers from very weak puzzle design, annoying characters and a pretty lame plot-line which ends on a cliffhanger just as it’s about to get decent. Because I haven’t played Runaway 3 yet, I unfortunately can’t comment if the story this instalment is building up on is actually worth anything, but I really wouldn’t recommend this game for anyone except the most hardened adventure game veterans… and I think even they wouldn’t be able to enjoy this game.