When was the last time you played a couple of really good point and click adventure titles? While the genre isn't dead, it hasn't exactly been taking PC gaming by storm lately either. With a few successful independent titles aside, one of the last adventure titles that had reasonable mainstream success was the original Runaway - its quirky storyline and characters reminded many of just how fun but challenging adventure titles can be. To the excitement of many adventure gaming fans, Runaway 2: The Dream of the Turtle has been in the works for a while now, and for a select few regions around the world (like Europe and Australia), it is now on store shelves.
Once you've navigated the simple starting screen and have chosen to begin the game, you will be presented with an opening sequence that sets the storyline up. Brian, the main character, is with his girlfriend Gina in Hawaii and, despite Brian's reluctance, Gina insists that the two should set out to a more secluded island in the area, all made possible thanks to the services of a local "mah and pah" flight company. Unfortunately, the elderly pilot of the plane losses consciousness mid flight, and Brian is forced to throw Gina out with the only parachute on board, leaving the task of landing the plane to himself, which he achieves, albeit ending up in the middle of a jungle. It is now the gamer's task to solve and direct Brian's way back into civilization, and to meet up with Gina. Of course, it doesn't end up being that easy, as Brian finds himself in the middle of a huge conspiracy involving the US Army, aliens and other various oddballs.
Naturally, the storyline in a point and click adventure title contributes significantly to the game's appeal, and in this regard, Runaway 2 is definitely unique and charismatic. While it is hard to divulge aspects of the game's storyline without spoiling things, lets just say even fans of the original Runaway will probably be surprised by a few of the twists and turns that Runaway 2 has to offer. As already stated, it is a very unique storyline that would probably confuse readers or viewers if it were implemented in another medium. I guess it is lucky for developers like Pendulo Studios that the gaming medium is generally appreciative and receptive of quirky and even down right silly storyline concepts, because that's what Runaway 2 is about.
Of course, Runaway 2 does have its serious moments like Brian's pursuit to save Gina, but like any good adventure title, Runaway 2 doesn't take itself too seriously, with quite a few stereotypes on display, pop culture references to acknowledge, and general jokes to be had, even some directed at the game and genre itself. In fact, throughout the game, there is almost always a one liner on the tip of Brian's tongue or a more subtle joke in the dialogue or environment, and while you won't likely be in stitches very often, Runaway 2 certainly has its moments humor wise.
Outside of the storyline, the other huge factor towards making a successful adventure title is the game's mechanics, and how it translates the storyline into an interactive form. Runaway 2 again excels here, however there are a few faults along the way. Firstly, many of the game's puzzles and problems involve an undesirable amount of repetition to solve. For example, you may have to communicate with a particular character a few times throughout the process of solving one specific problem, and each time you will likely be subjected to the same introductory dialogue and series of events associated with talking to that character. This is a hard issue to avoid in adventure titles, but even if you never instigated an unnecessary conversation with a character in Runaway 2, you'd still be prone to various repetitive scenes based on what's required to solve the puzzle alone. It isn't a huge deal, it just takes a little out of the game's otherwise good job of keeping you immersed.
Another small issue in Runaway 2's gameplay is the relation between what the storyline wants you to do next, and what you actually have to do in the game. While I'm all for a challenging adventure title to work the brain, there really are some very weird puzzles in Runaway 2, to the extent that I think if you put 100 average gamers on the task of such a puzzle, only a handful will solve it before resulting in frustration, and in some cases, even when you eventually solve puzzles like these, you feel more confused at the logic than relieved at solving it. To make matters slightly worse, Runaway 2 will also have you "pixel hunting" on occasions, which basically means you'll be slowly scanning the scene with your mouse, squinting at the screen and watching for your icon to turn into a magnifying glass or a hand, as some "hot spots" in the environment that you can interact with are incredibly small and hidden. With all this in mind though, it really depends on how you handle solving problems that may or may not make total sense - if you love being challenged by quirky puzzles that may require borderline guesswork to solve, all this is probably a huge plus for you, but for anyone else, it can be a bit of a turn off. In all honesty though, if it's adventure titles you like, then I doubt it will be a game killer either way, as I think even the less imaginative adventure gaming fans will be able to overlook the random nature of Runaway 2 for the game's otherwise very solid gameplay.
Visually, Runaway 2 isn't the best illustrated style adventure game I've seen but it has its moments. Some environments vary in detail and quality but most are nicely rendered. On the topic of rendering, the game is stuck at 1024x768 so unfortunately gamers with larger screens won't be at an advantage in Runaway 2. The character movements are lifelike and give off the effect of a 3DStudioMax Flash plugin - that is, 3D models made to look somewhat 2D and cartoony. This time around, Pendulo Studios chose more environmentally relevant soundtracks during gameplay, which work well. Still on the topic of audio, Runaway 2 features some very nice performances voice acting wise, to the point where even the more off the wall characters seem believable. At times you may notice a voice actor being recycled, as confirmed by the game's closing credits, but in general the voices actors did a good job with every character in the English version of the game.
So, what's the verdict? Is adventure gaming back on top? Well, not quite, but Runaway 2 is a funny, challenging and very creative adventure title that should have any fan of this classic genre enthralled. The storyline is odd but filled with great characters and twists, the voice acting is second to none, and the design and makeup of the game itself leaves little to be desired. At times the nature of the game can make for some pretty wacky solutions to some problems and puzzles which in turn can create repetition, but in a way this is becoming more of a trait for the Runaway series than a negative thing, so fans should expect nothing less. While some gamers that are new or unfamiliar with adventure titles may be turned off by its unique ways, adventure gaming fans will love every second of Runaway 2: The Dream of the Turtle. Unfortunately for US fans, they will have to wait until early 2007 to see Runaway 2 in their retail shops, but for many other fans around the world, the game is ready and waiting.
Playing Runaway 2 and need a little help on a certain part of the game? Check out our Runaway 2 walkthough/guide for tips on key parts to the game.