Waaay back in 2010, Conrad took a at Runaway: A Twist of Fate, a.k.a. the third instalment of Pendulo Studios’ Runaway series. I’m sure most of you know it: the adventure game trilogy about Brian Bosco, the nerdy physicist who accidentally saves a beautiful gal from some nasty mafia types, and the related hijinks that ensue? (Yep, that one.)
Well, as great as it would have been to be able to follow up the preview with an honest-to-goodness review in a relatively timely manner, it seems the months (and years) have got away on us somewhat with this one. But fortunately, the kind people at Pendulo and GOG.com have come to the rescue and sent us a review copy. At last we can come full circle.
A quick confession first: while I heartily enjoyed the first game in the series, A Road Adventure, which came out six or so years ago, I never got to play the second game, The Dream of the Turtle, which takes Brian Bosco and his girlfriend Gina, to Hawaii (where hijinks ensue.) Fortunately, knowledge of the events of the previous two games isn’t needed at all to enjoy the third; there’s just enough backstory to ensure story continuity, but not so much that the player is overwhelmed by in-game references.
In fact, if you have played Dream of the Turtle, you may be in for a bit of a surprise. After the abrupt “to be continued” conclusion of the second game, players are plonked down into a totally new scenario. We see Brian Bosco on trial for murder; he is convicted and sent to a mental asylum, where he apparently then kills himself! Gina attends the funeral, where she gets a phone call from none other than Brian, who faked his death in order to escape the asylum, but is now in a rather sticky situation he can’t get out of.
And so the game opens, with Gina racing around a cemetery trying to rescue Brian without attracting the attention of some hitmen who are waiting just outside the cemetery gates. I realise the last paragraph appears to be a massive spoiler, however it’s only the set up to the rest of the game, which takes players through events of the past as we piece together exactly what happened to Brian, as well as how he managed to pull off a daring escape from a reasonably high-security asylum. Gina, in alternating chapters, is trying to find the real murderer, in order to clear Brian’s name. Right from the start it’s apparent that the story is a good one; a bit darker (and less “wacky-zany”) than the first two.
In terms of look and feel, however, A Twist of Fate is in keeping with the previous titles, with a 2.5D presentation of characters against a cartoon background, set with interactive ‘hotspots’. This isn’t a bad thing; like the previous two games, AToF has a lush, colourful feel, with plenty to look at and interact with, and the illustrations don’t feel particularly dated in any way.
Navigation is simple, with a click-to-move mechanic, and a cursor that changes when you mouse over a hotspot on the screen. By default, clicking on a hotspot makes Brian or Gina take a closer look at the object or spot. To interact (or speak to) the object in question, you simply right click, and the cursor changes to allow that action. If the object is able to be picked up, the character will grab it, though sometimes they will complain to you that they have no idea why they are doing so.
My one complaint with regard to navigating the different settings is that occasionally you will find yourself in a room, seemingly unable to progress any further, only to find (after some frustrating trial and error) that another ‘room’ leads off the one you’re in, albeit without any visual clues that something else lies that way. While most adventure gamers accept a certain amount of frustration in their gameplay, this usually arises out of puzzle solving (and weird object combinations) rather than feeling a bit misled by the game design itself. Anyway – it’s a minor gripe.
Solving puzzles and collecting clues is still the name of the game here, and in this regard, A Twist of Fate stays in keeping with the genre. While I wouldn’t describe the experience as ‘pixel hunting’, there is still a lot of scenery to pour through, and (often tenuous) links to make. Still, I’d describe the puzzles in A Twist of Fate as pretty easy to get through, with only a bit of random combining of objects required in order to make progress.
If you do get stuck, there is a pretty good hint system available, which stays in keeping with a lot of the meta-references dotted throughout the game. I won’t say more, but do recommend you take a look at the hint menu at least once while you play through. In addition to this, is the option to display all hotspots in a given location, thus eliminating the annoying scenery-combing of yesteryear.
In addition to the storyline, the main and supporting characters are all likeable, with some great dialogue and voice acting from all characters involved, from Brian and Gina’s meta-reflections on objects you interact with, to an Elvis-loving orderly and his cemetery-working girlfriend, or a Groucho Marx-imitating waiter. A Twist of Fate certainly has personality in bucketloads.
The story takes place over six different chapters, and can be expected to be completed in around ten hours. While on the shortish side, I very much enjoyed the time spent with Runaway: A Twist of Fate. It’s got a good story (and has been very well localised from its original Spanish), colourful characters, and a great soundtrack as well.