Runaway: A Twist of Fate is the third game in the Runaway series of games by Pendulo Studios and Focus Home Interactive. The game is set in the USA in 2008 and continues on from a cliff-hanger of Runaway: The Dream of the Turtle. The two main characters Brian Basco and Gina Timmins have returned from their adventure on Mala Island to find Basco tried as a murderer. Basco claims that he has amnesia and claims that he is not a killer; the court decide to send him to a mental institution on the grounds of him being insane.
As with other Pendulo Studio titles the game starts up and you are asked to create a profile with an avatar from a selection of the games character portraits, a username and a password if you would like to keep your saves extra safe. Only problem with this is that once you have chosen a profile; you have to quit the game in order to switch profiles. The game has a hint system which is introduced with a cut-scene the first time you use it before giving you a clue on what to do next or in specific circumstances give you the option to choose which specific goal you need a hint for. Sometimes the hints are extremely helpful while other times they will only allude slightly to something which will sometimes be a little misleading. Another essential feature is the Hotspots button; which as the name suggests shows you all of the clickable areas in the game which saves time and effort with searching every inch of the screen for item and intractable objects like many older games did. The Hotspots are also displayed with their default interaction so you can tell whether you can: look, pick up/use, talk to or travel to the object. There is also a Progress option which gives you the option to look at entries for each of the chapters. Each entry can be played to recap on a specific moment from that chapter, with a button that lets you recap the whole chapter from start to finish.
The story begins with Gina receiving a phone call from Happy Dale Sanatorium. You see the courtroom where Brian Basco is being tried for the murder of Colonel Kordsmeier before the scene cuts to Gina Timmins; attending the funeral of the late Brian Basco. The funeral takes place and once the stone is pulled over the grave and three of the four attendees leave. Gina the only attendee left receives a text message from Basco’s phone; asking her to help him escape from his coffin and that there are killers waiting for her outside of the cemetery. Gina heeds the advice and starts to devise a way of helping Basco escape.
The controls are pretty straightforward; move the cursor with the mouse, left click moves the character or interacts with something, right click changes the type of interaction. Each object, character and sometimes location has two interactions: one is always examine (excluding locations) which changes the cursor to an eye, use/move is a cog, pick-up is a hand and change location is and arrow pointing in the direct the new location is. Double clicking on an open area brings your character there immediately which helps during searches of an area when you are stuck. Pulling the cursor to the top of the screen reveals five options: hints, hot-spots, inventory, progress and options. Some puzzles are more difficult than they should be because of how the interaction with an object changes, ie trying to use a suitcase tries to pick it up, while using a knife on the suitcase cuts the straps from it. This was should have been two separate objects to be less confusing ie straps as a separate object. Unfortunately this occurs quite frequently then it should and can cause confusion and make things frustrating as hints don’t take this into account.
The graphical style is simply stunning; it is made using a blend of 3D and 2D technology to create amazing characters in an environment. The characters are all 3D models which are put through a special 2D filter in order to have 3D looking characters that have multiple angles on a 2D plane. Though the characters and environments look amazing because of this; there are a few awkward looking angles the character will stand at when the character stands in certain areas of the environment. This is also the reason that there is multi angled environments which is something that is never introduced as a concept in a tutorial as tutorials aren’t staple or needed in adventure games. This can lead to feeling trapped or lost in some environments. This is in no way a problem specific to Pendulo games but the 3D adventure game genre as a whole. If there were more transition arrows (like there is to move between areas) then it would be much more clear and easy to follow. The true delight in this game is the fact that the cut-scenes in the game blow you away in a way that no other adventure game will. As the art style and 3D characters are so highly polished each and every one of these is a delight to watch. Each and every one has brilliant direction which is rare to see outside of the film and to top that there are plenty of cut-scenes generously scattered throughout the game.
The sound is a large part of fully voiced games; adventure games especially and Pendulo Studios delivers highly competent voice-acting and a beautiful soundtrack with nice environmental ambiance for when the music dies down. The voices are strong and full of emotion and with a wide variety of voices with none being reused as all the characters are fully fleshed out in design. The only problem is the lip-sync being slightly off putting as its not fully matched but the game is designed with multiple languages being released at the same time so this detail is easily forgiven.
The story is interesting but you need to have played the previous games to truly appreciate the game; as it finishes the story of the Runaway 2. The story is relatively long as just when you think that you’re about to finish it becomes just that little bit longer but it by no means overstays its welcome. There are plenty of twists and turns and the writing is solid and mostly humorous (when it is supposed to be) which round out and good story. One problem is that if you played this game before the first two runaway games then the story for each will be mostly spoiled for you; not in great detail but a reasonable overview which will remove some of the surprises.
Pendulo Studios know exactly how to make a good looking game with their hybrid 3D/ 2D visuals with sharp character design and beautiful environments to populate. The cut-scenes are a highlight and there’s no skimping on the number them that appear throughout the game. Its downfalls are the way the characters look when you speak or when their model is angled strangely in some environments and the fact that some environment aren’t self-contained and are multi-angled which can lead to confusion until you discover if the environment is multi-angled.
The voices are excellent and music is brilliant with background noise bringing a lot to the atmosphere but lip-sync is a little off and make you feel a little detached and distracted from the characters and story.
The gameplay is a reasonably standard Point-and click affair and are easy to use; with you not needing to try every combination of multiple actions with every item and character on screen when you’re stuck. The problem arises when certain objects are only accessible after looking at the item rather than using them and that what you look at and what you can manipulate is not always the same object. Some of the puzzles were much more awkward or ridiculous than is needed but generally speaking most puzzles made sense.
The game should take 6 hours or so to get through with conversations and exploring taking the bulk of the time. Anyone used to completing adventure games fast will find this to last 1 or 2 hours less than the norm. The difficulty of some of the puzzles will also cause you to take more time than usual.
This is a solid adventure game with all the usual highs and lows of a game of its caliber (bar the presentation issues). The writing is strong and so is the graphical style and the voice acting but as with all adventure games it’s genre lets it down; with the game being both lacking in replayability and exploration after you’ve completed it and the gameplay is more than likely underwhelming compared to straight puzzlers with regards to both complexity and difficulty. Either way it is a delightful game that will only be full appreciated if you complete the two previous games in the series before playing this.
I enjoyed the game greatly but was put off slightly by the difficulty of some of the puzzles which was usually down to the slightly odd system for object interaction in the game. Despite the difficulty I found the rest of the game to be another high quality game from Pendulo Studios; I’m a big fan of their art style and they have great voice actors and good script writers. They can also tell some good jokes and can easily joke about themselves as they prove within the game; making light hearted remarks about the ending of the previous game being one of them. If you like adventure games or story based games then Runaway: A Twist of Fate is a game I can easily recommend so long as the lip-sync and the difficulty doesn’t bother you much though I would recommend picking up the trilogy and starting from the beginning to get the most enjoyment. If Telltale Games is the first developer that comes to mind with episodic adventure games then surely Pendulo Studios is the new developer to come to mind for standalone adventure games.
Disclaimer:All scores given within our reviews are based on the artist’s personal opinion; this should in no way impede your decision to purchase the game.