Runaway: The Dream of the Turtle Reader Review
After keeping me in suspense for the last God-knows-how-many months, Runaway: Dream of the Turtle has finally come out, allowing MY Dream of the Turtle to finally come true. What an appropriate name in this case!, 'Dream of the Turtle' that is, since this game's arrival onto store shelves has seemed like a slow-motion sequence in a race between the proverbial tortoise and the hare. All of us who played and loved the first Runaway have been on pins and needles, waiting for that Runaway 2 box to cross the retail finish line, since we enjoyed the first instalment like kiddies let loose in a candy shop.
When Runaway 1 (A Road Adventure) came out, I was finishing up my PhD in a physical science, just like the main character in the story, so I guess that is what attracted me to the game in the first place, in addition to the fact that I liked the idea of the road trip across the United States, a theme which many of us have actually lived through, though without all of the intrigue that happened to Brian on his way from East Coast to West... Plus, I know my road trip (which happened to be an eastward-bound journey) did not involve any women as hot as the skimpily-clad Gina. So, I guess I lived a more exciting alternative existence through the nerdy hero, Brian Basco. Anyway, I admit that I was totally set up to like Runaway 1, because I identified so much with the story, because I have always been an adventure lover, and because the game was graphically great and entertaining, with good puzzles and a really really good plot.
So, fast forward to me reading the news that Runaway's sequel was going to come out, the Dream of the Turtle. I didn't really expect a sequel because the first game was not really too well-known. Normally, you would expect a sequel of some of the huge-name games, but I guess I must not have been alone in liking the game if there was enough demand for a second volume to come out (and after playing the game, I don't know why I suspect a third volume may be in the works, but I don't want to give any spoilers either!). After an agonizing wait, I finally got my hands on the game as soon as it came out, thanks to a pre-order. And my expectations have been met to the fullest!
The second Runaway chapter is fun, original and has a huge cast of widely-ranging characters that give us hours of dialogue. In the second chapter, which takes place in a BEAUTIFUL set of Hawaiian backdrops, there are some challenging and hilarious puzzles (the best being an easy but funny puzzle involving a new Runaway temptress, Lokelani, a Hawaiian barmaid who has had WAY too many boyfriends!), and the later chapters only get better. The game had quite a good dosage of raciness, too, with Brian apparently dabbling in infidelity, and two different insinuated steamy scenes in just the first two chapters, as well as a creative use of language and writing.
As for the music and sound, there is kind of a hip-hop-esque title song played, but then 100% of the music thereafter is kind of dreamy and reminiscent of a soft-core version of the Corrs or something like that.
I would have to say that on the whole the game gradually gets better as we are revealed more and more info, though each chapter is dramatically different, and therefore some will appeal more to some players than others. Perhaps this irregularity could be a slight criticism of the game. While ALL of the visual aspect of the game is superb, some of the chapters are totally upbeat (like Hawaii, Alaska and Sushi's yacht), while others are kind of melancholy and dark (the military camp). Having said that, it is also a forte that they are so very much different, since it takes a while to get through the challenging puzzles in each chapter, and so you are ready to move on to a new setting by the time you have gotten through them all. As in many adventure games, the difficulty level rose as I moved on, and many of the puzzles were clever and unusual. Though lots of them were also your typical adventure game puzzles, involving the gathering and joining of different items in some ingenious manner, or talking to the different characters to get some important information. One huge improvement over the first Runaway is that the objects are vastly easier to find, and there is no tedious pixel-hunting at all. The objects are pretty much there for the taking.
The game's definite number one winning feature is its visual appearance. The artwork and animation are impeccably done, and I really enjoyed the character design. As with the ground-breaking Runaway 1 with its drag-queen band, this episode also has some truly unique characters. Brian, the main character, has evolved into less of a nerdy geek and more of a cool dude beachcomber, but this seems to be logical since he has apparently been living with his stripper girlfriend Gina for some time now, and he has left the hallowed halls of the Ivy League for the hipper west coast Berkeley type scene. The aforementioned visuals take us through even more settings than there are chapters in the game, thanks to some sub-plots and sidetracking, with short stints to places like San Diego, Spain and Mexico, as well as the main settings I mentioned above. The places are also well-woven into the story, since they all have their fitting role within the complicated storyline (dozens of hours of game play allow for plenty of plot convolution!), so you are definitely not taken to a bunch of wide-ranging places just for the heck of it.
One of the settings (the last chapter, sorry!) was meshed into the story really well, allowing the player to go somewhere completely different from the rest of the game. I don't wanna give anything away, but this last chapter of the game was positively and shockingly different from all the other chapters, with a whole new slew of characters, plot and...well, a whole different way of talking, even. I would also mention that it is well-spaced out with some really greatly-executed movie-like sequences in between the chapters that allow you a bit of an amusing, information-filled rest after a couple of hours of trying to figure everything out in each chapter. It's like getting a nice little prize for all the hard work you've done to solve the puzzles. So you can just sit back, relax and enjoy the movie for a while.
So, I would highly recommend this game to everyone who has been dying to play a game in the semi-forgotten pure adventure genre. How long has it been since we have had such an excellent game to play, with so many references to other games, to movies (I loved the 'Pirates of the Caribbean' mentions, hahaha), to books... I think you can take this as a very adult and intelligent game that is meant to be savoured and enjoyed slowly, like all the classics are. I think Runaway has the simple intentions of just trying to be a fun and entertaining game and it achieves that perfectly. Some of the characters may be a bit stereotypical, but it is all just in good fun and should not be taken too seriously, since it is just a video game and not a work of classical literature or anything like that.
If you take it with this fun perspective, Runaway makes the most of the classic features of adventure games that so many of us having been dying to have back! If you just let yourself get taken away for the fun ride, you will laugh your way through many hours. That is why I most recommend it to old adventure buffs and to gamers who have not gotten to enjoy this genre because of its neglect in recent times. Runaway will be a great introduction for them that will get them interested in this genre after such a tiresome slew of violent fighting games, sports games and mindless killing games with sinister themes. I found the upbeat cheeriness of the game refreshing, and something that has been severely lacking for a long time in the gaming world. Congratulations on this excellent game and thanks for living up to my expectations, Runaway!
9 / 10