Pendulo and Bulkypix are at it again, porting over one of the Spanish studio's adventure game offerings and splitting it into bite-size iOS offerings. Though it should be noted, these are some big, big bites. If you're fixing to get this adventure under way, Runaway: A Twist of Fate -- Part 1 will set you back about 2 GB of flash memory. But is all that space worth it?
If you're not familiar with the PC or handheld console releases of these adventure games, then you might be a little lost jumping on board with Runaway: A Twist of Fate -- Part 1. Don't let the "Part 1" fool you, this is not the first part of the story. Instead, this is the third installment of the Runaway trilogy and the story hits the ground running. You might have some working knowledge if you played the hidden object game Hidden Runaway that came out last year. But that was kinda its own thing and we didn't much care for it.
Brian Basco, the rogueish hero of the Runaway games, has been accused of the murder of Colonel Kordsmeier. Who's that? No time for explanation. While on the witness stand, Brian pleads insanity and the story jumps ahead to a cemetery where Gina is standing over his gravesite. After laying him to rest, Gina gets a call on her cellphone and discovers that Brian has faked his death and is still alive inside his tombstone. How did he manage to pull that off? No time for that either! Gina then becomes playable and the point-and-click adventuring begins.
Not being familiar with the Runaway story at all, I gradually picked things up as they went along, but it would have been nice if there were a little bit of backstory available. Casual newcomers might be turned off by this. Since the Runaway games are point-and-click adventures ported over from the PC, there are lots of things to interact with in the environment. The way they take care of this on the touchscreen interface of iOS is with the tried-and-true method of using hotspots.
You can hunt around a given environment and see things you can interact with, which at times can seem a little much. Tapping the magnifying glass will reveal all of the hotspots in a given area. Because there's so much to do, some areas will be overwhelmed with the pulsing hotspots, which serves to confuse more than it does to help.
Fortunately, that's where Mr. Pendulo comes in. The hint feature in this game is rather clever, taking you to a labratory/call center that's manned by an odd-looking character who will provide you with well-explained and visual hints based on the area that you're in. While not telling you exactly what to do, Mr. Pendulo will make direct suggestions that will help keep the action moving along. Often times, the interactions will be amusing as well. And the hint lab is full of references to the Runaway series and past Pendulo games. It's a welcome reference to the old days when there actually were hotlines you could call for hints when you were stuck on an adventure game.
I'm a fan of the Pendulo formula of goofy characters. And their Roger Rabbit meets Ralph Bakshi animation style is pretty appealing to gamers like me who grew up with those movies. Like in many of the Pendulo Games, such as Hollywood Monsters, the style is colorful and the environments are great to look at on the iPad. I personally love it when adult themes and mild violence are blended with a cartoony atmosphere. The writing in the game is also unabashedly planted in that old PC adventure game formula of wacky for the sake of being wacky. Banana? What the what?
But Runaway also happens to be a buggy release, with random crashes and screen freezes happening at random. I would recommend that you definitely keep an up to date save file while playing along. One thing I've noticed with PC games that have been ported over iOS, especially the large ones -- they've all got bug issues. I'm not sure what it is exactly, but there always seems to be something that makes it through.
I suppose it makes sense. The bigger the game, the more holes inside the code where bugs can hide. Baldur's Gate is a good example of this, as the first version of that game was riddle with issues. Hopefully Pendulo will follow in the Baldur footsteps and take care of some of the bugs in an update.
Overall, Runaway: A Twist of Fate -- Part 1 delivers a solid point-and-click adventure port to iOS. It's certainly flawed with the bug issues and the story that's hard to jump on board with at first. There seems to be a lot of this with Pendulo games, given the confusing history of Hollywood Monsters. Perhaps it's translation related. But the presentation and production values of Runaway are definitely up there. Fans of adventure games should definitely give this one a look. (Better yet, wait for an update and then give it a look.)