The DS, initially thought of as the ideal format for point-and-click adventures and hidden object games, has seen a veritable deluge of such titles. It seems like for every few flops there's a classic awaiting discovery. Runaway: A Twist of Fate doesn't quite fit into the latter category, but it's more than decent enough for any respectable adventurer's collection.
This title is part of a series originally created for the PC that's since garnered plenty of fans and just as many contractors. While critics hailed its debut release for its stunning visuals and entertaining storyline, many found fault with its arguably bland characters and nonsensical puzzles. Its sequel drew more derision for its convoluted story of technology, pirates and aliens as well as its even more inconsistent collection of puzzles. A Twist of Fate is the third and final game in the series, and we attest that it’s definitely the best of the bunch.
Taking place directly after the events of the second game, Brian Basco awaits his sentence for committing murder – either prison time or a long stay with the resident crazies of his current location, a lunatic asylum. Not long after, his lover Gina receives a phone call explaining that they’ve found him decapitated. At the funeral, it soon becomes clear that she was in fact contacted by Brian himself to falsely identity the body and thus help him fake his own death. Now it’s up to Gina to rescue him from his own coffin – or is it? Is Brian really buried alive? What exactly is going on? And just who are the strange duo lurking outside the cemetery? Initially, the storyline throws you into the deep end without any indication of where it's heading, but as you start to explore the surroundings and progress through the first chapter, little details begin to surface one by one.
Don’t worry if you haven't played the previous games in the series – the surprise-filled story is self-contained. It explains any references to earlier shenanigans as you progress and does a good job of linking each chapter together. The fact that you control different characters throughout helps keep the pace of the game flowing smoothly, and without the threat of death or timers hanging over your head, you are free to explore and to solve the puzzles at your own pace.
The plot is by far the strongest area of A Twist of Fate, and it’s further enhanced by the cinematic quality that Pendulo Studios has accomplished. The slick presentation boasts an animated film style, regular high-quality cut scenes and impressive backgrounds. And for the first time on a worldwide DS release, every clip is performed by voice actors. Although some detail was sacrificed from the PC original, it’s admirable that they’ve been able to retain the bulk of it.
It’s clear that the developers put a lot of work into adapting the interface to the DS. Pressing the stylus against the screen will highlight all possible hot spots, including locations that you can walk to, objects that you're able to interact with and people to whom you can speak. You must press the pen gently for examinable items to appear as opposed to the more conventional method of just pointing at objects on-screen, and though this feels awkward at first, it soon becomes second nature and resonates well with the game's style. Also included are easy ways of accessing your inventory, selecting objects, saving and accessing hints whenever you like.
The majority of puzzles, which predominantly involve talking to characters and collecting items for use, are rational and require some thought. There are a few occasions, however, when the game won't let you solve one until you progress through a certain train of logic, even though you may have figured out how to do it differently. For example, you can't pick up items unless your character thinks that you need them. This can lead to a bit of mindless wandering as you search for the right conversation or the object that you're supposed to discover first. It's a small fault, but it can cause some irritation and disrupt the flow of gameplay. At about 8-10 hours in length, it's a reasonable size and its chapter structure makes it ideal for dipping in and out of play, with the ability to save at any time.
While not perfect by any means, Runaway: A Twist of Fate proves to pleasantly surprise with an engrossing storyline that will keep you playing to find out what twists await you. With a tightly knit plot and intriguing puzzles that for the most part make sense (hooray), we can highly recommend giving this game a go, even if you've never played or enjoyed the series before. While on occasion it suffers from a lack of character development and overall depth, this is one twist of fate that you should be more than happy to experience.