Runaway: The Dream of the Turtle is the sequel to 2003’s Runaway: A Road Adventure. In the first game, a college student named Brian Basco met up with a lounge singer named Gina, and together they dodged mobsters, got themselves into and out of all sorts of complicated situations, and figured out the importance of a mysterious crucifix. I didn’t love the original game, but it was quirky and strange, and those are qualities that always appeal to me.
In Dream of the Turtle, Brian and Gina are still together. They’re vacationing in Hawaii, but quicker than you can say “three hour tour,” they find themselves stranded on a small island. Worse, while arriving on the island, Gina gets separated from Brian, and she ends up in a strange lake being guarded by a stranger military outfit. Brian can’t get to her, and that’s where you start out in the adventure. Controlling Brian, you have to outsmart the soldiers (including an evil mercenary named Tarantula), track down a reclusive scientist, pacify a cranky lemur, and deal with all sorts of oddballs and oddball situations.
That is, the story in Dream of the Turtle is about the same as in Runaway -- there isn’t one. The game is simply a collection of hurdles that you have to clear in order to reunite Brian and Gina. This can work -- it worked well enough in the first game -- but this time I felt more like I was marking time rather than accomplishing anything. And, after spending about 15 hours getting the happy couple to the point where they might finally get back together, the game simply ends with a “to be continued” message. Nothing is resolved. Nothing really happens. It’s all just a setup for the third game in the series. Yay.
Fortunately, while the story leaves something to be desired, the rest of the game works pretty well. As with the original Runaway, Dream of the Turtle uses a point-and-click interface. You left click to tell Brian where to move, you left click to perform the default action on an object, and you right click to change what the default action is. As an example, with other characters the default action is to talk to them, but if you right click then you’ll be able to examine them as well. This is basically the same control scheme as in countless other adventures, and it’s effective here just like it’s been effective elsewhere.
The puzzles in the game are all inventory based. That is, you have to collect inventory items and then combine them together to solve puzzles. For example, at one point you discover that you need to catch some salmon. You’re far away from Hawaii in a wintry part of the world, and that means you have to figure out how to cut a hole in the ice, and then how to get the fish out of the water. These puzzles involve a chainsaw and some bear claws, but the chainsaw needs to be powered, and you have to determine a way to swipe the claw into the water without freezing your hands off, and so you need to solve puzzles in order to solve puzzles. There are a couple of “bad” puzzles in the game (most notably those involving wine jugs), but most of the puzzles work well, and most are more sensible than you’d expect given the quirky nature of the game.
Finally, Dream of the Turtle has an interesting look to it. The graphics are in 2D, but there are real-time lighting effects and shadows to give objects a sense of depth. The developers also created lots of colorful locations for you to explore, and colorful characters for you to meet, and they didn’t try to add difficulty to the game by hiding objects in obscure, shadowy corners, and so Dream of the Turtle is a pleasant game to look at and enjoy.
But overall, just like with the original Runaway, I wasn’t overly enthusiastic about Runaway: the Dream of the Turtle. The engine is effective, the puzzles work well, the voice actors do a good job with their lines, but once again I didn’t really care about any of the characters, and I didn’t like the story. Gina barely gets a cameo in the game, and since I didn’t like her in the first game, I didn’t really care if she got rescued or not -- or if she lived or died. And then there’s this guy named Joshua who is about as annoying as Jar Jar Binks. I would have loved it if he had died, but no such luck. Instead, he gets a tremendous amount of screen time.
And so for me, Dream of the Turtle is like a lot of adventure games. It does some things well and some things badly, and overall it lands somewhere around average. Fans of the first game will no doubt like the sequel, but for everybody else it’s likely to be an iffy proposition.