When I play adventure games, usually I like to play a compelling protagonist, solve ingenius puzzles, and meet a colourful cast of interesting characters. Unfortunately, Runaway fails on all counts, and then finds some more levels to fail on, in case I was not sufficiently put off from it with it's sheer audacious ineptitude alone.
The art, while competent in it's backgrounds and interesting in the execution of the cel-shaded comic style, fell short when rendering the characters, whose bodies float around while their mouths snap into keys, a discordant, stilted animation method that only serves to both highlight the failings of the watery bodies and the limited mouth animations. The character designs ranged from by the numbers boring, to overwhelmingly offensive and reductive. Racist stereotypes pop up again and again, gentle and unassuming, as if the writers thought nothing of their inclusion, with a literally yellow faced asian lady at one juncture, and a Tojo-style bucktooth japanese stereotype popping up later. The game seemed to take great pleasure in exaggerating features that weren't part of the caucasian face. While Brian and Gina were bland to the point of soporific, some of the supporting cast were so caricatured as to make them inhuman. The resulting mashup was incredibly distracting, and often insulting. It didn't fit together well.
The puzzle design was some of the worst I've ever seen - and unquestioned in it's sociopathy. Oftentimes the solution to a puzzle is to destroy some great work of art, or a career, or simply make someone's life worse for Brian's gain. Other puzzles involve leaps of logic so great as to bring into question the world this game was made in. Filling lipstick tubes with gunpowder, for instance, apparently makes for bullets. In what sane universe would this not just melt the lipstick and cause a jam in a gun? And Peanut Butter made by heating butter with some peanuts. Not only do the puzzle solutions often not make sense, but are literally antithetical to the goal you are trying to achieve. Brian will, at times, do something that is counterproductive to his aims for no real reason other than to prolong the game's running time. He is also an incredibly inconsistent hypocrit, refusing to steal some things because "he is a decent guy" and gleefully stealing and destroying other items because "they won't miss it". The amount of unquestioned property damage in this game is staggering. I was actively rooting for something horrible to happen to the protagonist by the end, as he got everything he ever wanted and more, as he complained about being lied to while lying out of his ♥♥♥ at every opportunity, and as he made everyone's lives a living hell while they did nothing but be accomodating to him.
From the very beginning, the insufferable Brian Basco comes across as a bland, entitled dudebro, whose complete disregard for his fellow human beings' safety is only matched by his lack of personality traits. I can only sum him up as some kind of dark, unfathomable void-beast who wants to go to Berkley University. In his quest for getting the female supporting protagonist, Brian poisons, strongarms, and causes the death of all who get in his way. He is unaffected by the death of friends, loved ones, and nothing bad that happens around him ever seems to stick - upon being told to not mourn by a Hopi Ghost, for example, he instantly feels better and snaps back to being the insufferable twit that he normally is.
Mentioning the Hopi, an important point has to be brought up. The Hopi, in the game's setting, appear to be a extinct tribe that have only a presence through spirits and ghosts, when in reality the Hopi are still a political presence in Arizona, with several towns. It reinforces the awful "Native Americans are Already Dead" tropes that resonate throughout media, which is part lie and part incredible racism, of which this game has in spades.
The story is at it's heart, forgettable, but only through Brian Basco's audacious awfulness is it elevated to a travesty. The twist in the plot takes five out of six chapters to come to fruition, and it is such a damp squib of a twist that you question why you even bothered with the game in the first place. The game's setup promises intrigue that the game ultimately does not deliver on. It barely engages more than morbid curiousity, let alone any proper intrigue. The game sets up a mystical element that ultimately only serves to give our hero yet another item and a pat on the back when he loses something. The love interest element is sickeningly underwritten and overemphasised, mainly when our hero reminds the supporting cast, and the player that he is not gay. His love interest spends most of the time unconscious, indisposed, or absent. What spark they could have had is never shown on screen, just that he thinks she is beautiful, and ergo he needs her. And she wants him for an unknown reason, probably because he hit her with his car and she needs protection. She is an eternal damsel, and her story is never expanded upon, even though it is far, far more interesting than his,
Describing Runaway as a power fantasy would be completely apt - Brian Basco represents the nadir of the human being, but still gets everything he ever wanted while reassuring himself, and being reassured, that he is the Decent Nice Guy Who Gets The Girl. It is almost sickening how pornographically this game presents us our "hero", in the sense that everything he does brings him everything he ever wanted, he never faces any real, lasting trauma or tragedy. No character development, just a stagnation into the awful person he always was, and will always continue to be.
Runaway is exactly what you should do when faced with this game.