The Low Road is a classic Point and Click adventure starring Kovacs. Noomi Kovacs. A rather unique name that sticks with you, right? Well, Noomi is a freshly baked spy and you are accompanying her on her first day. She starts out living her dream – being a spy. After studying the tasks of an agent at the university, it is finally time to make the world a better place! Or is it?
The young woman has to face the reality of adulthood quite fast, as she learns that spy work nowadays does not really contain any fieldwork. Instead of that, a spy is damned to sit inside dimly lit muggy four walls, answering phones. Unhappy with that, Noomi has only one goal: going out into fieldwork. How she actually wants to achieve that is questionable as well as hilarious. Will you be successful with Noomi and be a real spy despite your boss, Barney “Turn” Turner, being against it?!
A Point and Click game has not the most exciting controls, so let me drop the basics here. You control either Noomi or Turner with the left analog stick. You open your inventory menu with -. With the D pad you can navigate through the possible answers in a dialogue. The + button opens the menu, A lets you interact with both persons and objects. B means cancelling, and with the right stick you are able to change a selection (if you want an item to interact with another object).
Within the puzzles, the controls are a bit different. You use the shoulder buttons for that as well. The + (open menu) and – (open inventory) buttons are still the same, while L and R both grab and press things. The right stick moves the arm of the character you are controlling, and the D pad allows you to navigate through the possible answers.
The first thing that Turner makes you do is actually getting information via telephone from a girl named Lacey. Noomi is supposed to call her and has a whole scrapbook with bits and pieces in front of her. It is packed with content about the life of Lacey, so it acts as a solid base for your lies and makes you more believable to get the desired information. You look through the papers and other stuff, drawing out relevant things from them to progress further. Take your time to look through it and don’t rush it. I made that mistake and it ended up with me resetting the game…
I was lucky autosave did not save my miserable choice of answers, otherwise, I would have been a bit sour. Yes, I am that kind of person.
Playing further, you get all kinds of puzzles. The classic combining item X with Y, as well as testing your dexterity skills when pickpocketing. Flipping switches and carefully making sure the system won’t overheat, since every switch either makes the scale meter go up or down. It was more puzzles that were able to be solved with a logical way of thinking, rather than collecting shreds of evidence when talking to people – in person or on the phone.
You are going to talk to a lot of people, and some small things are revealed in those conversations, that help you solve puzzles later on. Although you can cancel the conversations both Noomie and Turner have, I never dared to do so. Since there are so many options and dialogue can form differently in many ways, I wanted to know as much as I could through my playthrough. Beware though, you can easily be stricken into a dead end, leading yourself to one of the five false endings along the six chapters.
I have nothing against bad endings in general… but the one I got into left a bitter aftertaste, since it gave away something I was really close to uncovering. At least the music was nice during that false ending, though…
The sometimes flimsy controls made me, a rather impatient person, a bit frustrated. Especially during the pickpocket puzzles. I really do not like to solve puzzles on time, grabbing things and holding on to them with the shoulder buttons could have been worse than it is, but it still felt a bit strange after longer sessions of puzzle solving.
In other situations, I found myself confusing the buttons. I had to open the inventory, select an item and had to use the right stick to combine an object with the environment. I often ended up using the left one at the beginning, repeating the same actions three times before I was successful.
Yes, I know, maybe that is just me picking on little things, but sometimes I felt the controls were not responsive enough to my taste. I am very picky with Point and Click adventures too, so that did not help. Although I admit, it could be worse.
*This review was written by Jennifer for switchwatch.co.uk.
Holy smokes, the audio blew me away in this title! And that does mean something, since I am always… well, you must know by this point… I am very picky with audio.
Not only has The Low Road got an outstanding soundtrack with more tracks than I could believe, but the music is also very fitting for the 1970s atmosphere. It is fun to listen to. Also, a shame that the voice acting is actually so good, as it often outshines the awesome music. Eric Cheng did a great job on the music here. Favourite tracks: Outside Intelligence Part 1, Take Flight and Coffee Break. Uh, and Rhyme Time! For crying out loud, listen to the OST, all the songs are a piece of art!
Back to voice acting, it really could not be better made. The different voice actors breathe life into Noomi, Turner and all of the characters you encounter – may they be important or not. Even someone with few lines has their own quirks that make him or her believable as a real person. It was a joy to listen to the cleverly written dialogues, full of puns and feisty responses that felt even richer thanks to the brilliant job of the several voice actors.
Visuals & Performance
The visuals in The Low Road are something you do not see every day. It almost feels like a moving Paper Cut Out art, and I am delighted to see more developers trying something different these days. It was a funny experience and the clunky movements of the characters were funny to watch. The environment is designed with lovely details, creating a really nice experience.
I encountered one issue that made my heart stop though. After a puzzle (The one with the switches. So if you play the game, think of me there, I did not like it!), the game stuttered. Noomi said a line more often than she should, which caused my heart to not act as it should. I just clenched my teeth and followed her footsteps, sitting on my sofa and saying “Oh no, no, nononono, no way, oh God please, not now!” over and over. But since this was the only time, and I read in another review that he did not have this issue, I just let that one hiccup slide.
With a title a little under $20 USD or £20 GBP, you can expect something good. Sure, The Low Road is a fun experience that can be tackled on a single day. I would approximately say I played 10 hours, enjoying the voice acting and exploring the area. I was a tiny bit disappointed about the ending. For me, Thimbleweed Park was the perfect Point and Click adventure. It has set the bar high for any games of that genre to come.
Nevertheless, the puzzles walked hand in hand with the spy theme of The Low Road, and playing an agent is one of the coolest things! A decent and great title to test the waters for this genre. Even though the replay value is pretty low (without you wanting to know everything about the false endings), the overall experience is worth your money.
*A review copy of The Low Road was provided to SwitchWatch by XGen Studios Inc.
Amazing soundtrack & voice acting
Solid story & unique puzzles
Awkward gameplay during some parts
False endings can spoil a tiny bit
Wish there were more "phone interview" puzzles (Noomi would get rid of me for that)