Everybody has had dreams of being a spy.
The Low Road is a far-fetched cartoon-style comedy centred around the theme of wacky espionage. Main character Noomi is a newbie spy, and she wants to get out into the field to take part in the most exciting part of the job, but is disappointed to find out that the job isn’t quite how she imagined it, with the detective work now being done mostly over the phone. What’s more – there are a bunch of other spies on the books who are ahead of her in the pecking order, with her boss telling her that it would take every single one of them resigning for her to even have a chance to getting out for some field work.
What follows is a story-based adventure featuring Noomi on her mission for acceptance and to prove herself to her colleagues, featuring a wide range of puzzles from pick-pocketing – performed with an Operation-style drag and place gameplay which penalises you if you touch the sides of the pocket. Other activities include dragging a lever through a rotating maze and more thoughtful types of puzzles like applying invisible ink to a photocopier in order to employ a particular kind of covert operation.
But the main emphasis in The Low Road is on conversations, and your choices of responses. With five possible endings to discover depending on the answer options you select, experimentation is encouraged here, and a nice rewind mechanic allows you to pick up immediately where you left off when you find one of the game’s numerous dud endings. But there are other clever uses to conversations – in one set piece you’re tasked with keeping someone talking for as long as possible while a colleague picks his pocket, and the wrong response choices will make him turn around to catch the thief red-handed. It’s a clever feature which it would have been great to see more of.
The game has a striking art style, initially delivered in a quite memorable yellow hue and then expanding to a few other multicoloured environments. All presented in a 2D cartoon style, the action is played out from left to right, but moving Noomi around the environment is an issue. Her movement is slow and cumbersome, and with a lot of backtracking needed in order to pick up items and deliver them to characters and predicaments at the other end of the scene, the game’s slow pace can become a bit wearing. There are also sections which require going down stairs, which are again pretty cumbersome – the point that you must switch your direction on the control stick from a steady side to side to a diagonal isn’t quite clear cut enough – a simple up or down push on the D-Pad would have been preferable for shifting between platforms.
It also took until a good while into the game until I realised that the right stick could be used to switch the cursor between the environment’s interactable objects, after being stuck in a room and seeming to be unable to interact with the all-important object even after consulting a guide in despair. Fortunately this is possible, but it would have been nice to have this made clearer.