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Game review: The Low Road – corporate espionage adventure where what should be the worst part turns out to be the best

In the role of Noomi, an ambitious new agent at L.I.E.S., players work their way from squeezing information out of people on the phone to breaking and entering in this puzzler turned point-and-click adventure

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 15 August, 2017, 8:01pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 15 August, 2017, 8:01pm

The Low Road

XGen Studios

3 stars

Corporate espionage and capitalistic one-upmanship might not sound as exciting a subject for a video game as the cutthroat world of international super spies, but here’s The Low Road to prove us wrong – or at least, it starts off that way.

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Set in the mid-1970s, the game (available on PC) sees players take on the role of Noomi, a new agent working for corporate espionage company L.I.E.S. (no beating around the bush here). She’s at the bottom of the ladder, tasked with boring desk work, and your job is to call people up and get them to leak information.

Sadly, the opening turns out to be the most exciting part of the game, with everything else just your standard point-and-click. Like Papers, Please or This Is the Police or any other release where a mind-numbing job is turned into an involving game, the act of sifting through reams of information is surprisingly engaging. Working out the correct conversational tactic and trying to get the person to give up important information is tense and thrilling. It’s just too bad it doesn’t last.

Noomi doesn’t want to be stuck behind a desk. Soon her prayers are answered and the game quickly switches into your average modern LucasArts-inspired adventure game. But the combination of slick cartoon visuals and period-appropriate soundtrack, coupled with the espionage elements, still makes The Low Road a decent PC release.

Whether you’re stealing plans out of someone’s back pocket or lasering your way through metal bars to gain access to a restricted area, the puzzles are heavily based on classic ’70s spy dynamics, giving the game a retro edge. But despite its charm, the game never really lives up to its brilliant opening or the point-and-clickers that it so obviously admires.

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I had low expectations of The Low Road, as the everyday spy work it offered sounded dull and uninspired. So it was odd that the part of the game that focused on a real-life job turned out to be more exciting than anything that came after.

But perhaps it shouldn’t be a surprise that, in our contemporary gaming culture where blowing things up and doing the impossible has ceased to be remarkable, that the everyday is oddly fun.