When you get locked up there are usually a couple of ways to spend your hours behind bars. Take it on the chin, serve your time and hope you can go straight when you get out.
Or escape as quickly as you can!
And the latest title from Team 17 focuses most firmly on the latter.
You play as a prisoner, detained in a high security prison, looking forward to spending the rest of your life in clink. But prison gives you plenty of time to think and from the first minute of your first day behind bars, it’ll be up to you to devise a cunning escape plan.
Played out through the most wonderful but basic of pixel art styles, you’ll find you have six widely different prisons to escape from, with the security of each prison being beefed up each time you manage to get through the gates to freedom. You start off in Centre Perks, the most relaxed of all prisons and will be accompanied by fellow inmates who are easy to get along with, are happy enough to sell you helpful items and will basically be a pleasure to reside with. The officers in charge of Centre Perks are also fairly relaxed easy going fellas and as long as you turn up to the morning roll call, are pretty happy for you to get away with anything.
And it really is a case of anything goes with The Escapists.
The time that you spend behind bars is split into short periods that give you a chance to think about your next move. Starting off with the morning roll call, you’ll at the very least need to be present in order to keep the guards sweet before making your way to breakfast and take in a bit of free time in order to find the weak points of each jail. As is the way with those locked up, do as you’re told and you’ll quickly find yourself trusted with a job…and we all know what jobs make. Money!
It is with this that you can start to purchase items, weapons and info from your fellow cellmates in order to help hatch your cunning plan. Whilst the most basic of items can be found dotted around jail, build a decent enough relationship with the other crims and you’ll find yourself hands on with plenty of contraband and additional tools. What you then do with them is completely up to you and whilst you can only hold up to six items at any one time, stashing extra gear in your cell can mean the guards should never find out what you’ve been up to.
Of course, cell checks are common place and so you’ll need to be on the ball as to when your room may be checked. It may well be worth chucking the items you really shouldn’t be in possession of in someone elses cell. Letting them take the rap and seeing them spend few days in solitary confinement is most preferable and also gives you a chance to move up the jobs ladder. Of course, if you decide to spend long enough working out the routines of each and every guard in the prison, you may just find the odd room or two that are rarely visited. Perhaps you could use these to your advantage?
Acquire enough money and items and you’ll soon be able to make a run for it. Will you take a few knives to the perimeter fence, dig your way out via a tunnel or tool up and take out all the guards one at a time? Seriously, if you can think of a way to escape, the chances are you can probably do it in The Escapists. You will however have to cover your tracks and on your first visit to prison, will take you some time to get to grips with what is on offer. Don’t expect to be free as a bird on your first day, but after a few hours (of actual gameplay), and with a brain switched on and thinking the right way, you should soon make your escape good.
However, there is a bit of a problem with The Escapists. And it’s a fairly big one at that. The seriously steep learning curve!
Aside from a very brief tutorial in which you find out how to craft a Sock Mace (who knew sticking a bar of soap in a sock could prove such a deadly weapon?), hand holding is kept to the very minimum and will unfortunately see many dismiss The Escapists out of hand. In fact, it’s the sheer amount of choice on offer that will see many gamers get quickly frustrated by the lack of direction and lack of help on offer. Many may wonder at what to do next unsure whether to spend time in the gym to build up strength, take a little time reading a book in order to raise your intelligence or just spending hours, days and even weeks wandering the corridors and trying to take everything in.
There is also no direction towards how items are crafted, and the chances of you adding two or three correct items in order to get that one special one you really want are slim to say the least. It took me much longer than I liked to work out how to cover that hole in my cell so the guards wouldn’t get suspicious and even then it needed a quick visit to the land of Google to help me out. If you’re not prepared to go down that line, then I’m afraid it’s all about trial and error although if you’re happy to do that, then you’ll be happy with what The Escapists brings.
However, if you’re one of those with a low patience threshold and at the very least require some form of in-game crafting manual, then you’re going to absolutely hate Team 17’s latest title. Granted, once you’ve crafted an item, you’ll remember exactly what it is, how it was created and what it is useful for, but getting to that initial point is too much of a struggle.
I’m also not over enthused with the control scheme that has been implemented. Whilst The Escapists should work nearly perfectly on a PC with mouse, the switch to console has seen the usual arrow navigation replaced by a somewhat clunky highlight and press system. It works okay at best but certainly doesn’t lend itself to fluid gameplay and crafting sessions, with the need to go back and forth between items taking just that little too long.
The Escapists isn’t a bad game. In fact those who persist with it will find a reasonably deep game that brings cunning, strategy and a decent bit of joy to their gaming sessions…gaming sessions that will be fairly lengthy should you wish to complete all six prisons! There will be many who adore it, but in the same breath, there will be many that hate the frustratingly lengthy learning process.
What is meant to be a light hearted look at everyday prison life quickly turns into a bit of a chore, and that’s a shame, because I was hoping to spend many a week having fun trying to escape from the numerous penitentiarys.
As it is, once you get going, the fun really can kick in, but the struggle beforehand means that the great escape never really takes place.