THE PERFECT PLAN
My first word of advice for players interested in The Escapists? Do not let its initial appearance fool you; do not go into this game expecting to beat it in a few short hours. Beneath The Escapists cute pixel art style lies a challenging gameplay loop that has little forgiveness for even the smallest of mistakes.
The Escapists’ main gameplay centers around how a stereotypical “prison escape” would play out. The player is expected to figure out the daily routine, and eventually subvert this routine against itself for their own gain. A typical day in the game starts out with a roll call of all the prisoners, followed by being told the business of the day. A schedule of events (such as job duties and mealtimes) are then expected to be followed as the day progresses. There are, however, times where the player has the opportunity to search other prisoner’s cells to gather materials for their eventual escape.
Despite even the best-laid plans, the smallest mistake can be detrimental in the long run. Things such as random cell searches or getting in a fight at the wrong time can result in losing all of your materials and setting you back for several days. This can be fairly frustrating at times, as this happens far more often than you would think. There were several attempts when I tried to make an escape and something unexpected, like another prisoner deciding to beat me up at the wrong time, would ruin everything.
One of the biggest mechanics that the game offers is the ability to craft tools out of the materials that you have gathered in secret. Tools such as the screwdriver and shovel grant access to different areas that are not normally allowed. Other tools like putty allow for the player to create molds of important keys. Exactly how to create these tools, unfortunately, is left for people to figure out on their own.
Besides the tutorial prison, there are eight unique prisons for players to escape from, each offering their own set of challenges. For example, one prison may offer televisions in the cells, while another may place security cameras there instead. These subtle differences make each prison an experience completely unlike its counterparts. I really liked this aspect, as it added another layer to creativity when planning each escape.
The biggest hurdle many people will have to get past when initially playing this game is the lack of guidance. Apart from the very abrupt tutorial given at the beginning, there is little offered to the player in terms of help. A large percentage of my first couple hours of gameplay consisted of me struggling with the various game mechanics. The biggest of my struggles involved the crafting mechanic, as it is a pain when trying to figure out recipes for new tools.
The Verdict: 8.0 out of 10
While The Escapists is indeed a fairly challenging game, its overall mechanics and pixel-like charm make the game undeniably entertaining. No two prison breaks in the game will ever be the same thanks to the variety of events presented within its cell walls. Although some of the tool combinations are frustrating to learn, the game’s core gameplay is simple to understand but hard to master, and players will likely find themselves spending large amounts of time hatching devious plans before they are able to successfully escape one of the many prisons. Unfortunately for them, there is no escape from the fun found in The Escapists.
For more information about what the score means, check out our official review scale.