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Thursday, 11 January 2018

Review: The Escapists 2


Escapists 2

You wanna protect your prison reputation, or do you wanna get out of here?



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The Escapists 2
Mouldy Tooth Studio / Team 17 | Nintendo Switch | Digital Only
1-2 Players Local / 2-4 Players Online
Reviewed by - Curtis Chapman







A new coat of paint and added multiplayer are at the forefront of the new features included in the sequel to Mouldy Toof Studio’s 2014 prison escape simulator. The thrill of breaking out with a friend, coupled with some nice quality-of-life changes goes a long way in smoothing over the some of the overly frustrating aspects found in its predecessor.

If like me you are old enough to remember sitting through noisy, epilepsy-inducing loading screens in the prelude to clumsily attempting to play the 1986 video game classic “The Great Escape” on the ZX Spectrum, then this game should do a good job of striking a nostalgic chord. You’ll be happy to hear however that this game looks, plays and controls a whole lot better. For those of you not lucky enough to be around during the decade of having to search for gaming gems by trawling through the piles of overpriced cassettes full of shovelware at your local WHSmiths, and are also new to The Escapists, then the premise is simple. You’re in a prison, try and escape!

You start each prison with nothing; Guards patrol the corridors and a waypoint outlines which part of your daily routine you should currently be involved in. With only a mini-map as your guide, it is at this point that it is up to you to search through inmates desks, trade favours and barter to obtain the materials required to craft the tools needed to escape.

Booting up the game greets you with a tutorial which is slightly too short, it does an average job of explaining the basics but newcomers may be overwhelmed as it doesn’t touch on a lot of the systems that come into play almost immediately after you are dropped into your first prison.


Escapists 2 Screenshot 1


The original Escapists wasn’t so much hard as it was frustratingly annoying in places; You’d expect your character to use an item only for him to inadvertently sucker punch his cellmate in the side of the head, starting a mass brawl that eventually caused the prison guards to intervene and confiscate the contraband that you spent the better part of two hours cobbling together. The sequel features several quality-of-life changes that have done well to alleviate some of the more glaring problems faced in the first title.

The crafting system has been improved over the original with clear details on what is required to make each item, this menu can be quite hard to navigate at times though due to the overlapping of the user interface but it is defiantly an improvement. Combat in prison also now features a lock on system ensuring you only hit the person you were actually aiming for, making combat rather fun. The location of inmate requests is now marked on the mini-map, making the process of earning money through inmates a whole lot easier.

A step up in retro art style, with an increased color palette all round, has been executed perfectly. With a ridiculously wide range of smooth animations the game certainly feels a lot more polished and would look perfectly at home on an Amiga 1200. Throughout the playthrough, there were a few noticeable slowdowns but due to the pace of the title, the occasional hiccup isn't overly bothersome anyway.


Escapists 2 Screenshot 2


The base game (sans any DLC) includes 10 prisons to escape from which should take you a fair amount of time to get through, though there's one problem with replaying prisons once you have completed them; It’s hard to put the rabbit back in the hat. Sure, you could set yourself some personal goals; maybe you won’t escape the same way as you did before, maybe you’ll attempt to re-enact an episode of Orange is the New Black, who knows! Ultimately the choice to keep playing and looking for more creative ways of escape is yours, but the fact that the game doesn’t go out of its way to set objectives or boundaries to encourage this kind of play is a real shame. With so many ways to escape included, it would have been nice to be intentionally coaxed in the direction of a few.

In order to keep online leaderboards up to date and to protect their validity, the game spends a large chunk of the time simply auto-saving, a lot more so than the original. This may bother those who, like me, spent the original Escapists reloading the game every time an escape plan went south and wanted to avoid losing all their items; this time there's a lot higher chance of your last auto-save leaving you with nothing. This does, however, bring back the element of nail-biting suspense that I lost in the original once I discovered I could simply reboot and reload my save.

Music is unfortunately as monotonous as it was in the original. Most prisons feature a few short tracks on repeat depending on the period in the day. The process of scoping out, gathering enough materials and then actually attempting a jailbreak can take several in-game days, if not weeks, so expect to hear the same tracks a lot. A more varied selection tunes would have been very much welcomed as by the end of the first week or so in a game I was sadly reaching for the volume knob.


Escapists 2 Screenshot 3


Multiplayer; The idea of breaking out with either your friends or a few strangers in tow, is a mixed bag of both happiness and despair.

To start, It goes without saying that at the time of this reviews publication, Nintendo’s Online Infrastructure is not built with Cooperative match-made games in mind. Period. The inability to communicate with your peer’s results in team-ups steeped in absolute chaos, with drop out frequent when it becomes apparent no one can convince that one guy on the team to stop punching all the guards in the face.

Local co-op is another matter. Featuring the ability to use split joy-cons the game has taken multiple people into account by designing some escape routes for 2 players, adding a whole new element to the game if you’ve only played solo. Unlike other consoles that this title has landed on so far, the Nintendo Switch sadly only supports 2 players local co-op instead of the usual 4.

It isn’t all sad news on the online front however as the game features a versus mode. Up to four players can race to see who can escape first. With a one-day time limit and several of the key trappings removed, absolutely no communication is required. This mode is a whole lot of fun with strangers and goes a long way in saving the online component of multiplayer.

The Escapists 2 has done a good job improving on its original in nearly every way. For all you gamers who are looking for a slower paced title requiring patience and planning, this is a definite recommend. For those of you who expect a bit more action from their episode of Prison Break, I’d approach slightly more tentatively.


FOR THE WIN OR FOR THE BIN?



+ Improves on nearly all aspects of the original
+ Varied selection of prisons to escape from
+ Extra escape opportunities via co-op mode
+ Fun to play Versus mode against strangers

- Repetitive music
- Occasionally cumbersome User Interface
- Only 2 Players Local Co-op
- Let down by Nintendo's Online Infrastructure

Verdict: Above Average - Worth a Try



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