Developer: Mouldy Toof Studios, Team 17
Publisher: Team 17
Genre: Strategy, RPG
Platforms: PS4, Xbox One, PC
Rating: T for Teen
Planning a prison break has always been an intriguing premise for me. From classic movies such as The Shawshank Redemption to Escape From Alcatraz, there have been some great stories told about not only escaping prison, but finding redemption in hopeless situations. Developer Team 17 released The Escapists back in 2015 and while it didn’t reach the heights of the previously mentioned classic films, it was a fun title in its own right. Now, their next foray into the prison break simulation field combines RPG elements, interesting puzzles, and some cute/simplistic pixel art with The Escapists 2.
Violence: While the combat is cartoonish and innocent looking in presentation, anyone in the prison can be knocked out using a variety of melee crafted weapons. Some of the prison guards also have rifles with knockout ammo. There are no deaths in the game.
Language/crude humor: There is no swearing from what I played of The Escapists 2, although minor crude humor is present mainly when performing menial tasks such as when performing certain quests for an NPC character.
When you start up The Escapists 2 you’ll find ten prisons to play through, each one becoming progressively more difficult, with more advanced security in the form of guards, technology, and fewer avenues for escape. For those thinking that the gameplay looks complicated or intimidating, there is a tutorial mission that basically walks you through the elements of the prison and explains the rules of crafting new tools from existing inventory items. It’s definitely not the most in-depth tutorial, but it does give a good foundation for newcomers who want to effectively escape prison.
On the first non-tutorial prison, the warden will give you a tour showing you where to find everyday activities that you’ll have to interact with, including the dining hall, showers, work room, and the gym. This is where you’ll want to take note because every prison is designed differently, though there is variation for each area.
After the intro, you’re dropped into your cell where you will spend your first day of prison. As the days go on, you will begin to learn the rhythm of the prison: wake up, go to roll-call, eat breakfast, go to your job, and so on. This is your time to analyze the prison: find out where its weak points are, when is the best time to escape, and what tools you will need to escape. It’s all really left up to you to figure out. There are actually multiple ways to escape, meaning the objective is not limited to just trying to find the right way to escape, but it’s about pushing your creativity beyond conventional means of escaping.
In my playthrough of the first actual prison, it took me four game days to escape, using pickaxes, shovels, and a prisoner/dummy model. After trying again multiple times, I eventually found a different escape method that only took less than a day: using only a simple costume and some extra items. Such a discovery really does go to show that there are multiple escape routes, varying greatly on each end of the spectrum, and it is up to you to figure out.
Figuring out ways to escape is the puzzle half of The Escapists 2, but the other half comes from its RPG elements and how they factor into the escapes. Your character has stats that will determine the way they interact in the prison. Lifting weights will increase your strength, giving you the upper hand in melee fights with your inmates or even the prison guards if their alert meter rises too high.
A welcome change for The Escapists 2 is the improvement in combat from the first title. You can now guard, along with charging up your punches, to give more strategy to the fights that will occur. Along with your strength comes the fitness which you will be boosting with supplements just like in real life, which effect your characters’ movement speed and the items they are available to craft. These stats can be upgraded in the same way as strength by working out and studying in the library.
Stamina and health play a big part as well and are pretty self-explanatory. Your health is how much damage you can take, and your stamina is the energy you consume to do labor. This labor consists of performing certain tasks, like digging a hole in the ground or cutting through fencing, meaning you want to stay energized by consuming food when you have the chance. The RPG elements and the micromanaging aspects correlate together and have to be juggled effectively in order to make a successful escape. You will want to come across as a good inmate to the guards and have the adequate stats to make escaping easier and to get the best possible score.
Back from the original title is the character creator and it’s more robust, giving you more customizable options although still being simple in design. You’ll unlock new items and features for your characters as you play and escape out of prisons, giving you more reasons to play through each prison—even the ones you previously beat.
Speaking of replay value, there is a good amount here. Along with going back to previous prisons to try new escape routes and to unlock new items, there is a multiplayer component to each. You can now play co-operatively with a friend or competing with them to see who can escape prison first, both online and locally. Multiplayer was a big request from players in the first game, though having the option to play not only locally but also online is a welcome edition to the series. Now one teammate can perform a job while the other gathers items to craft tools for escape. This definitely makes for some interesting escape routes.
The Escapists 2 adopts the same cute art style of the first title, but don’t let the simple graphics trick you. It can get violent at times, although in a non-explicit innocent way. Visuals overall are given a slight boost in quality from the original game, but the art style is pretty much the same. The music has multiple tracks that go with the different times of the day, as well as for the different prisons. The tracks get the job done and are not annoying, but they are also not catchy or memorable. They will fade into the background as you are planning your escape and become an afterthought.
The lack of clarity in how to do things hindered the first game and even though it’s better in this title, I can definitely see some players needing a more in-depth tutorial at times than the one that is provided. The Escapists 2 will definitely show you the basics effectively, but with a game like this, sometimes the basics will not be enough to get full enjoyment out of the title. For those of you who like the challenge of figuring out what to do, you will love the lack of hand holding here; but for those who prefer more detailed explanations, you might find The Escapists 2 too frustrating.
The Escapists 2 isn’t just a puzzle game, but it’s also masquerading as a light-RPG with many other elements woven into the framework of the title. Many of the issues and concerns of the first title are fixed in this sequel and with the addition of a new multiplayer mode allow new methods for escape, as well as a plethora of new items to gather and tools to craft.
The lack of clarity in how to do things hindered the first game and even though it’s better in this title, I can definitely see some players needing a more in-depth tutorial at times than the one that is provided. It will definitely show you the basics effectively, but with a game like this sometimes the basics will not be enough to get full enjoyment out of the title. For those of you who like the challenge of figuring out what to do, you will love the non-hand holding nature; but for those who prefer more detailed explanations, you might find The Escapists 2 too frustrating.
The Bottom Line
If you think you are up for the learning curve, I definitely recommend giving The Escapists 2 a try. It has definitely made me feel like a genius when I have formulated the perfect escape strategy, but also foolish when I squander the perfect getaway and miss the easier route. All of that is part of the fun and makes for a rewarding experience.