“…difficult alone, easier with friends, and yet fiendishly fun nonetheless.”
The Escapists 2 is Team 17’s answer to your comedic prison escape simulation desires, and a would-be antagonist to Prison Architect’s good-guy constructionist management agenda. It is also the follow-up to Team 17’s previous hit title, Worms 3D The Escapists. The game sees you attempting to slyly slip away from increasingly challenging and ridiculous containment facilities (and space stations) in a bid to prove that you, a true criminal mastermind, can escape from ANY prison. It quickly becomes apparent that the game’s response to this attitude is a straight-up “challenge accepted”, and that is where things become exciting.
For the most part, the mechanics of The Escapists 2 closely mirror its predecessor’s. As the game’s marketing description suggests, the basic parameters are to craft, steal, brawl and escape. The systems of the game however have become much more in depth than the first instalment. There are now many more items to steal, many more tools to craft and many more routes to escape. Some of these pathways are simpler than others, such as slipping out disguised as a civilian. Other escapes are much more difficult to pull off, involving anything from crafting a grappling hook to mending a jet ski.
That latter venture brings us on to one of the game’s other new features; mobile prisons. The Escapists 2 throws something a little different into the mix by challenging you to escape from a moving prison transport before you reach the facility it is bound for. One of these is a train, another is a ship, but what these all have in common is their very different structure to what fans of The Escapists will be used to. The limited time scale of these escape missions and their exploratory nature offer something a little faster paced and different to mix things up as you play. Despite the fact that they are outside of the game’s usual style, they work well as brief asides from the norm. My only criticism is that they can be a little… easy.
The other big, new selling point of The Escapists 2 is co-operative multiplayer escapes. You can now gather a gang of cronies online in order to make your attempts that little bit easier still. After all, what is a highly dangerous prison escape effort without friends? The answer, unfortunately for some gamers, is exceedingly difficult. The new feature is fantastic for gamers who have a few buddies to play with, but as with most online games it is hard to get other, unknown gamers to co-operate with you online. More problematic still is that some of the game’s easier escape routes require another player to help you, leaving players who would prefer to play the game alone sidelined and in the rough.
Whichever way you to choose to play, the rules of the game remain largely the same. Learn the ways of your prison, follow its routine, work with other inmates when you need to and all the while keep a close eye on the means of escape. The game helps you with story-based hints towards possible ways out, but each and every one of the game’s ten unique penitentiaries has several different methods for you to find your way out. This makes the Escapists 2 a true sandbox adventure, in which you can craft what you want, be where you want to be and when, and shank whoever you feel you need to, provided you don’t get caught. This freedom to play how you want, and with who you want, makes the game exactly what it needs to be; exciting.
Naturally, the other feature you need to know about is customisation. It seems to be a staple in every new game on the market these days, but in the case of The Escapists 2 it makes the already exciting adventure an immersive and even more entertaining one too. Give your prisoner your name or the funniest one you can think of, change their hair and face to be the avatar of your deepest desires and run around with a wholly relatable character as you attempt to make your escapes. Well, either that or disguise yourself as a complete clown as you go about your day, but don’t expect any laughs from the guards. The customisation options in the game are just enough to give you the pleasure of owning your character, without becoming an overblown feature that takes over the purpose of the game. They add a little something extra without requiring a blood sacrifice to fit them into the mix.
The Escapists 2 is difficult alone, easier with friends, and yet fiendishly fun nonetheless. For the lone prisoner, the game can be a slog at times, but even so you will never find yourself bored or frustrated with the seamless combination of gameplay mechanics and upbeat style. For the prisoner in a gang, you can even forego the slog part, with co-operative and exciting escapes on the table for you and the crew. The game both expands and improves upon its predecessor, but stays true to its attitude and style. On the whole, although Team 17 clearly had gamers with friends in mind when producing this title, they have succeeded in making an exciting title for everyone to enjoy once again. Throw a little more balance in the works, and The Escapists 2 could be a real winner.