The Escapists Developed by Mouldy Toof Studios and published by Team 17. Survival games are a relatively new genre, so it’s a pleasant surprise to see it taken in a new direction. Sure, many games cast you as the prisoner in fact, it’s the start of any good RPG, but few games throw you into jail because you deserve it and then do their damnedest to keep you there.
So this is a refreshing change and an interesting tweak of the survival format. So what are you in for ? By that I mean what is in store for the player not, what did you do to end up in jail. Well, visually the game is rather similar to a prison architect, but of course you are playing from the other side of the bars now and your goal is to escape from your super prison naturally the guards would rather you didn’t escape and instead would prefer that you just served your time and turned up to the various roll calls and activities that punctuate the prison day.
Similar to a sort of top down Terraria in some ways with more claustrophobia the game expects you to collect and or craft the materials and tools you will need to construct an escape route without attracting too much attention from the guards. You might also wish to recruit other prisoners to help you escape bid or not, either way you will have to interact with the other prisoners, whether you are just shaking them down for their possessions or performing missions for them like beating up other prisoners or acquiring items they have lost.
Also, we have a crafting system that will allow you to construct shanks or fake guard uniforms and digging tools so you can dig out under the fence or gain access to the aircon vents all this whilst following the prison schedule and trying to keep the heat off with the guards. If they catch you, they throw you into solitary, fill in all your holes and confiscate all your toys, blimmin nosy screws! For me the sign of a potentially great game is when it reminds you of many others but no one game in particular. No doubt Team 17 creators of the well loved “Worms” series saw this potential in “The Escapists”. The combined mechanics of the game are intriguing you are always being pushed into the criminal mindset of judging between risk and reward and more often than not you will meet the consequences of your actions and either be dumped in solitary or wake up in the hospital ward after the staff have humanely dissuaded you from harming other inmates.
If i had to sum up the look and feel of the game with an alternative title I would have to name it. “FF 45 00 is the new 00 00 00” (“orange is the new black” y’ nub). It’s gloriously low res yet uses this minimalism to create a very recognizable crime drama atmosphere. The music is deeply reminiscent of the incidental music in the “Sopranos” and shows like “Breaking bad” and “Sons of anarchy”. But most of all it’s the endearing humor caused by the dialogue from inmates and guards it’s a tough, brutal dog eat dog world that has been sanitized enough to get past censors and concern trolls but with enough cajones left to make your little lifers seem important. They do seem to have little personalities, some are much more violent than others, some are total wimps others are a bit light fingered and some of them seem to have substance issues.
In all honesty, I was amazed at the level of immersion designer Chris D has managed to create with such deceptively simple elements, it really is a sum greater than It’s parts, solid gameplay will never let you down. Escaping is hard. This game is difficult , “Don’t starve” and “Faster Than Light” levels of difficulty and i think that was a wise design choice. i love that you can be kicked back to the bottom of the ladder for the slightest bit of overconfidence. People do want a high level of challenge in their games these days as it makes success more meaningful.
At this stage “The Escapists” is a working title so I’m only going to make suggestions as to improvements. I found the controls “WASD” initially a bit cumbersome and found myself getting stuck in doorways the collision detection could be a bit more lenient i feel. Also, I must admit it can be tricky working out what you are supposed to do, a tutorial level would be very helpful. Further down the road i would love to see some controller support and ports to other platforms I think this would work exceptionally well on mobile platforms it’s scaled perfectly for an iPad.
So in summation this is totally worth a look it should be available on steam early access in Q3 2014 and if you want a game that is absolutely different to the herd then you should grab this , it’s already incredibly playable and altogether a delightful humor filled way to fill in the time between slopping out and and bang up.
Game can be found here http://store.steampowered.com/app/298630/
Due for release on Q3 2014