They haven’t yet built a cage that can hold me. Actually, that’s not true. I’m pretty sure that if you stuffed me in my dog’s pretty pink crate, I’d be stuck for eternity. I have, however, seen Shawshank Redemption, Porridge and Prisoner: Cell Block H, and a reasonably large percentage of my family have spent some substantial time behind bars (and in front of them, according to the stories). I have also previously reviewed the original Escapists game and The Escapists: The Walking Dead, both of which were very fine and very fun games. Well that’s my CV and I think you’ll agree that I’m fully qualified to review The Escapists 2, the new prison sim and escape game from Mouldy Toof Studios and Team17.
The premise of The Escapists 2 is to live the prison life, settle into its routines without upsetting too many apple carts and find a way to get out. Sound easy? Actually, it’s quite the challenge. As with the first game, you’re not spoon fed escape routes and there are multiple escape opportunities if you’re smart enough to figure them out. You can dig through or under any wall. You can cut through the fences or tunnel under them. You can steal the guards’ keys, make copies and disguise yourself. And that’s just the basics. You’ll need to take time to get to know each prison and work out its weak points, blind spots and areas of opportunity.
A prison break takes time, so get used to living behind those iron bars. While you’re planning the world’s most heroic and epic escape you’ll need to follow the prison’s schedule. Unless you want a beating you need to ensure you turn up for roll call, breakfast, exercise time, shower time, job time, dinner, evening roll call and lights out. It’s while you’re doing all this that you can learn the layout of the prison, plan and prepare. Exercise time will give you the opportunity to build up your strength and stamina, which you’ll need if you plan on digging through the night and bashing any guards along the way. You could also use the free time period to check out the library and gain intelligence to craft better and stronger items. Even while you’re being an angel of an inmate you can use the time to ensure a successful escape. If you’re feeling like a bit of a devil, though, you can rifle through your fellow inmates’ things along your way to your yummy breakfast or maybe just make one more chip in that wall before you cover it with a poster and scurry off to roll call.
There are many things that you can get into trouble for, and in the previous game if you were caught making like a mole you were sent to solitary and all your contraband was confiscated unless you somehow managed to hide it in the ceilings or below ground. This was often a devastating setback. Many items take a long while to craft and involve hours of sneaking, stealing and turning up late for roll call. If you were caught making a hole in the wall with one of the canteen’s plastic forks, you were robbed of everything from your desk and your precious hole was filled in. In The Escapists 2, punishment doesn’t feel as harsh thanks to a handy hidden compartment in your desk. No matter your crime and how many sniffer dogs come noseying around your cell, the guards will never find any items that you stash. You can only hide a very limited quantity of contraband so choose wisely. The hidden compartment removes the sting of losing your sturdy shovel that took hours to craft and upgrade just because you happened to smack a guard over the head with a mug of hot chocolate in the showers. I mean, it could happen to anyone!
The Escapists 2 also makes crafting a cinch. When you open up the menu you will see the items that you can make and what components you need at each intelligence level. If you have the required components, the item will be lit up. No more searching through the Wiki to find out how to make a bed dummy or a fake vent.
Also new to The Escapists 2 is online co-op and versus. It’s nice to have a buddy to either watch your back or perhaps stab you in it. There’s also a whole host of itty bitty little changes for you to discover including musical instruments and an improved combat system.
For the first time, The Escapists has introduced moving prisons – transports. You must escape from a train, a plane and a boat before the transport gets to its destination. The train, for example, challenges you to make your way around it without being spotted, pilfering desks and stealing from guards. There are several ways to escape including making a fake vegetable (I’ll let you figure out the rest yourselves). It’s a timed challenge and wonderful fun. Personally, it’s my favourite part of the game and it breaks up the larger and more time-consuming prisons.
Every prison is very different and all have different routines and layouts to learn. In addition, each prison also has optional challenges. If you can figure out all the “special” ways to escape you’ll earn yourself a reward. For example, in the first prison there is a camera crew walking around. Follow them and if you can work out how to utilise them, you’ll earn a good-boy tick towards your reward. It adds a good amount of replayability to every prison.
Each prison has its own quirks, challenges and difficulties. Certainly the higher security prisons are going to require more brain power to get out of. This isn’t a game you’re going to finish quickly or will want to. I still go back to the original game because it’s so damn addictive and The Escapists 2 has the exact same quality. The prisons come to feel a little bit like home. Even the other inmates become your closest friends. The Escapist games are a little sprinkle of genius on this earth, so here’s to an Escapists 3, 4 and 5. Just can’t get enough.
The Escapists 2 is brimming with good humour. Even while you’re getting brained with a baton, you’ll probably be smiling (unless you were holding precious contraband – bye bye, beloved shovel). This is a tricky game that requires lots of patience, but the general design, art direction and scripting means that it’s also a fun, funny and joyful experience. If you enjoyed the previous games, The Escapists 2 should be a Day One purchase. It’s everything you previously loved plus new ideas that both freshen up and improve the game.
S J Hollis Rating – 9/10
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