The Escapists plays like a love letter to pop culture and Prison Break. My first day in prison and I was sent to solitary confinement and beaten to a pulp for stealing an inmate’s postcard. The Escapists is a complex and light-hearted look at prison life.
The game has nine prisons that need to be breached and the first task is creating the character you will control to get out of them. The games difficulty gradually gets harder as your progress through each prison.
I had a bit of a tough time in the first prison because the tutorials are vague and leave you to your wits to find the best way to plan your escape. The second night I believe I was given the job of doing the prison’s laundry and had failed to meet quota for the day. This made the guards take the job away from me, my chance at stealing a guard uniform to try to escape.
The next day I woke up to do the morning roll-call – the time of the day where guard would give us the news and tell us whose cells would be searched for any contraband. During this time, this is where I would take on quests from other inmates for cash. One inmate lost his mints to a guard and I had to find the right moment to get those mints back. Another task was to beat up a guy named Jevon because Leroy didn’t like him.
The prison environment is definitely interested. A few inmates provided shops for me to buy things, others would be unconscious after being jumped and I would take the items instead of buying them from the black market of the prison. It’s all shady!
Breakfast came around and I needed to cause a distraction for an inmate so he could fight someone while the guards were dealing with my table climbing.
Each area is a definite sandbox playground. There is no set path to follow and everything relies on what your decisions come of. Each decision you make, however, will have a consequence that can either benefit you or bite you later on. I ended up screwing over an inmate and he took his revenge on me while I was trying to make a copy of the guard’s key which ended up with me in the infirmary and behind my schedule.
The crafting has something left to be desired; it works, but it’s vague in description. The game has lots of recipes for craft items, but I was going back and forth through the wiki for the game to get recipes to make new items. You can also craft items out of menu such as filing a comb to make a shiv or a toothbrush in the same manner. I found this out browsing the Steam forums for the Escapists and the crafting section of the wiki.
The game has some light RPG elements as well, starting out in the first prison my character, Tango, was weak and frail. Through learning on the internet, I learned more crafting recipes and building muscle at the prison gym helped Tango get tougher. In the end, I was less susceptible to the beatings I dealt with.
After a week of playing The Escapists and finally succeeding in breaking free of the shackles and getting out the other end do I smile and think about just how entertaining the experience was. Mouldy Toof Studios has a real winner on their hands. The added bonus of having early access on Steam has provided a lump of added changes that have benefited the development of the title. A quick glance at forums on Steam show a fine relationship between developer and customer who work to get the bugs of the final game.
The Escapists certainly offers something new and exciting to sink your teeth into. By giving you the tools to figure out how to get out of prison and allow you to succeed by your own merits is satisfying. It is a clever, and rewarding game that doesn’t shy away from being difficult.