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The Escapists Review

Replay Value:
Overall Rating:
Online Gameplay:
Not Rated
Team 17
Mouldy Toof Studios
Number Of Players:
Release Date:
June 2, 2015

Like many other kids in the UK, Chris Davis grew up playing classic games like Skool Daze . That experience, coupled with movies that highlighted prison escapes, inspired Davis to create his latest title called The Escapists . This one-man army formed the Mouldy Toof studio and thanks to a successful Kickstarter campaign, The Escapists has emerged on multiple platforms. It landed on Steam last year and now it’s on PlayStation 4, so Sony fans can attempt to achieve the seemingly impossible: Escape from prison. A mix of puzzle and role-playing elements, this one requires patience and plenty of ingenuity. It’s just a little vague and taxing.

As you can tell by the available media, The Escapists hearkens back to the glorious 8-bit days, when sprites and pixels dominated. In that way, it’s hardly fair to compare the game to modern-day creations; all one can say is that it faithfully depicts an era long past. If you’re averse to this particular kind of presentation – or you’ve had your feel of retro presentations in recent years – then maybe nostalgia doesn’t play a big role. For most, though, this is all about simplifying the graphics and focusing on the gameplay, which results in a difficult and surprisingly trying experience. Otherwise, what do you want me to say? The little pixilated characters look surprisingly good? Well, I suppose I could cite the game’s solid design, which is indeed pretty impressive, if a little bland.

Yeah, I know, it’s a prison. “Bland” comes with the territory. I honestly don’t know how to make such a setting seem more appealing, and I have similar reservations about the music and sound effects. Obviously, you can’t expect anything more than classic electronic beeps and boops, with the synthesized soundtrack tossed in for good measure. The soundtrack is better than you might think, though. Again, it’s all about reaping the nostalgic emotion while simultaneously providing players with a unique and deep puzzle-adventure. We put almost no emphasis on the technical elements, other than to say they’re completely stable and undeniably charming. You don’t have to worry about crashes or glitches here, that’s for sure.

You can probably guess the goal of the game from the title: You have to find a way to escape from prison. Well, there are multiple increasingly difficult prisons, thereby giving us a traditional level-based structure. You start out with few guards and simple guard routines, and it’s just a matter of making the most of your opportunities. As you might anticipate, timing is everything; making your move at the wrong time will inevitably result in a return trip to your cell. You attend roll call, head to the cafeteria for grub, exercise in the yard, and you can even interact with other prisoners. The idea is to form alliances that can lead to favors.

The game is played from the old-school 2D top-down perspective, which makes it easy to check out your surroundings. Observing is a huge part of the game; if you’re not taking your time and discovering potential lockdown loopholes, you’re gonna be stuck in there for a very long time. You can take advantage of a basic crafting system, where you can combine simple items like toilet paper, bed sheets and wire to make more useful objects. You can even craft melee weapons, wire cutters and shovels, necessary for your tunneling escape. However, if you’re caught doing any of this – from the crafting to the actual escape – you’re done. You’ll be stripped of anything you created and you might even be sent to solitary.