The concept of a video game where your goal is to escape prison is undeniably intriguing. However, does this follow-up to 2015's strategy hit drop the soap? Put on your favourite orange jumpsuit and let's find out.
Before we begin, I should mention that I haven't actually played the original Escapists so I'm not entirely sure what has changed in this sequel. That being said, I can easily say that what I experienced in The Escapists 2 is unique and I can definitely see the appeal. Basically, you control a prisoner from an overhead perspective as you slowly try to work out an escape plan. Meanwhile, you'll need to stick to a schedule, find and craft useful items, and help other prisoners with quests all while ensuring not to cause too much of a scene. For example, hitting a guard may seem fun but if you do, you'll likely end up in solitary confinement where you can happily peel potatoes until the morning comes. The combination of all these mechanics makes for a mostly enjoyable gameplay dynamic and it's rather satisfying whenever you manage to actually escape.
The Escapists 2 looks and sounds great. The pixel-perfect visuals are delightful complete with well-animated sprites and unambiguous stage designs. Meanwhile, the soundtrack consists of toe-tapping tunes that don't seem like they belong in a prison game but they're so catchy that they make you want to keep playing. Oh, and the sound effects match the onscreen action perfectly.
The selection of stages in The Escapists 2 is my favourite part of the experience. You'll find yourself in stereotypical jails as well as trying to escape a train, boat, plane, and even a UFO facility. The variety is outstanding and makes The Escapists 2's campaign constantly feel fresh. On top of this, the multiplayer component is handled extremely well in that you can play the campaign with other people online and there's even a versus mode where you try to escape before your opponents. Truth be told, almost everyone I played online with simply ran around aimlessly but it was still fun. In short, it's great to see so many well-implemented multiplayer options.
Although The Escapists 2 sounds like a great game, a few aspects definitely soured my experience with it. The first is the actual solutions to escaping the stages. Before going in, I expected escaping would always require a lengthy chain of events and that there would be countless solutions in order to inspire creativity. However, neither of those are the case. Instead, escaping almost always relies on a simple solution and that takes a lot of the satisfaction away. Also, stages only ever have a few solutions which severely limits the amount of creativity that you can have. Obviously, this means that there are a ton of red herrings thrown your way. For example, I kept amassing a wealth of keys in the first stage only to realise that I didn't actually need any to escape.
My final complaint is that there is far too much waiting around. Whether you're waiting for night to fall or having to re-craft your entire array of items because a guard caught you doing something fishy, the tedium quickly becomes unbearable. In fact, it ends up making The Escapists 2 frequently feel like a prison of its own. Well, I guess that's kind of the point so they got me there.
The Escapists 2 has an undeniably solid premise for a game and features a downright charming visual style and soundtrack but the monotony of its restrictive gameplay will probably make you feel like a prisoner yourself whenever you play it.
- + Enjoyable gameplay that artfully combines crafting, quests, and strategic thinking
- + Varied and clever selection of stages
- + Fantastic multiplayer component
- - Being able to finally escape often requires only basic and unrewarding solutions
- - Far too much time is spent just waiting
- - Stages feature too many red herrings