STAFF REVIEW of Escapists 2, The (Xbox One)

Friday, September 22, 2017.
by Jennifer Dingle

Escapists 2, The Box art I wasn't sure what to expect with The Escapists 2. I never had the opportunity to play the first game, so when I took on the task of reviewing the sequel I had no idea what I was in for. I’ll be honest, when I first saw the colourful retro graphics and the cute pixelated characters I thought I was in for a fun, casual adventure game. Little did I know that Team17’s prison sandbox game would be extremely challenging and surprisingly violent.

Similar to the previous game, The Escapists 2 plops you in the midst of a prison and you are forced to plot your escape and make it outside the prison walls without being caught. From a standard jail, a moving train, even a spaceship, there are 10 prisons to figure out how to get out of, filled with multiple floors, rooftops, gardens, vents and tunnels to explore as you stealthy try to get on the outside.

I quickly found that there is a huge learning curve with The Escapists 2. Sure, there is a short tutorial at the beginning of the game that briefly explains how to escape, but once you’re dropped into your first prison, you are pretty much left to fend for yourself and figure out what to do. That being said, fans of the first game will most likely have no issues here.

Honestly, as a ‘newbie’ to the franchise, I felt completely lost. I know the objective is to escape, but I had no idea where to begin. I found myself wandering aimlessly around the prison, doing the odd job for a fellow inmate here and there, rummaging through cells in search of items with hopes I would figure out what to do with very few clues and multiple ways to get out. I wasn't very fond of the controls at all and often found myself inadvertently picking up a desk instead of interacting with an item in error.

There is a crafting system in place that allows you to create a wide variety of tools and items to assist you. I finally realized after a couple hours of game time that by visiting the library you can increase your intelligence by reading (via a mini game), which allows you to craft better items. You can also increase your fitness, which helps your stamina when you are digging a hole or how much damage you do when fighting an inmate or prison guard. In addition to searching through desks, you can purchase items from prison mates to aid you in your quest to break free. You can earn money by doing favours for others, such as roughing up another inmate.

I quickly learned that this game is definitely a time management game. It certainly seems to replicate the tedium of prison life. You can't freely wander the halls of the prison looking for items and digging holes. You absolutely must report to your daily activities and get a green check mark noting that it's completed, if you don’t you risk an increased security level, making your escape nearly impossible. The guards are extremely unforgiving, and if they catch you missing out on breakfast, or not reporting to job duties, you’ll be rewarded with a beating and a visit to solitary confinement. As I was figuring out the game, this happened to me on several occasions, and let me tell you, it’s unbelievably frustrating. All of the hard-earned contraband, the items you've crafted, they are plucked from your pockets leaving you to start all over again.

You definitely have to think outside the box with your breakout attempts and be creative with limited resources. I’ll admit it took me quite some time. The Escapists 2 is not a game you can sit down and play for a few minutes here and there. Careful plotting of your escape and finding/crafting items can take hours. Losing patience, I made some pretty big errors when trying to flee, like when I stupidly cut through a vent and found myself above the prison, only to find the vent repaired by maintenance and I was stuck. Or exploring deep within a hidden passage, missing roll call and having the prison dogs search for me.

There is also multiplayer, and playing drop in/drop out co-op with friends can somewhat ease the pain. You can gain access to rooms you can’t enter in single player with one holding open the door while the other stealthy enters, as well as share items between each other, increasing the likelihood of a successful escape. You can also play in a versus mode, to see who can escape the fastest or battle it out one on one in the prison yard.

I absolutely loved The Escapists 2’s visuals. For me personally, it was made the game a bit more tolerable. The colourful retro, top down graphics is definitely part of the appeal, with cute cutscenes after a successfully fleeing the prison. You can also customize your pixelated prisoner with a wide variety of skin tones and hairstyles which adds an awesome personal touch to your escape plans. The soundtrack matches the awesome old school feel of the game, as does the sound effects, as all the audio creates the perfect mood and ambiance (if you can call it that) for a prison escape.

I still don't know if I personally like The Escapists 2. It was slow, extremely frustrating and by no means a casual gameplay experience, but I wouldn't say it’s a bad game. Oddly enough, despite my problems learning the ropes of prison life, and the failure of trying to escape, I still find myself drawn to it. Once you figure out what you are doing, get a grasp of prison life and crafting items, it becomes somewhat addictive. Gamers who enjoy time management will have a lot of fun plotting their escape, and fans of retro games will surely enjoy the pixelated characters and graphics. The Escapists 2 isn't for everyone, but if you're looking for a challenging game with high replay value, or you were a fan of the first game, then you'll definitely want to add this to your Xbox One collection.

Overall: 7.0 / 10
Gameplay: 6.0 / 10
Visuals: 8.0 / 10
Sound: 7.0 / 10


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