We’re pretty sure that if we ever found ourselves locked up we would be wondering if we could pull off a daring escape. Thanks to the TV series Prison Break and numerous films such as The Shawshank Redemption and Escape from Alcatraz we already have plenty of ideas about how we might escape. Now thanks to Mouldy Toof and Team 17 we’ve been able to test out our prison break skills.
The Escapists casts you as a criminal who has been caught and sent to prison. Your aim is to survive prison life and craft an escape plan. You start off in a low security facility but each time you escape you’ll find yourself in a much tougher prison.
The game makes use of 2D pixelated graphics that wouldn’t have looked out of place back on the 16-bit Commodore Amiga. This has allowed to developer to focus more on the mechanics of the game without having to worry about fancy realistic graphics. The game also uses the old approach to difficulty where it’s pretty much up to you to work out how to play. Other than a brief tutorial there’s no hand-holding here and that’s a good thing.
Prison life is all about routine and initially it’s all a bit overwhelming. You need to learn the daily routine to understand how each prison works. This is key to devising an escape plan. So for example you need to attend roll call each morning and evening. Meal times are also important so you have to head to the canteen for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Should you not be where you are expected then the prison guards will become suspicious.
These are also good times to mingle with your fellow inmates. Those that are friendly to you might have items of interest for sale. Others may have favours to ask of you that can earn you respect and money. This might be stealing an item from a fellow inmate or beating someone up that they don’t like. You need to carefully choose what to do though as every action has a consequence.
Gaining money is essential and you can also earn it by working for the prison. Doing so is time consuming but it can help to gain a little respect from the guards. The money can then be spent on items.
Some of the items you acquire may seem useless at first but there is a complex crafting system to learn allowing you to combine items into more useful ones. Trial and error with dropping random items into the crafting menu can result in some success but there are ways to get tips and learn.
There’s a large variety of things to craft including tools, weapons, outfits and even concealment devices. The more useful items tend to be classed as contraband and will be confiscated if found by the guards. In order to make some of these you might need to raise your Intellect level by reading books in the library or making use of the Internet.
The Escapists gives you the freedom to play how you wish and there are many ways to escape. It’s all down to a lot of planning and a bit of luck. You might want to try tunnelling out of your cell, cutting a hole in the perimeter fence, impersonating a guard or even taking over the prison.
Planning and timing are crucial and escaping takes time so you need to ensure you are careful about your activities. Digging a hole out of your cell might sound good but you need to cover it or the guards will find it. We’ve had many a plan thwarted by the guards due to us making it easy for them with silly mistakes.
When things go wrong you can find yourself in a fight so it’s important that you’ve taken time in the gym. If you get beaten you can end up in solitary confinement while you recover and you’ll have all your contraband taken.
The Escapists is a lot of fun, incredibly addictive and immensely satisfying when a plan works. It can also be very frustrating to learn and demands a lot of patience. If you like a challenge and don’t mind the failing and replaying then The Escapists will keep you busy for hours.