Review: The Escapists 2

Escaping prison isn’t easy. Even trying to figure out how to escape isn’t that easy, let alone doing it. This is the biggest conundrum I had with Escapists 2. It was the same problem I had with the first game, the concept I get – but actually pulling it off is much harder.

Escapists 2 doesn’t really do very much to help you either, much like the first game. When you’re introduced to the prison you’re given a basic rundown of how it all works. Food is here, showers are here etc. You need to meet each session or the alarms are raised, other than that, it’s over to you.

Very quickly I figured out that just showing your face is enough to ‘tick’ the box for each session, giving you ample free time. And that’s where I started to struggle, because of lack of feedback (initially) with the game system as to what I could do, and lack of my imagination on what I wanted to do.

Much like the first Escapists, Escapists 2 doesn’t really give you much help. The routine of the system is clear, with a clock at the top of the screen and arrows which point where you must be when you’re not in free time. Other than that, the prison sandbox is yours to explore as you wish. Do some things you shouldn’t (or be somewhere you shouldn’t) and you can find yourself roughed up and in the hospital or in solitary – in both instances, losing all your things.

I found this quite challenging as you can see from a crafting menu which things are available to make, but it’s not always clear on how to get all of the component parts together to make them. For example, doors are colour coded. I thought I would craft a key, and I could see I needed something like putty, and a key. Then I had to try to figure out how to make the putty, and once I finally got all the bits together, I couldn’t find a key. I crafted a weapon, took out a guard, got his key, crafted it, and while doing so he was taken to hospital and then a full lockdown kicked in because of a missing key.

What I should have done is crafted it quickly and put it back on him. Alas, it was too late and it ended with me getting fully searched and everything on my person (and stored in my desk) being confiscated. The game is based on trial and error success, but the penalty is high.

In order to do a lot of these things, you need to improve strength, fitness and intellect. You do these by ‘working out’ in the appropriate place, literally in a gym or reading in a library. These involve different timed pressing of the triggers usually, and quickly becomes a grind. This is sort of the point – it’s prison, it’s not meant to be fun. But every level you start, this becomes your first priority. It’s not especially quick either, and whilst I get the point, on my fourth prison I just wished I could skip it.

There are some good improvements over the first game. Visually it retains the cartoony, old-school visuals but they are more detailed and well animated. There is also an online vs. mode and an online co-op mode. It’s cool to jump into a prison which is populated by other live people but it can be frustrating if you’re waiting for a certain time of day and someone triggers a lockdown – resulting in more waiting out for you (or they attack you and you lose your stuff while in hospital). The vs. mode is a competition of who can escape the quickest. From experience, this turns into more of a speedrun challenge of a specific escape route which may or may not be your thing.

There are new prisons too – forcing you to escape within an allotted time. I only completed one, which was whilst on a train and having to escape before reaching the destination. It is a nice spin on the classic style of gameplay, although was heavily based on using stealth mechanics which wasn’t impossible, but felt at odds with the ‘classic’ maps. It’s nice to have something different though.

I really enjoyed my time with Escapists 2 and going back to find new ways to escape is fun. I fear that without the help of a guide you may not get the most out of it – as there’s lots here which will require either significant trial and error, or some assistance to see it all. You can earn coins by doing tasks for other inmates (menial point A to point B exercises really) which mean you can buy hints, which does help a bit. I also enjoyed the customisation of the fellow inmates and your own little escapist, although I’m not sure all of the options available at prison-suitable. A Jason style mask???

Reviewed on PS4

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