The premise of The Escapists: The Walking Dead is pretty clever. The Escapists was an 8-bit top down prison escape ‘sim’ with heavy crafting mechanics. So now imagine this only with zombies.
Rather than escaping from a prison each level, you need to progress your group enough to move onto the next area. Playing as Rick Grimes from the TV show, you need to carry out daily tasks to build the strength of your group and ensure that none of them get eaten. A zombie threat level will rise if you yourself get gobbled, with you awaking in your bed the next day (and no game saved!).
It’s quite clever how the prison routine and crafting mechanic is carried over, and how well it works in the midst of a zombie apocalypse. The crafting aspect is vital as you build weapons and tools for survival, and earning or finding money can be spent on special merchants who crawl out of the shadows at night to sell you pickaxes, shovels and so on.
In the Escapists, if you got caught then you were punished – loss of items and progress felt commonplace. In The Walking Dead you will find pretty much all of your items where you left them meaning the punishment isn’t quite as harsh. This increased forgiveness really influenced my enjoyment of the game, although it did slightly offset the zombie tension. But if this tension is lost in item management, it’s made up for in caring for your group.
Just like the TV show, if a popular member of your team goes down, you’ll want to try and save them. You have a limited time to revive them and if not you can expect to see their little zombie face growling on their way towards you. My heart broke as Linda limped and licked her lips on the way to me, desperate to munch on my brains. Tears fell down my eyes, she’d been with me since the start but I knew as I put a wrench into the middle of her head it had to be. Sorry Linda.
Popular locations from the series serve as the backdrop for the levels, going through to probably about seasons 4 (from what I’ve seen). Just like the show too, if you need to go scavenging for extended periods, perhaps missing meals, morale takes a hit. Putting up with a load of Debbie Downers isn’t just a pain in the middle of a zombie infestation, it impacts success rates.
Whilst the visuals have a great 8-bit look, I couldn’t help but feel a slightly adjustment to pace would have helped. No one wants a long gruelling slog through a game, however The Escapists characters move around fairly quickly, and sometimes it all felt a little too fast for my tastes. Repitition is also a bit of an issue – the fundamentals don’t really change drastically and some of the story twists could have been really well utilised although whether this would have further complicated the gameplay remains to be seen.
If you’re a fan of the Escapists then this is definitely worth a look. If you’re a fan of the Walking Dead then it’s the best Walking Dead game you’ve got and even if you like zombies then it’s worth a try.
Reviewed on XBox One