The Escapists 2 (PlayStation 4) Review – Prison Hijinks With Friends

The Escapists 2 (PlayStation 4) Review – Prison Hijinks With Friends

Though my time spent with the first entry in The Escapists series was brief, it was enough to get me interested in the idea of a sequel. Fortunately for me, The Escapists 2 takes everything found in the original and adds to it. This results in a game that existing fans will love but also one that has the potential to overwhelm newcomers.

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The Escapists 2 (PlayStation 4) – gameplay images via Team17

As the title suggests, The Escapists 2 is a game about escaping. Like the original, The Escapists 2 is top-down strategy simulation game where players take on the role of an inmate trying to escape from prison. The Escapists 2 still uses a pixel art graphic style but with a lot more detail than the first entry. New to the series is a character customization mode that lets players create and name their own inmate. While I appreciate the feature being present, it’s limited in a few strange ways such as certain hair colors being locked to different styles.

On paper, The Escapists 2 sounds like a relatively simple game. You follow the daily routine of a prisoner trying to discreetly gather tools and search for the best escape route to use for the big prison break. When I started playing, I went through the game’s first prison, which serves as the tutorial stage. It was only after starting the game’s first real level that I noticed a problem that might hinder newcomers: the tutorial is set up in a way where everything is laid out in plain sight. All of the necessary tools are already gathered and the escape route is basically in mapped out for you. None of the game’s exploration elements are present in the tutorial, creating a large divide between itself and the main campaign. The Escapists 2 is all about learning your environment which will likely take far longer than the tutorial will lead you to believe.

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The Escapists 2 (PlayStation 4) – gameplay images via Team17

There are a lot of different mechanics used in The Escapists 2, and one of the most important is the schedule. In order to keep the prison guards off your back, players are required to attend events such as roll call and work duties at different stations. Players can use these times—along with the free time in-between—to gather tools and materials. The majority of these items can be used within the game’s robust crafting system, but this is where things start to get overwhelming. While The Escapists 2 improves on the original by showing the ingredients needed to craft each item, there are so many items that can be made but no real way to tell what will be useful.

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The Escapists 2 (PlayStation 4) – gameplay images via Team17

Most of the quests involve either distracting guards or teaching another prisoner a lesson, both of which involve combat. Fighting in The Escapists 2 is simple, but it works. There is one attack button which can be charged as well as the ability to guard and to lock onto a target. The Escapists 2 also features some light RPG mechanics, letting players perform stronger attacks by equipping weapons and by increasing the strength stat by working out. Things can get a little chaotic when the NPCs get into fights with each other randomly, resulting in the guards freaking out and beating down everyone involved.

Multiplayer is the most notable addition to The Escapists 2 and it’s one of the best things about the game. Up to four players can play online or locally, working together or racing in versus mode. Having a companion in this game heightens the experiences. Prisons in The Escapists 2 are large so it helps to have extra people covering the grounds and coming up with escape plans. Multiplayer also adds to the hilarity of the game. While it can be fun to beat up a guard and steal his uniform, nothing is better than watching your friend getting chased around the prison by guard dogs after missing roll call.

Naturally, escaping the prison is the most difficult part of The Escapists 2. The main source of this difficulty stems from the game’s lack of information and trial-and-error gameplay. As I mentioned earlier, while the tutorial does explain basic controls and the goal of the game, it doesn’t tell you much beyond that. I wasted a couple of in-game days trying to figure out how to apply for a job position before finding the notice board. You’ll be spending a lot of time in the prison’s solitary confinement cell and infirmary for each failed attempt until you finally get it right.

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The Escapists 2 (PlayStation 4) – gameplay images via Team17

While I enjoyed playing The Escapists 2, I would have had a lot more fun with it if the game taught me more about what to do rather than leaving me to figure it out on my own. It was a lot easier to forgive this with the new multiplayer modes that allowed me to mess around with friends while we figure the game out together. Fans of the first game shouldn’t hesitate to get their hands on The Escapists 2. Everything found in the first game is present here and expanded on. Small grievances aside, The Escapists 2 is a worthy sequel that rewards those willing to explore all of the game’s mechanics.

The Escapists: The Walking Dead (PC) Review

The Escapists: The Walking Dead (PC) Review

The Escapists: The Walking Dead is a difficult game to review. It’s everything it says on the box; I just wish it were a bit more Walking Dead and a bit less The Escapists. It’s a beautiful and charming game, it features great music, the fan service is spot-on, and by all accounts, it should be great, but my lasting impression is that this lovingly-crafted game still feels a bit too much like The Escapists was re-skinned in The Walking Dead universe. For some, that may not be such a bad thing, and indeed, it’s still a fun little game, but for this reviewer, it doesn’t do enough to set itself apart from its predecessor.

Of all the games that borrow from The Walking Dead, The Escapists: TWD follows the events of the books and television show the closest. Though it only features five levels, you’ll play as Rick as you’ll wake up in the tutorial level at the Harrison Memorial Hospital before having to keep your band of survivors alive through the Green Family Farm, the Meriwether Correctional Facility, Woodbury, and finally an overrun Alexandria. The issue I take is that these areas feel like only slightly less confined prisons (except for the actual prison) when compared to The Escapists, given the game uses the same formulaic time management system. It worked very well the first time around, but in The Walking Dead universe, it feels a bit tired. It works great when you’re trying to break out of prison, where all you have is time, but here it just feels like you’re trying to break out of the farm, or… the prison… I guess.

escapistswalkingdeadinsert4That being said, there is definitely a lot to like about The Escapists: The Walking Dead. The crafting system is back and lends itself perfectly to the TWD setting, and the game manages to skip most of the soap-opera-ish crap between Rick and Lori without feeling like it’s missing anything—not that there’s a huge focus on dialogue and story here, most of it being told through a series of animated cutscenes. Little snippets of dialogue from the books and series have worked their way into the game in the over-the-head dialogue, which is a great little touch. As is the fact that it’s not narrative-driven, so the disjointed nature of various characters and their mismatched timing for dialogue makes them appear more caricature-like than anything. I quite like it, if I’m honest.

One thing that players might not appreciate so much, though—particularly if they’re not followers of the source material—is the jarring nature of the transitions from one level to the next. With five major settings, the first being but a brief tutorial level, the fact that the game spans the entirety of the major locations in TWD means that there’s little in the way of connecting story to properly segue newcomers from one block of the story to the next. It’s clear then that this game is made for existing fans of the TWD franchise, but non-followers who are coming to this from their love of The Escapists may be disappointed with how much of the TWD story is glossed-over.

Still, I’m nitpicking. I don’t mean to sound like I didn’t enjoy my time with The Escapists: The Walking Dead. Quite the contrary. While I may have moved on from my love of formulaic gameplay, there is something distinctly likable about the tedium of seeing an objective right in front of you but knowing it will take plenty of work to reach it, and bashing zo… walkers with soap in a pillowcase always makes me giggle. The minigames for levelling up strength and endurance, if recycled, do offer something to help break up the monotony of your daily tasks, and the random quest system that has you perform favours for other survivors in exchange for currency that can be traded to a late-night purveyor of weapons is a nice touch.

Sadly, my real lasting memory isn’t of the beautifully crafted pixel graphics, or passionate translation of the source material (wonderful though they may be), but instead, of a cursor-scrolling bug related to specific Razer hardware. It seems to primarily affect the Orbweaver and hardware using the Switchblade UI like my keyboard, and disconnecting the offending hardware is the only current solution. If I didn’t make such a point of keeping a 360 controller handy, I’d have been well and truly stuffed. It may only affect a tiny percentage of players, but it’s something to be aware of, for sure.

escapistswalkingdeadinsert2Absurdly uncommon bugs aside, The Escapists: The Walking Dead is a very fun little game. While I hesitate to say the $20CAD price tag is worth it for everyone, fans of TWD will certainly find plenty to appreciate in the game’s renditions of key locales. And while I think I’ve drunk my fill of time management for a while, fans of The Escapist will find plenty more to enjoy in this new (mostly) non-prison setting. It may not be everything I was hoping for, but it also didn’t disappoint.

The Escapists: The Walking Dead Announced

The Escapists: The Walking Dead Announced

Team17 and Skybound Entertainment are teaming up to work on The Escapists: The Walking Dead.

The combination will allow players to play as Rock Grimes. The player must keep the group safe from zombies in each area and keep them alive.

Some group members will include original comic book characters and the game will follow the comic book closely.

The game will be released sometime this year for Xbox One and PC.

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More information is available below.

Team17 announce The Escapists: The Walking Dead

Team17 have today unveiled that they are developing and publishing The Escapists: The Walking Dead, a new game in collaboration with Skybound Entertainment.

Merging the award-winning, smash-hit, indie game The Escapists with the worldwide phenomenon that is The Walking Dead, Team17 have taken the very best of both worlds and are now providing players with the opportunity to play Rick Grimes as he takes on hordes of zombies let loose upon the world.

In this unique game, recreated entirely in the charming 8-bit pixel art style of The Escapists, Rick is in charge of a band of survivors featuring many of the original comic book cast. He must secure the safety of the group by seeking out a safe escape route from each area, and manage several dangerous tasks to keep as many of the group alive as possible. The game faithfully matches the timeline of the comics and so as the player makes progress in the game they play through locations that mirror the progress of the band of the survivors taken from the award-winning comic’s epic story.

Daniel Murray, President at Skybound Entertainment said, “Team17 presented a creative plan to blend The Walking Dead into The Escapists and our response was simple. When do we get started? The Escapists is a charming example of a single creator’s vision come to life. We are excited to offer fans of The Walking Dead something different and The Escapists: The Walking Dead is just that. A playful interpretation that we believe fans of great games in general will love.”

Debbie Bestwick, Team17’s Managing Director added, “With well over 600,000 units sold, the award-winning The Escapists is one of the hit indie titles of 2015. Masterminding your escape from prison is hard enough but how can we make it harder? Zombies. Remember poor Rick Grimes trying to escape hospital, organise life at a farm or hold up in an abandoned prison? A little bit of awesome 8-bit pixel love later and BOOM! It is great to partner with Skybound and The Walking Dead and we are really excited to ‘escapify’ the amazing, rich and sinister world of Robert Kirkman.”

Team17 will be globally debuting the game at the Walker Stalker Fan Fest in Petco Park, San Diego, California during the 10th and 11th July. Attendees, roamers and fans will be able to get exclusive first hands-on playable with Rick Grimes in the Harrison Memorial Hospital level.

The Escapists: The Walking Dead is scheduled for a 2015 release on Xbox One and PC.

To keep up to date with all the information on The Escapists please visit team17.com, like us onFacebook and follow us on Twitter.”

The Escapists (PS4) Review

The Escapists (PS4) Review

Some Birds Aren’t Meant To Be Caged

Indie is a term that’s increasingly coming under fire as everyone from Markus “Notch” Perrson to Ubisoft uses the term to describe their product. Originally, it just meant a game made by a small—sometimes one person—team with a limited budget, pursuing their own personal vision for what makes a fun game. The Escapists manages to still fall under that simple, initial definition, and feels like a proper indie title.

Initially begun as a Kickstarter project, The Escapists is essentially Shawshank Redemption: The Videogame. The jail break part, not the uplifting message about the indefatigable human spirit part. As a “traditionally” developed indie title with a meager budget and an off the wall idea, The Escapists shows all the hallmarks of its Kickstarter roots with retro graphics, sound, and top-down 3

rd

person action that would feel right at home on a 1989 NES.
escapistsiinsert1As to whether the game is good or not, this is dependent entirely on your own comfort level with being left to your own devices. The game opens with a basic tutorial that teaches how the controls work, and gives you a ready-made, already-in-place escape plan so you can see one of the many possible ways to break out of jail. Once that tutorial is done, you’re on your own, and the game tells you nothing about how to play or what to do next unless you’re willing to spend in-game currency to get tips from a payphone, or, as many people will be tempted to do, reach for the nearest Internet capable device and start looking at guides.

If you’re the sort that enjoys the heavily guided, hand-holding experiences of AAA games like Call of Duty or The Witcher III that give you waypoints, maps and side-quests to pursue, The Escapists will feel positively intimidating. You’ll have to learn to watch patterns, to search out potential escape points in the jail, to learn how to earn the goodwill of inmates, and try—through trial and error—to figure out which items can be “MacGuyver-ed” together to make tools to aid your escape. There’s an enormous amount of freedom, flexibility and experimentation in finding ways to use your environment and the people around you to effect your escape as you while away the days keeping track of schedules and movement patterns.

The people that are going to enjoy this game the most are the kind that enjoy figuring things out for themselves. Because this game has already come out on the PC and Xbox One, and is only now coming to the PS4, plenty of guides exist on how best to approach the game. Doing this, however, defeats the entire purpose of The Escapists  which is, like an actual convict, to use your own head and show some ingenuity in working the system to your advantage.

It’s ironic that allowing almost too much freedom will probably be a strike against the game for some, but there are other design and control problems that keep the game from being a true classic even without its niche gameplay. The interaction button, for instance, is mapped to the same button as combat. This can result in fights breaking out in the cafeteria just as you’re reaching for food, as you inadvertently punch someone that sidled up beside you, resulting in the guards breaking up the fight, and you potentially losing any contraband materials you had on your person. The “figure it out yourself” philosophy of the game also extends to what should have been guided introductions to game mechanics, such as giving people objects they request when you take side-quests. In The Escapists’ defense, it is, after all, an indie game. It didn’t undergo rigorous focus group or QA testing, and it’s not being published by Ubisoft, Activision or EA. Expectations have to be kept in check about how polished the game will be.
escapistsiinsert2If you’re looking for a very different, very open ended, very “freeing” game about jail breaks, The Escapists will appeal to the experimenter and escape artist in you. It’s not going to hold your hand when it comes to enacting a brilliant escape from jail, but if you’re willing to watch, plan and be patient it’s a very rewarding—if demanding—game. There are still some design issues, but nothing that invalidates the unique experience it offers.