Aside from always wanting to plan an elaborate heist, part of me has sometimes fantasized about staging a high-stakes prison break.
The location is hostile and highly protected and it would take a great deal of time, cunning, and planning to escape from such a place. Yet in the realm of video games where you can be a super-powered space marine or even a literal god, I find it pretty interesting that more games about escaping from prison don’t exist, considering every element lends itself perfectly to this interactive medium.
I had seen stories about The Escapists when it initially hit the scene back in 2015, and despite thinking it looked quaint and interesting, I had never gotten around to trying it. Luckily for me, The Escapists: Complete Edition on the Nintendo Switch finally gave me the chance to experience the breakout hit.
Being a Switch re-release, I won’t get too deep into the nitty-gritty of The Escapists, given that CGM’s esteemed Wayne Santos covered the game so well back in 2015. It’s the same game, including all the added DLC levels, but now on a portable system—which is probably the best way to experience a game like this.
Initially, I thought The Escapists was going to have more strategy elements, akin to something like a sim-management game, but what the game honestly reminds me of most is Harvest Moon. Its wide variety of options allow for multiple styles of play, and there is a genuine cathartic element in the gameplay of going through the daily prison routine. You get in a nice groove, going from roll-call to daily meals to recreational time, all the while finding small gaps in time to plan ways to break out of prison. This is bolstered by the simple 8-bit aesthetic and often relaxing music.
As I noted in my review of Skyrim on Switch, there’s a certain level of detachment that comes with playing the Switch in handheld, making the overall experience more casual as you throw on Netflix and tune-out a bit. In this way, the Nintendo Switch is the perfect platform for The Escapists, since its gameplay lends itself very nicely to a chill, pick-up-and-play experience.
However, it’s not a completely flawless experience.
There are a few notable bugs still lingering within the game, ranging from characters getting knocked out and being frozen in the walking animation to one particularly egregious bug where reloading a save can cause you to lose all of your money. While I found most of these bugs more annoying than aggravating, it’s a little ridiculous to see a re-release of a three-year-old game still plagued by bugs.
If you missed The Escapists, then I would highly recommend getting it on the Nintendo Switch. It’s an enjoyable game with a very interesting premise. For added prison break fun, The Escapists 2 is also available and would be great given the versatile nature of the Switch and multiplayer.