A follow-up to 2015’s deliciously popular prison-escape simulator, The Escapists 2 stays true to fans with more freedom and level variety, but fails to endear detractors.
The ‘police siren’ opening credits trigger memories of Grand Theft Auto, invoking a pseudo-Pavlovian response, coupled with memories of Prison Break, Shawshank Redemption and less popular but still fun titles, like Stallone’s ‘Escape Plan.’
The first level acts as a basic tutorial – not so much showing you the ropes, but flashing them and alluding to their tensility without letting you actually grasp them. The game’s depth is hinted at, but not revealed upfront. A few frustrations crept in early as I found the controls to be unintuitive, and stumbled between holding and pressing X, equipping items and moving furniture.
Once triumphed (and given a false sense of achievement), you are given access to three more prisons, and eventually unlock 10 maps (excluding a pre-order). Unlike the first game, the locations are not strictly prisons and you will experience everything from escaping a train, an aeroplane and a space colony. Some of the missions are timed, adding a layer of stress to the core game objective.
The Escapists 2 is a lot like Marmite – it’s very difficult to be neutral about it, and the stage variety doesn’t help if you’re not a fan of the concept. It’s defiantly overwhelming in an age of instant gratification. Routine is baked into the game design and the monotony of prison takes some time getting used to. The game immerses you in the mundane, with quests occasionally making you feel short-changed as the effort is seldom worth the reward. The game does reward perseverance and trial. Scribblenauts was the last game that encouraged me to experiment to this degree so if you enjoy that aspect of discovery, you should consider this game.
This is not a game you blaze through in an afternoon, or something you play for more than a few hours at a time. I dived in and out, mostly in 60-minute bursts, scribbling notes of my incremental steps towards escape. It’s a slow burn, and it’s easy to give up and go back to playing Overwatch, especially in the early hours. My plans worked a few times, but more often than not I would be caught by guards and taken to solitary confinement, relieved of whatever items I scrounged to acquire. Rock might not beat paper, but soap in a sock will beat fists, and a baton will always win. It’s not a twitchy ‘Hotline Miami instant death and reload’ game. You have to often adapt your end game as escape routes are discovered, and items are confiscated. What it does have in common with Hotline Miami is the retro-inspired graphics (although it leans more towards Teslagrad in the looks department) and an enchanting soundtrack.
There are over 300 customisation options available for the inmates and guards…so I spent a huge chunk of time recreating 1970’s Robben Island. All that was missing was a limestone quarry and the ability to move Ahmed Kathrada closer to my cell.
The Escapists 2 has various multiplayer options including online (I was hardly paired with anyone useful, except for two randoms who spent all their time fighting with guards, their distractions gifting me with time to plot), a robust co-op split-screen and a versus mode. Versus mode is a race to see who can escape the prison first (without worrying about snipers or generating cash to buy things). Due to the difficulty curve, it was quite difficult to convince anyone to join me, especially compared to titles like Towerfall Ascension and Overcooked.
Fans of the original should not hesitate to jump back in. The Escapists 2 has limited appeal for casual gamers, and if you prefer your games not to give you strife I suggest you pick up the original when it’s on special before you splurge on this.
Last Updated: August 28, 2017