Gamers of a certain age harbour nostalgic thoughts of games from the SNES era, we remember them being a lot better than they actually were, usually in both graphics and gameplay. The Escapists felt like being handed one of those treasured memories intact and just as good as I remembered it.
With clean sprites and a clear visual language there is little to confuse when initially starting up this deceptive little gem. The setup is simple - you are locked in an enclosed space and you have to figure out a way to escape, that enclosed space just so happens to be a prison and you an inmate. You use everyday items to craft tools, use stolen plastic knives as impromptu screwdrivers, put bars of soap in a sock to create a simple weapon - the list of craftables feels endless.
You also have to contend with other prisoners, carefully deciding who to anger, who to keep friendly and most importantly... Which guard are you going to clobber with that cosh? There are favours to do, money to be earned (sometimes even legally by filling out a work detail).
My first successful escape had me hoarding plastic utensils to use to unscrew the vent cover in my cell, making a papier-mâché replica of that vent cover to hide the fact I was scurrying around over everyone's head. Once I could safely move around after dark I set about digging a tunnel in a corner of the yard. This took me almost a week of in-game time to finish. On the night of my escape I coshed a guard, took his uniform and waltzed out in to the yard, the other guards ignored me and once they had their backs turned I scrambled down my hole, emerged on the other side and made a break for it.
I felt ever so clever.
The Next prison I tried to escape from had much more suspicious guards and I had a cellmate who kept alerting the guards to my suspicious behaviour. So far I have managed to squirrel away some supplies in a hole I've dug under my desk, each night I knock my cellmate unconscious and go to work, I don't have enough resources to tunnel out so instead I have been going around beating up guards, making copies of their keys and slipping the originals back in to their pockets, few seem to suspect me. I have crafted some sturdy cutters and plan to turn off the electric fence before I snip my way out. What could possibly go wrong?
Well, I seem to have angered half of the population of the prison in my quest for all the right equipment and I accidentally beat up a guard at dinner, spent three days in isolation and all of my stuff was discovered, so I begin again slowly acquiring everything I need. No two escapes are ever quite the same and that is fine by me.
The Escapists from Mouldy Toof Studios is a brilliant little game with tons of replayability, clean and nostalgic art direction and modern gameplay sensibilities that should keep you entertained for hours. In my time with the game I haven't encountered any bugs and the PC controls have transferred wonderfully to the PS4's Dualshock controller.
Just remember - This isn't a training tool for escaping a real prison, it is best to keep your nose clean and play games from the comfort of home.
+ Excellent clean art style.
+ Addictive crafting, hoarding, escaping gameplay loop
+ Random elements keep each play-through fresh
- Accidentally punching someone can destroy hours of preparation.
SPOnG Score: 8/10