The Escapists 2 has all the charm you may expect from this highly anticipated sequel and it comes hot off the back of its predecessors surprise success. If you’re a lover of shows like Prison Break or movies like Escape Plan then this game is going to be right up your street and it’s certainly going have you tearing your hair out at certain points too, but in a good way, I promise. With its retro styled visuals, The Escapists 2 has a cute look to it but packs a punch with its attention to detail, fair amount of content and game modes. Starting off in Precinct 17, this intro acts as a tutorial of what to expect when you take on the more challenging prisons on offer later on. There is a character creation tool this time which was absent from the first game that allows you to create your very own Escapist. Also another new feature added is a multiplayer mode that can be played locally or in an online drop in drop out system as a ‘co-op’ mode or a ‘versus’ mode
Once you start in the first main prison, it is evident that you really have to scope out everything to do with the whole layout including guard patterns and security perimeters outside. You have to abide by roll calls, jobs and dinner breaks in order to keep the guards’ attention off yourself while you explore opportunities to eventually escape and abiding by the prison rules as much as possible is very important if you want a successful escape. It’s certainly a charming experience that needs patience in order to carry out objectives because trying to rush through is only going to cause frustration and will see you end up in either solitary or recovering in the medic bay. There were a few times when I would miss a roll call or a dinner break and the guards noticed so I had to be very careful in how I went about planning my escape. Everything is very open in the prisons and each one is its own little sandbox. How it is all played out is entirely up to you and there are a few different ways that a successful escape can be completed so the game encourages you to go back and try new things and different methods to better your last attempt.
Side jobs can play a big part in executing a successful escape as there are a few inmates that can help you along the way as long as you help them in return by doing little favours. These favours consist mostly of fetch quests and upon completion of these not only gains their trust but also earns you money that you can spend on escape hints or even items that other inmates are prepared to sell to you in assisting with getting out. The gameplay is simple but enjoyable, with mostly reliable controls but I am slightly disappointed that character movement isn’t as smooth as it could of been. The crafting side to the game is fun and has a level system where your character has to have a certain amount of intelligence to be able to craft high end items. Increasing your intelligence can be done my reading in the library which involves playing a mini game to achieve but at the cost of fatigue. It is the same as your strength where you have to pump iron at the gym to be able to use certain tools you craft or do certain tasks and works the same as increasing intelligence where you have to play a mini game to make you stronger, again at the cost of fatigue. Self management like intelligence and strength are an integral section of the game with health and fatigue both being refreshed by taking showers, resting or having a little snooze and increasing these attributes is essential if you want an efficient escape.
The Escapists 2 has a retro look to it, and much like the first game it has a top down type view but this time character models and animations are definitely more polished than the first game, looking slightly less pixelated and more rounded with additional shading. It’s certainly colourful, quirky and really compliments the overall charm of the game and it all fits together really well. Animations are a lot smoother than before and don’t seem to have the jerky character motion that the first game seemed to have. The dialogue is witty and well written with some of the random things that are said bringing some humour and a few laughs along the way with its many one liners. Where the presentation lacks slightly though is in its rather dull audio that consists of what can only be described as annoying elevator music that eventually got on my nerves so much that I turned it off. With very little else to the audio as the dialogue is all text, with the exception of a few sound effects the music is really all there is in terms of the audio and it fails to deliver nothing more than annoying repetitive jingles.
Online modes are present this time and consist of a versus mode where you are placed in a prison picked at random against other players with the objective being to be the fastest at escaping. When it works it’s quite enjoyable but it took a hefty amount of time to find a match and when it did eventually find one it had occasional lag issues and some freezing with the latter sometimes ending the match due to connection issues. It’s unfortunate that this was the case and I’m sure with future updates it can be addressed but at the time of writing, the competitive versus mode is a little disappointing from a performance point of view. The co-op mode is unfortunately just as bad where connecting to a game is concerned, with the message ‘disconnected from the server’ regularly popping up before a game had even started. Once I got in to a co-op game after numerous attempts the performance was slightly better than in versus mode with only a couple of minor lag issues and it ended up being a lot of fun. Co-op involves you and up to 3 other online players team together to plan the perfect escape and I found it to be better in its performance and more enjoyable than versus mode. It’s worth noting though that even in a private match with friends, connecting to a match presented some issues and needed a few tries before getting in to a game. Also it doesn’t have to be played just online as there is an offline local co-op option too so server issues won’t be present there.
Despite the small online issues, Escapists 2 is an all round fun game to play and the variety in what prisons you end up trying to escape from goes from the standard prisons you would expect to see in the game, all the way to prison carriages on a moving steam train in the Wild West and even lock ups in space too. The solid single player offers a fun experience that is going to require a lot of patience and concentration but unfortunately did become slightly repetitive in certain areas of the game and I hope that the extra content doesn’t stop with the season pass and that the developers offer some free content updates along side it too. Having said all that though I enjoyed my time with the Escapists 2 and if you enjoyed the first game then there is no doubt that you will enjoy this. I just hope that the developers show some commitment to the loyal fan base and release updates that make some improvements to the online modes and other things like tweaking some of the minor gameplay issues to make things a little less stiff.