Developer(s) – Team17
Different from anything Team17 have ever done before, I found myself fascinated with what The Escapists had to offer in terms of gameplay, but was disappointed to find how short a time one playthrough can be made to last. Set in a prison that the player must escape from with the aid of the other inmates, it also delivers an unusually light hearted and comedic portrayal of prison life.
Graphics – 7/10
The visuals are extremely reminiscent of games in the 16-bit era such as EarthBound or any of the original Pokémon games. Whilst it could be viewed as a step back from the more modernised visuals from Worms Revolution or even Flockers to a certain extent, they still work fairly well to portray the aforementioned light heartedness of the game’s overall atmosphere, and in turn, Team17’s subtly warped sense of humour.
Gameplay – 7/10
Overall, as well as being particularly different to most top-down 16-bit games of way back when, it’s also extremely satisfying to play for how short a time it can be completed in. There are quite a lot of side quests to do in between other missions allocated by other inmates. There is also quite a strong Minecraft influence throughout, as crafting items from collectibles is integral to the ultimate objective of the game, which is to escape the prison.
Controls – 10/10
As Team17 have worked with PC hardware since their founding, there is and never should have been no issues with the game’s control scheme; especially not with a game like this, since from what I can gather, must be one of the easiest control schemes to work on.
Lifespan – 4.5/10
As I mentioned earlier, for how much substance there is in gameplay, it is disappointing to think that one playthrough of this game can take an average of 7 hours to finish. I personally hate when a game’s lifespan outlasts it’s gameplay value. I encountered this many times throughout the seventh generation, with the release of such games as Batman: Arkham Asylum, Deus Ex: Human Revolution; and South Park: The Stick of Truth. Considering that this game would also have taken considerably less time and effort to develop than any of the aforementioned examples, it just makes it that much more unforgivable.
Storyline – N/A (10/10)
Again, in lieu of the tradition set by the developers, The Escapists doesn’t have a fixed story, but only a basic premise, whereby the player character, pre-selected by the player before the start of the game, must find a way to escape the prison in which the game is set in. Though I think it would have at least been interesting to have some kind of back story added to it to again possibly add even more to the game’s comedic element, I was happy to see that the game wasn’t at least marred down by any attempt to create any kind of singular narrative.
Originality – 7/10
Though there have been countless top-down RPGs over the years, from Pokémon to EarthBound to Final Fantasy to Chronicles of a Dark Lord, there is something about The Escapists that does set it apart from the rest. It differs in a negative way, in how short a time it lasts compared to most others, but in a positive way in that the gameplay and the objectives involved are drastically different, and doesn’t feel quite as repetitive without not being addictive at the same time.
To summarize, The Escapists is a pretty good game, but could have done with lasting so much longer than it did. I feel that out of all the games that Team17 have made, whereby lifespan is largely non-applicable, I can’t help but feel that if the same had been applied to this title, in the form of some kind of endless mode perhaps, then it could have ended up being something particularly special.