Platforms: Win, Mac, Linux, XBox One, PS4
Steam rating: 91% positive
Ever wondered how you’d fare in prison? The Escapists isn’t – as the title might imply – simply a prison-escape puzzler, but also a life-on-the-inside simulator. Although your ultimate goal is escape, you’ll need to take your time learning how things work in each prison, following the rules and showing up on time for things like meals and showers, to figure out when and how you have the best chance of obtaining your freedom.
The tutorial level is very bare-bones – it exists only to show you the basic mechanics, and you might feel a bit overwhelmed when entering your first actual prison. Movement is WASD, with mouse clicks for interaction. While it seems like breaking out of the big house is a task best attempted alone, while you’re learning you way around, you might want to do favors for some of the other inmates in order to stay on their good side.
You’ll also have to figure out crafting on your own – putting a bar of soap in a sock, as above, will give you a rudimentary weapon, but you will have to figure out what other items might work well together – you may find a crafting note occasionally, but for the most part, you’re going to have to figure it out on your own. You have a very limited inventory, with the option to store additional items in your desk in your cell, but some items are naturally going to be against the rules, and guards will perform random cell checks that could ruin the most careful plans.
There are a few DLCs for purchase, and the free holiday bonus levels as well. The base game comes with 10 different levels, each with their own layout, routine, and level of difficulty, as well as a prison editor to allow you to create your own prisons. There’s no question the play time value is immense – there is no one right way to escape, so levels are absolutely replayable, and there are also achievements and leaderboards for those players who are motivated by high scores and achievement unlocks.
The Escapists isn’t a game with a deep, engaging story, but there’s a decent amount of complexity here. It feels like a game that, despite the simple concept, will take a lot of time and practice to really become proficient, and that kind of learning curve, when combined with the simplistic graphics and somewhat crude humor might turn some players off.