There’s something fascinating about the layer of complexity in planning an escape from a high security prison. Countless hours of anticipating guards’ routes and day to day movements. Trying to convince old man Sam to sell you that last roll of duct tape, even if you did club him in the back of the head with a plunger the day before. Waiting for an opening to knock out an officer so you can make a copy of his key card. These small and sometimes difficult tasks lead up the grand finale: Escape.
Escapists 2, co-developed by Mouldy Toof Studios and Team 17, is an escape simulator following their successful predecessor. The original was known for challenging players and requiring a great deal of patience and determination to complete. Escapists 2 comes back with more vigor than ever and stays true to the premise that garnered them success. Although, this sequel is more forgiving in nature than the first, but we will get to that.
Maps and Presentation
The updated levels add new ways to play, testing your skills and ability to think quick on your feet. Escapists 2 touts ten uniquely themed maps, three of those being transit maps. With an all new added tutorial in Precinct 17, you will be able to learn the basic skills necessary for your first escape. This is a great way for anyone unfamiliar with the series to get acclimated to the basics of the game; However, it is limited in depth and will not give much assistance in your next endeavor. Once you are ready to take off the training wheels, it’s off to Rattlesnake Springs or Centre Park 2.0, the latter being familiar to those who have played the original, with some updated improvements.
Along with your regular prison layouts is an all new transit map, which puts prisoners on a time limit to escape before you reach your destination. The Transport maps require a bit more finesse and quick thinking than the previous. Guards have zero tolerance and will attack you on sight, which will leave your escape up to your creativity and brute force. With the added time limit thrown into the scenario, it leaves little room for mistakes and second guesses; Although, I found the first transport map much easier to navigate than the standard map choices. Some of your options for escape are spelled out for you. Literally, it gives you almost exact instructions, which I found to be irritating coming from such an intense task of escaping the standard map layout.
Each “standard” map is fitted with their own routines like the original. These routines are necessary to your everyday schedule to avoid gathering attention from the guards. Meals, exercise, jobs and even times to shower are going to be seared into your brain. At first, you will loathe the repetitious feeling from attending this schedule. After a few days of this routine, you will start to notice patterns in guards’ movements, openings to search for crafting components and the best possible times for your escape. Each map has weaknesses to exploit, but whether you capitalize on them is an entirely different story.
New Combat, New Crafting, New Problems
The mechanics in Escapists 2 are updated from the previous with an all new combat system, which incorporates blocking, target locking and powered attacks. The combat system allows for more options to defend yourself in a brawl, but can prove to be useless when you get swarmed by multiple enemies. It is an appreciated update but still gives off that mundane and tiresome vibe. Movement and direction changes feel clunky, which can prove to be a problem when trying to precisely select a wall to break or patch of dirt to dig into.
Skills resemble those of the original, with intellect, strength and fitness being the core on which you build your character. Each have their own benefits which expand further possibilities in the game. Intellect will allow you to craft new items to aid you on your escape. Strength will become useful when taking on a mob of inmates, or punching a guard for fun. Fitness will keep you in top shape and pushing forward when stamina is needed. Building these skills is a simple task, with “mini-games” set in place to earn your skill points. Most of these incorporate some form of using the R2 and L2 triggers to complete the action. Nothing overly complicated or difficult by any stretch of the imagination.
Combat is a nice touch, but where Escapists 2 really shines is crafting and the boundless variations you can use to escape. Want to build a pickaxe and break into adjoining cells? How about a grappling hook to climb over walls? Or you could take some wood and wire to craft num-chuks and whoop ass Bruce Lee style.
This is the beauty of Escapists 2. There are endless possibilities in how each player will approach their escape methods. It adds a significant amount of depth to a game that seems to lack it at face value. With ultimately endless ways to take on your prison, Escapists 2 has huge values in replaying the game. It is a nice addition to a game that is founded on a rock-solid premise.
Grab a Friend… or Num-Chuks
One feature that Team 17 and Mouldy Toof studios decided to incorporate, due to high demand in the fan base, was drop in and out multiplayer. Players can now join up with friends locally or online to plan and execute their master break out. It’s a refreshing take on a game that is known for being so arduous for players.
Multiplayer creates several new avenues to explore when establishing your plans. There are portions of each map that will grant access for you and another cell mate to pass through. I will not spoil any surprises, but without the ability of co-op or online multiplayer, you will not be able to access these escape methods. In kind, certain possibilities will be closed off to multiplayer groups for escape that would normally be available to you solo. Whether you are a solo escape expert, who only takes on the most serious of incarcerations, or a group of friends in for a good time; this game can be enjoyed by anyone. Well, that is until you spend 8 hours attempting to escape the first level… (swear it wasn’t me).
Customization and Graphics
Escapists 2 also brings some upgrades on the graphical side as well. The game still rocks pixelated animations, but does so with elegance. In game textures are improved and the UI has been changed to a more user-friendly version. Character sprites are much smoother than the original and the map brings in some updates as well. It’s perfect for what it is.
Customization is also back with over 300 different variations. The sky is the limit for your appearance, if the skies ceiling was 300 stories high. You can also change the names of every prisoner that is spending time with you. Have a bully in mind that picked on you in high school and want some hilarious revenge? Throw him in there. Want mom and dad to spend a few days in jail with you? Bring it on! It allows for each player to have their own personal experience catered to their preference.
Escapists 2 does justice by its name and brings back the best of the previous title, while adding a fresh new mix of options for new players of the series to bite into. With endless possibilities for escape methods and an increased arsenal of tools and weapons, the only thing left out of the equation is creativity. Mechanics could use some improvements, as movement is clunky and the combat system grows mundane and tiresome after a few play throughs. Maps are updated and bring an entirely new concept to the series with transit escapes, which is fresh and unexpected. Escapists 2 is quite possibly one of the best values of the summer, with endless options for new players to the series and enough value for veterans to jump into. At a price point of $29.99, it would take a Num-Chuk to the face from Chuck Norris to keep me from making this commitment.
Yes, I just reviewed this without making a single Shawshank Redemption or Prison Break reference. Get me a cookie.