The Escapists - Xbox One

Release Date:

13 February 2015

Also on:

Xbox One PC PS4

Viewing UK:

Also on USA.
8.3

Summary:

At face value we could easily see 'The Escapists' as a dull, resource gathering prison escape game. It isn't. Instead the game manages to paint a fascinating portrayal of a fictional prison, full of inmates and guards with their own personality.

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Release Date: 02/07/2014

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Posted:
2015-02-25

Dave_Finnigan

Writer

Xbox One

8.1

'The Escapists' is a video game developed for the Xbox One by Mouldy Toof Studios and developed by Team 17 Digital Limited. The game released to massively favorable reviews thanks to its unique premise, enjoyably nostalgic graphics, and re-playability. At its core the game is all about breaking out of prison. But once you dig a little bit deeper you find that it is a truly intelligent game. While this was not released by a major studio, it still has all the polish that you could want out of a nice little digital download. There are many fans who would fall in love with this game if they were given only half of an hour to get a taste of it. So to find out if it is the right game for you, keep on reading!

So what is this all about?

'The Escapists' is a 2D video game with classic 8 bit graphics. All of the action occurs from an overhead angle. You start off the game locked up in a variety of different prisons. The goal of the game is for you to guide your 2D prisoners (Escapists, get it?!) out of the prison. You have to come up with a plan of escape that can fly under the radar of the guards while only using the material available to you in prison. This means that the game takes on a whole new level of strategy depending on where you are locked up. Things can go a variety of different ways depending on the strategy that you choose to employ, so there is always another reason to try the game again.

How does it all look?

The 8 bit graphics will be a polarizing concept for most players of the game. My instant take was that the graphics were a throwback to the glory days and I really appreciated the way that it changed the feel of the game. On the Xbox One, the decision to go old school is pretty dangerous. But here it works. The characters all pop off of the screen even though they are only differentiated by a piece of text and their hair color. The guards stand dark and imposing at every corner and the inmates are tiny little terrors just waiting to be unleashed. The different cell blocks are well designed and imbued with personality, even in their sameness. The guys at Mouldy Toof Studios did a great job at creating personality out of an art style that could be construed as laziness. The game is simple looking and never chugs along, no matter how many different sprites you have on screen at once. In hectic prison breaks, when things go wrong, games with worse engines would surely stutter. Not here.

How does it handle?

When 'The Escapists' first boots up you are in the thick of things immediately. You are taught the ins and outs of escaping prison while doing it for the first time. It's a minimum security prison, but still. Once you are free your character suddenly wakes up. It was all a jail and you are still stuck as ever. It's time to get down to business and plan your real escape--if you want.

As you are an inmate you have to obey the general rules of prison life. Your day is completely scheduled out by the guards and if you don't do what they say, there are consequences. First thing in the morning is roll call. Then breakfast and the rest of your morning activities. Before long it will be time to do your prison job, get counted again, and pass out only to start things over in the morning. You have a few slots of free time that you can devote to getting to know the other inmates and guards, learning the ways they act, while planning your escape. This is where the game gets very interesting.

At face value we could easily see 'The Escapists' as a dull, resource gathering prison escape game. It isn't. Instead the game manages to paint a fascinating portrayal of a fictional prison, full of inmates and guards with their own personality. They all start out with a 'neutral' behavior stance toward you but you quickly learn what can be done to make them happier or angrier. You can curry the favor of certain inmates if you find that they will be helpful when you plan your escape. You can also bribe guards, but be careful that you don't bribe the wrong one.

All of the characters in the game are fully functional and they can all interact with you. The developers spent a lot of time making sure that the writing was tight. There are hilarious little quips that you'll hear in passing (especially in the weight room) and some of the things the characters say are quite frightening. What is even scarier is when these characters act out against you.

Some missions will mandate that you acquire an item that a fellow inmate owns. If they are unwilling to part with it you may have to beat them up and steal it. This may give you some respect around the yard but it will also make you a bigger target. If you ever make someone mad enough they might come at you and try to hurt you. Hopefully the guards still like you enough to try and save you. But if you've annoyed them by repeatedly trying to steal or escape, they might just watch it happen. This is the dangerous life of an inmate who wants out.

'The Escapists' on the Xbox One is a great game that puts you into a role that requires depth and craft. You can try to escape peacefully, working the room into your favor. You can become the hulking brute, or the snitch that the guards depend on. You can turn on your bunkmates or try and kill them in their sleep. The developers offered a variety of ways to play and finish the game and it is up to you to explore them all.

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Mar 10, 2015
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Release Date:

13/02/2015

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