Review: The Escapists 2: Pocket Breakout13 Feb 2019 0
Review: The Escapists 2: Pocket Breakout
Released 31 Jan 2019
There is something incredibly synergetic about prison and videogames. While in real life incarceration is a punishment most wish to avoid, its inherent nature and location in places meant to be inescapable goes in direct contrast to players’ instincts to solve a puzzle -- you put a player in a prison facility in a game, and you can expect them to try to break free almost immediately. The genius of The Escapists is recognising that urge and building a whole game about it, providing players with all the tools, opportunities, and mechanics to crack the hardest joints.
From lax holding facilities to maximum security prisons, The Escapists 2: Pocket Breakout includes five different levels, including the tutorial, two easy prisons, a medium and a hard. Each has a different layout and number of characters, providing a variety of situations to keep gameplay fresh, further compounded by the completely randomised rosters (that can also be customised by the player before the start of each scenario).
As a game, The Escapists 2 rotates around following a stringent set of rules to cover up the continuous rule-breaking. A daily routine consisting of roll calls, meal times, gym and shower breaks, and even work must be adhered to, lest the guards get suspicious and start keeping an eye on you more often. You don’t really need to do the things they expect you to do -- being on the mess hall networking will fool them even if you don’t properly eat -- but the balance between legal and illegal activities makes up the biggest part of the game’s loop.
The other facet of the game comes in the planning and execution of the actual breaking out of prison, which requires you to decide by yourself -- with very little assistance -- the who, the what, the why, the when, and the where. Digging under the wall, cutting fences, hiding in a shipping crate, and even disguising yourself as part of a video crew can be used to attain freedom, and you will need to not only mentally keep track of all the moving pieces, but also get them in place.
Besides straight up snatching the items from their relevant locations, the best way of gathering materials for your escape is from other prisoners. By doing favours to other inmates, players can get money with which to buy supplies from other fellows dabbling in contraband, presenting a wide array of items to create anything from makeshift tools to a dummy prisoner to fool the guards who look at your cell bed.
Performing those actions can be a bit of a chore at times, thanks to the game somewhat finicky system when it comes to targeting people and items for use. The context buttons sometimes feel arbitrary in their placement and prompting, leading to some puzzling moments of thrashing about something or someone to get it to do what you want to get done. That is further compounded by a save system that only saves when you are at bed or at the end of specific routines, meaning that The Escapists 2 can be slightly inconvenient at times, especially for a mobile game.
In terms of comparison to The Escapists 1, the sequel takes everything that worked on the first instalment and expands it. The game is virtually the same as the original but bigger, which coupled with the 8-bit graphics and great music and sound design should provide plenty of fun to fans of the franchise -- and provide a great starting point to newcomers.
The most important thing for this edition, arguably, is how well The Escapist 2 performs on mobile. The game has been out on Steam since mid-2017, but Team 17 went all out on this port. Aside from graphics and audio quality equal to the PC version, Pocket Breakout enjoys wonderfully touch-responsive rolling menus and three different control systems: an on-screen dynamic or fixed joystick, a click and hold movement system, or a click-only method similar to RPGs of old like Diablo. All work equally well and have their strengths and weakness, meaning the only factor that dictates their use is a user’s personal preference.
Just because a game is premium doesn’t automatically make it good – there are plenty of titles out there that fall short in one way or another. The Escapists 2: Pocket Breakout is not one of those games; featuring an interesting premise, a fun and versatile gameplay loop, and a number of mobile features that put several lesser ports to shame. Given its replayability and execution, The Escapists 2 is an easy recommendation if you feel at all attracted to its core premise.