The Escapists is a Prison Break simulator from the developer Mouldy Toof Studios and is being released by the publisher Team 17. The Escapists, as the name implies, is a game about escaping prison. To do this, player must use their wits, plans and a whole lot of patience in order to come up with a plan that will see them escaping in the shortest time possible.
In The Escapists, the player plays as one of a select bunch of prisoners that are imprisoned in a prison. At the start of each level, the player is asked to choose a player character to choose from, which means that the player assumes the role of that prisoner. The player can also customise the name of their prisoner as well. As the game progresses, each level, or prison, gets bigger and more complicated to escape from. Sometimes, a tactic used to escape a previous prison won’t work in a later prison.
Each prison that the player inhabits is its own puzzle, with a few possible solutions to escaping from each. What I found was that when escaping from prison, it was best to gather information about the prison itself. It seems like, at some level, the guards will patrol certain corridors more than others, the ventilation system is less secure in certain parts and that courtyards have worse detection than others. There are also a tonne of other elements to each prison that I haven’t mentioned, but it’s best to learn about each before making a plan of action to escape.
Unlike the player characters in the prison, who can only learn about item crafting recipes through crafting items and finding/buying the recipes off of other inmates, the player themselves have access to the entire internet (most probably). Team 17 have a wiki with a bunch of item crafting recipes which can make crafting items to test an escape plan a bit easier. In escaping from prison, items are crucial to the process. For example, a screwdriver will help the player to open vents, while dental floss can be made into a makeshift file to saw open fences and bars. Even more, players can make weapons in various creative ways, like combining a comb and a wall, to assist with taking down other inmates and guards for loot to help escape.
Sometimes, during the morning part of the schedule during rollcall, the player will be selected for a cell shakedown. This means that the players cell will be searched for illegal (red) goods. These goods are quite often crucial to an escape. I found that the best way to avoid having your items taken in the morning shakedown is to simply fill your pockets with them until after the shakedown. If you have a lot of them, stash them in another prisoners cell. The only downside to this plan is that prisoners do sometimes change their stashes contents and they do also get shaken-down periodically. Of course, as a prisoner, you can steal from other inmates stashes if they have something useful. Like Dental Floss, or a screwdriver, or timber, or a file.
One of the things I noticed with this game is that it has that feeling where you could easily play in your spare time trying to break out of a prison, but it’s also a game that’s built to keep you playing for as long as possible. Each day in prison is a pretty nice chunk of real life time that never feels too long, but it also never feels like it wasn’t long enough. This makes it very easy to lose track of time to the game, which can leave you playing for hours without even realising it. And depending on how resourceful you are and how lucky you get with items, you could have made a lot of progress on busting out, or very little.
The visuals in this game are 2D sprite graphics which make the game seem a lot less gritty than a real prison. The game also has the inmates and guards say things through speech bubbles, and these are usually hilarious. The dialogue is mostly humour based on internet memes and prison stereotypes, however. We did find some of the memes a bit cringeworthy. Other than that, the visuals and dialogue are very interesting choices.
The Escapists is looking like an interesting game for gamers wanting to get their Prison Break on. Everyone has their theories on how to break out of a prison, and The Escapists gives players the opportunity to try them out. Breaking out of prison might, or might not, be as simple as walking out of the front door.
This Preview is based on a pre-release code supplied by Team 17.