Who Knew Prison Could Be So Much Fun!
Let’s face it, criminals are entertaining. I personally love checking out public arrest record websites whenever I run out of video game news to read. Come on, you know you’ve done it too! There is just something strangely interesting about reading up on your unlawful neighbors. What caused them to do whatever it was that they did? What kind of life did they live before being thrown into a cell? And the question I wonder most is – What are they doing now that they are incarcerated? Are they planning an escape? Are they watching Prison Break and taking notes? Are they even allowed to watch Prison Break?
The Escapists 2 puts you in the shoes of a hardened criminal and tasks you with escaping ten different prisons. Obviously, this is a sequel, hence the “2” in the title. Well, I’m here to tell you that I never played the first game, but thankfully it’s not needed. What is needed is your brainpower and some heavy grinding if you plan on escaping from the game’s heavily guarded prisons. Now, I know what you’re thinking. “Grinding in a game that requires you to break out of a prison?” Yes, but it’s not what you think. Let me explain.
Is that a file in your pocket, or are you happy to see me?
The Escapists 2 begins by asking you if you’d like to play the tutorial level, and I strongly suggest that you do. It’s a cute little story that’s told by a prisoner that has escaped from his confines and is now soaking in the rays on a quiet beach. The tutorial only takes a few minutes, but it’ll teach you the bare basics and at least get you ready for your life in prison. It’s also a good introduction to the retro-inspired visuals you’ll be experiencing throughout your playthrough. Once the tutorial ends you’ll get to pick your criminal, and before you know it you’ll be behind bars and living your first day in your new home.
Starting the game is a bit of an eye-opener. At first you’ll feel the need to follow the rules of the tutorial, which basically means that you’ll be following a yellow arrow and reporting to different parts of the prison throughout the day. You’ll be attending roll call, eating two square meals, and other various everyday activities around the prison. This will keep you out of trouble, and more importantly, out of the minds of the guards. After a few days of following the rules and getting to know the layout of the prison you’ll probably start to wonder what you should be doing to start your escape. This is where you’ll either enjoy the game or start to wonder if your purchase of The Escapists 2 was a good investment. You must figure out what to do on your own. There are no guides or waypoints to help you. Your hand is let go of directly after the tutorial.
I personally loved this about the game. You can take your time and see what prison life has to offer. Get cozy and spend some time talking to the other inmates, or better yet, get in good with the guards and chat them up a bit. Bored? Go for a lovely stroll around the prison’s perimeter. You can even follow a film crew around as they make a documentary about prison life. The choice is yours! I found that the game started to become relaxing in a way. I got a good job in the waste disposal unit, exercised at the gym, and read books in the rec center. These small tasks all were all accompanied by very simplistic mini-games that I mindlessly played during my sentence. I didn’t even realize it, but doing these small tasks actually increased my criminal’s abilities.
Don’t drop the soap!
That’s where The Escapists 2’s mandatory grinding comes in. In order to perform certain tasks or craft certain items, you’ll need to raise your strength, fitness, and intellect. You’d think this could all be done quickly, but like you, your criminal will become tired. He needs energy to continue throughout his day, so exercising and reading can only be done in spurts. Want some more energy, just make sure to hit the cafeteria for your meals and you’ll be re-energized.
Prison life is grand, but eventually, you’ll want to escape. Each of the 10 prisons has multiple clever ways to break out of them. These usually revolve around crafting items that are needed for your escape. You can find most of these items by rummaging through the other inmates’ desks while they are out of their cell, or you can simply purchase certain items from prisoners who have a coin icon above their head. Of course to purchase items you’ll need some money.
Normal Everyday Prison Life
Earning a living in The Escapists 2 can be done in two ways. You can get a job or you can perform favors for the other inmates. These favors usually revolve around getting an item that the inmate is looking for, or beating up an inmate who is picking on another. Beating up other inmates is fun, but the seeking jobs can get boring. These seek missions are very basic and simply require you to find an item on one side of the prison and then bring it back to the inmate that requested it. These favors repeat very often too, sometimes almost immediately after I delivered the item. I’m not sure if it was a bug, but I had a few favors that required me to access areas of the prison that were nearly impossible to get to, which was really a bummer. Come on Larry, do you really need that cookie that is in the warden’s desk? I have five of the same cookie, but you need that EXACT one?
If breaking out of a regular old prison isn’t your thing, fret not. The Escapists 2 has a few scenarios that switch things up a bit. Futuristic prisons, boat prisons, war prisons – there is tons here to keep you busy. My personal favorite was the timed train prison. The goal was simple. Escape from the train before it arrives at its destination. This reminded me of playing Metal Gear on the NES, and required me to sneak around the train cars while ducking into lockers whenever an officer was nearby. The prisons all have a unique look that fit the time frame that they are set in. If I had one thing to complain about, it would be finding a random circuit board during my stay at Rattlesnake Springs, which is a prison set in the old West.
Wild, Wild, West
Beating up inmates and planning escapes may sound gritty and dangerous, but thanks to the previously mentioned retro visuals, The Escapists 2 is bursting at the seams with charm. Everything looks cute as hell! I couldn’t help but laugh as the hilariously animated guards and inmates were beating each other to a pulp.Walking by a guard with a crowbar also had me chuckling, especially when they just continued their stroll as though nothing was out of the ordinary. What had me laughing hardest was watching a nurse lift an inmate over her head while running to the prison’s hospital. The small talk between the prisoners and guards is also full of comedy, but it does repeat itself often.
A big part of The Escapists 2 is the multiplayer. Detaching the Joy-cons for a 2 player game was as simple as it should be. I was unable to find other online players for 4 player action since the game hasn’t been released yet. From the looks of it, playing alongside three friends should be a blast! I can’t wait until more Switch owners get their hands on this, because getting into a full-on brawl during a routine roll call is something that I’ve been wanting to experience. There were sections of some of the prisons that required multiple players to access them as well, so if you plan on seeing everything The Escapists 2 has to offer, make sure to bring along some friends to play with.
If you enjoy a sandbox game with no hand holding, The Escapists 2 is for you. There are some flaws though. Performing inmate favors is a big part of the game, and sadly, it is also the worst part of the game. But considering how much there is to do, I still found a lot of fun in prison life. The cheekiness of the retro visuals just adds to the package. Since there are a total of 10 scenarios for you and three friends to play through, there is a lot of value here. Just remember that this is a prison, and there is a lot of downtime. Don’t expect a game that plays like an action-packed episode of Prison Break.
Final Verdict: 3.5/5
Available on: Nintendo Switch(reviewed), PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC, Mac, Linux; Publisher: Team 17 Software ; Developer: Mouldy Tooth Studios; Players: 1-2 (1-4 online) ; Released: January 11, 2018 ; ESRB: T for Teen ; MSRP: $19.99
Full disclosure: This review is based on a Nintendo Switch review copy of The Escapists 2 given to HeyPoorPlayer by the publisher.