Escape Plan Preview
It’s always best when a game surprises you, just like Escape Plan has. We’d seen this pretty-looking puzzler doing the rounds since GamesCom, but it wasn’t until recently we had some quality time with it. Turns out it might well be one of PS Vita’s best early games, at least if early impressions are anything to go by.
Escape Plan is a puzzle game that instantly brings back memories of the PSone classics from the Oddworld series, Abe’s Oddysee and Abe’s Exoddus, Escape Plan sees players controlling two characters – Lil and Laarg – as they… escape.
What this translates to is a series of puzzles involving numerous different uses of touch control, a beautiful, stark art style and some brutal, punishing deaths. It’s certainly not a light-hearted romp through Candy Cane Land.
Escape Plan is one of the few titles we’ve played on PS Vita that eschews pad/button-based controls in favour of the touch screen and touch pad. While the sticks are still used to manipulate the camera, all of the main controls are swipes and taps on the front and back.
This makes for a scheme that’s simple to get used to and intuitive throughout – need to push something from the back to foreground? Tap it from behind. Move? Swipe the direction you want to go.
The addition of non-intrusive gyroscopic controls just helps to make the whole thing feel like – much as we are loath to say this – it was built from the ground up with PS Vita in mind.
However, it’s fairly common with modern gaming that we’re led by the hand, patronised, unable to fail, coddled. Developers seem afraid to punish us for mistakes. Escape Plan isn’t one of these games.
There are a number of ways to die, and Escape Plan teaches you most of them.
It’s not mind-meltingly hard from what we’ve seen, but it does have puzzles that require pause for thought – and if you don’t pause for thought, you’ll quickly end up dead.
Not just dead, but dead in a rather violent fashion – crushed, minced, otherwise splatted, zapped, burned. You are punished for getting it wrong, but things are so swiftly reset for another go that all you can do is learn from your mistakes and try again.
It’s clear just glancing around this page that Escape Plan is home to a distinctive, stark art style. Lacking in colour (otherwise known as ‘being black and white’) just aids the rather morbid, oppressive atmosphere Fun Bits is clearly hoping to put across.
It’s stark and foreboding, but the character designs and general artistic direction lead to something more fantastical, bringing in an air of the aforementioned Oddworld and even some hints of Tim ‘Before He Was Shit’ Burton.
For all the cutesy overtones of the characters and their cartoonish world, this is very much a game with a dark tone and some mildly sadistic tendencies.
Escape Plan is looking to take cues from the likes of Angry Birds in how it presents levels and scoring. The end of each sequence presents players with a rating out of three stars – a quick reference point to if you did ‘alright’, ‘a bit better’ or ‘quite well’ and the sort of thing that will surely encourage repeated play.
This will create the sort of obsessive, compulsive mania that comes with many bite-sized puzzle games that deem us worthy of their delicious, life-giving reward stars.
The art style is excellent, though most of that is courtesy of the unique characters.
Does this mean the game will be short but replayable? We don’t yet know. But we’d hope for a long, deep and rewarding experience that drags you back to replay and replay again.
Escape Plan stands out in the early PS Vita lineup by virtue of it not being a big-name Sony property that ‘looks like a PS3 game on handheld’ or whatever other crass statements are thrown around.
Instead Escape Plan fills the gap of a release more concerned with functionality and clever use of the technology available, rather than cramming in all of the touch and tilt features to a type of game that already exists on PS3.
Not that we have anything against the likes of Uncharted: Golden Abyss, obviously – we’re just a bit more open to the prospects of a more bespoke experience. Will it be successful, though? We hope so.