The Escapists Review
You can explore the first level of The Escapists in about 30 seconds… and then it will take you up to 30 hours to escape it.
Ha! That’s obviously an exaggeration but then again, it might not be. After all, all we had to show for after five hours in The Escapist’s first prison is were bruises from daily beatdowns in the showers, three lumps of putty and enough toilet roll to keep the stinkiest of starfishes fresh and clean.
That’s not really conducive to any escape attempt.
The point is that The Escapists is hard. It throws you in a prison and leaves you to it.
You have to figure everything out yourself – about what items you can get, about what items you can make, about what they can be used for, about how far you can push your luck, about how to get around your daily routine, about how to hide your contraband, about how to get the other prisoners to co-operate with you and ultimately, about how to escape.
It’s frustrating to begin with but each speck of knowledge earned feels like a mammoth victory and the lack of help also means you never feel particularly restricted in how you actually plan to escape. You could climb through the ventilation shafts, you could dig under the fence, you could climb through the fence, you can use a grappling hook and so on.
Discovering ways to escape and carrying out is what makes The Escapists so much fun.
For example, there were at least four people in our office playing it at the same time, so rather than hearing anecdotes from a single person (“I made five lumps of plastic and got beaten up in the shower for a month”), here’s what some of the other guys got up to, stories shared during tea breaks at work:
- Someone managed to get a job in the kitchen and swiped cooked food as part of the escape plan, so his stamina doesn’t fade during the actual escape. The escape plan itself? Hadn’t got that far yet. So all he’s really accomplished is a prison cell that smells of chicken (not the worst thing, really).
- Someone used dirt to flood the toilets because… well, he could.
- Someone used a fork to scrape a hole in the back of their cell and used a poster to cover the hole up. This was used as a place to store all their contraband but the poster degraded with each cell inspection until it fell off, leading to all the contraband being confiscated and an extended stay in solitary confinement. “It really pissed me off,” he said, staring into middle distance, as we made our tea in awkward silence.
- Someone managed to start a prison riot and escape in the chaos. Now that it’s written out the lack of detail makes it look like a lie, but further research shows this is actually a legit way to escape.
- Someone mentioned that they were shot by a sniper trying to escape. Snipers? Didn’t even know there were snipers until we had that conversation. “Neither did I, ha!” he joked. Though it was probably a lot more annoying at the time, thinking you were free only to collapse in a pool of blood and swear words thanks to an errant sniper.
The point is, there’s a lot you can do. A lot. The subsequent prisons are even harder to escape and require a fresh set of tactics. Clearly, The Escapists isn’t built with a desperation to please you but rather, simply presents you with a set of tools – literally – and lets you get on with it.
And that’s why not everyone is going to like The Escapists.
It requires a hefty investment of time without much pay-off, at least to begin with, and mistakes can be especially frustrating when they result in you losing your resources that it took so long to collect.
But the reward is the sort of long-term relationship that you rarely see in gaming nowadays – initially confusing, occasionally maddening but ultimately satisfying and there are very, very few games out there which can offer the high that The Escapists does when you finally break free and scramble for freedom.
(Only to have to do it all over again in a harder prison. We never said this game was easy, eh?)