The Escapists 2 Switch Review by SwitchWatch

Developer: Mouldy Toof Studios

Publisher: Team17

Release Date: January 11th 2018

Price as of Article: $19.99 USD, £19.99 GBP

Story

The Escapists 2 kicks off with an ex-jail bird lying on the beach sipping on a cocktail whilst boasting about his great escape (pun intended!).  You get to play out this escape as the introduction to the games controls and objectives.

After this flashback you get back to the present and our ex jail-bird is caught by the authorities and dragged back to prison.

Once completed you are left to choose one of the ten prisons in which to live out a tedious routine whilst planning an escape in whatever manner you can think of. This is the single goal of the game – Welcome to The Escapists 2!

Audio
The soundtrack includes a series of catchy chip tunes across each of the 10 levels which match the levels theme really well. None of the songs will stick in your mind but they are composed very well and complement your experience.

Outside of the music we have a lot of sound effects from chipping away at a wall to smacking someones head whilst they are minding their own business in the shower to the locking down of the prison. There is something satisfying about the sound of working out in the gym and pumping up your stats!

Visuals
Visually the Escapists 2 improves things noticeably over the first game which was inspired by the ZX Spectrum. The colour pallet is broader and there are now over 300 customisations available to you when selecting your character and every single character within your level. Day and night effects work well and the different jails have their own personality. That said the pixel art is not the finest out there. Games like Kingdom: New Lands and Stardew Valley have shown us that we can have simple graphics with careful level of detail that stands out. On the move the visuals are definately better to look out without the extra real estate to oversize things. Menus in the game are functional but basic looking and you end up spending a lot of time in them.

The escapists 2 switch review

The character variety is great

Gameplay

Escape by any means necessary is your primary objective in every level. The game follows the trend of throwing you in without explaining too much after a short tutorial that arms you with the controls and shows you an example of a very basic breakout.

Each of the 10 prisons is its own sandbox complete with dynamic inhabitants that will get into trouble with or without you as they often fight each other earning a beating from the guards and will even attempt to escape or get caught with contraband.

You get to feel as though you are Andy Dufresne from Shawshank Redemption or perhaps Fletch from Porridge is more fitting! The premise of the game is excellent and the open world nature leaves your mind puzzling over the best location to escape and how to achieve it. Should you try and dig out, dress up as a guard and try to walk out? Your mind can work up wonderful plans and the game will let you work towards them.

Hop to it inmate

What makes the game standout from a regular sandbox game is its strict prison schedule that dictates everything from when you must eat to lights out and roll call each morning. This schedule forces you to head to the right location at set times and exactly what the schedule is will vary from level to level. Planning your progress around this day at first is daunting and in my first run I didn’t realise that I didn’t have to stay for the whole time, rather you just need to check in during the allotted time and can then head off to further develop your escape plan.

Better yourself

To add another layer to the game stats are introduced – you have a level of intelligence, strength and speed that affect various tasks from which jobs you can perform to whether you are smart enough to craft tricky items. Working out in the gym builds up the first two using simple mini games that involve timing and both triggers, similarly improving intelligence involves reading books using a mini game. This addition has you bettering yourself in your rehabilitation albeit with the purpose of helping you escape!

Cell Shock

Where things fall down in The Escapists 2 is in the tedium, whilst the strict schedule adds challenge it ends up feeling like time is being wasted against your progression. Once you figure out a plan you will need to gather resources by stealing from fellow inmates secret stashes and doing favours (quests) in exchange for cash which can be spent buying goods from other inmates.

You can craft a range of creative weapons like soap in a sock to a makeshift shiv. Weapons help you take down other inmates for quests or so you can steal their items – you may even want to beat up a guard. You can also craft a big list of items in creative ways, sticking together two files with tape will create a rudimentary set of cutters whilst melting down a toothbrush will give you a blob of plastic that can be used for all sorts of contraband.

Your first few days in prison will typically have you falling into a routine of heading towards your scheduled activity to check in then heading off to better yourself at the gym or library. You will figure out some items aren’t anywhere to be found but you can buy them off of a fellow inmate so you pick up some quests, deliver this item here or beat up this prisoner there.

This tedium makes you skip over your inmates witty dialogue and you quickly see each of them as just another requirement to meet your escape criteria, that said perhaps this is the point – after all prison isn’t supposed to be all thrills.

Some of the prisons feature contraband detectors and getting caught in a scuffle will see you beaten and sent to the infirmary after your contraband is confiscated. You can also find yourself the victim of a random search on your cell where anything you have stored will be confiscated. These conditions add an element of fear to the levels that works well most of the time however it can be very easy to accidentally get caught up in a fight, especially in the canteen which is a sure fire way to have any contraband you are carrying taken off you – this can be depressing if you have toiled to scrape together the requirement items for your plan only to have the taken off of you.

The Escapists 2 Switch Review Nintendo Switch

Crafting galore

Escape!

Once you have the resources and have improved your stats its then a case of figuring out how best to plan your escape. Is there a pattern to the guards routine that you can use to your advantage? Where is the best place to cut through the fence? Can I steal a uniform to help blend in or simply walk out? Should I beat up a guard and steal their key? These decision points are crucial and overlooking details will almost certainly lead you to a failed attempt.

Failing is painful both literally as the guards will catch you and beat you to a pulp and figuratively as you will lose all of your items and will need to start again from scratch. This is devastating if you have spent a lot of time getting ready but what it does mean is actually escaping feels fantastic. I don’t want to spoil the surprise but there are some very imaginative ways to meet this goal including some which require you to team up with a friend to achieve.

In-mates

One of the new features in The Escapists 2 when compared to the first game is multiplayer. There is both local and online play options though online certainly works better as the screen becomes split in local play which I found rather distracting after a while. Online you can jump into a prison very easily, the system was implemented really well. Playing online does present its challenges though as without any form of communication you will struggle to achieve a plan together.

There is also a vs mode in which you are pitted against a fellow inmate to try and escape in the quickest time. I found both modes a welcome distraction and cool addition but I certainly feel the best experience is playing alone.

Timed escapes

Most of the prisons feature a similar layout – you have a cell as do your inmates and there is a training yard, library and other zones but there are also a few timed escapes. These give you an excellent and more linear escape against the clock. The first of these is the train escape which involves hiding from guards in order to sneak past them when their backs are turned and then figuring out one of the multiple escape options in a short space of time. These challenges are less about spending time in menus and more about skill and quick thinking offering up an excellent break from the larger prisons.

The Escapists 2 Nintendo Switch Review

Get away quick

Value
At $19.99 in the US the game offers you 10 levels, multiplayer both locally and online with a bunch of content to unlock and customisations to gather plus multiple escapes per level. Even though there is a lot on offer the core gameplay does become rather stale after a bit of time so many will stop playing before experiencing on offer. One point that I did think was a bit cheeky is the price point in the UK – at £19.99 it is quite a bit more expensive than in the US which is a shame, especially considering both the publisher and developer are based in the UK. That said however the game is accomplished and comprehensive.
  • Recommended 70% 70%

Pros

P
Original Gameplay
P
Sandbox galore
P
Solid Soundtrack

Cons

P
Repetitive rather quickly
P
Shallow character building