The Escapists is a daring and captivating prison simulator where you must plot and plan your daring schemes before making a break for it. Is it the prison sim we have always wanted or did Moody Tooth drop the soap on this one?
The Escapists at its core is a strategy game and its all about understanding your surroundings and looking for opportunities in one of the 6 prisons players are tasked with escaping from. There are a total of 6 methods players can use to escape from these prisons but it wont be easy, not by a long stretch.
To begin with developer Moody Tooth has sought to get players accustomed to the game by enforcing a play through of their tutorial level. This tutorial is straight forward and details how to use the tools in your armoury to escape by digging. Its a nice cosy starter but on reflection this tutorial doesn’t do enough to really help players get to grips with what is required to get to those points. Its great I can use a screwdriver but how on earth did I get this?
The fatal error of the far too simplistic tutorial level does leave you a bit overwhelmed even with life in the first prison. This is a method of really throwing you in and in essence creates the need for the player to think fast and react. Roll call is how you start the day and pointers on the screen will help guide you around the prison map. We definitely found getting the lay of the land to be a productive way to spend your first hours behind bars. The Escapists is an incredibly in-depth game and there are lots of things going on that the player must be aware of or indeed manipulate to their advantage. Theres around 200+ items to discover picking the best ones will either make or break your escape.
The Escapists depth is actually pretty outstanding from performing jobs to earn some extra money to crafting goods to help hatch your escape plan. There is no guide however to tell you what necessitates a good item to find or craft instead players must make these choices based on whether its green or red. Red is contraband and you definitely don’t want to loose those items either through a shakedown or being beat up. The frustrations of spending hours gathering your goods for some ruckus to occur leaving you recovering in the prison medical bay got a little testing after a while. Its a nice idea and ensures the player is cautious but on our play through we found too often that these mini fist fights happened and in time it was with laughable prediction. We would liked to have seen this curbed a little further as attempting to manage prison life relations after several days became extremely tough. What is also worth mentioning here is that at times you will have no idea why you are being beat up and better yet no idea why the prison guards ain’t stopping it. There’s no reward for being a good cell mate most of the time and trying to mend the broken relationships after being locked in solitary confinement is harsh as it will result in you needing to gift more items and money to the crooks who took a dislike to you unless you do them a favour or two.
Making friends and enemies is part of prison life and this is something that appears to be built well by Moody Tooth but in reality becomes to fragile to maintain. If you do befriend a cell mate they can do things for you which can help aid your escape. For us we escaped by creating a fight during lunch snuck out in the field and dug our way out. So it has its uses and players must be prepared to put the attentive work in to manage this to their needs. Gifting items to other cell mates is a good way of gaining favour in doing so can unlock access to purchase specific materials or goods that can help you craft that needed item.
Crafting is fairly straightforward in The Escapists and forms one of the fundamental elements of prison life. Gathering materials can be done in several ways. Our favourite was sneaking into cells and raiding their desks for the best contraband and taking it back to our rooms. However there is literally no in game guide to support this. If your working hard though you can use some of your hard earned coin to use the payphone and learn what items craft well together. Just make sure you have the intellect to build it.
The Escapists also offers a character progression system which allows you to bulk your character up in the gym to add strength, watch some cat vids on the internet to improve your intellect and theres also the visitor room where randoms can come and say hello.
Team17’s heritage is steeped in the Worms Franchise and it is nice to see Moody Tooth step out with this title and offer a fresh idea and look. The pixelated characters are nice and the ability to rename your cell mates before you begin is a nice touch. Perhaps in future a prison editor would be something?
The difficulty curb in our play through was pretty extreme and we reckon players will have more time googling for help than enjoying the title. There is currently too many areas that lead to frustration and a lack of a guide in places is tough for your casual player to pick up. I fear I’ll be locked in an endless cycle never getting further than achieving one day where I haven’t been brutally bashed in the head with a sock and bar of soap!
The Escapists is available now on Xbox One and PC via Steam. This title was reviewed on Xbox One.