Agonizing over the perfect plan, meticulously prepping all the necessary components and then having it all come apart due to an unseen circumstance. Escaping prison seems like it would be an endeavor that which I would fail miserably to execute with the perfection it requires. If nothing else, The Escapists 2 has only proven this fact as I have spent plenty of time in solitary confinement for my failed schemes. Thankfully, unlike real life, the consequences of these failed jailbreaks are minimal and with enough practice, I was eventually able to spring myself from the joint. It's this concept that makes The Escapists 2 the perfect action puzzle game for anyone with a lot of patience looking for a real challenge.
Locking you up and throwing away the key, The Escapists 2 is a prison escape simulation game from the folks over at Team17. As you may have already guessed, it is a sequel to The Escapists and throws in some cool new features: Revamped combat, character customization, upgraded crafting and multi-level prisons, but the real bread and butter here are the mobile prisons and added multiplayer.
Mastering a single prison, without a guide, takes a huge chunk of time. You need to learn the layout of the prison, figure out a good strategy, prepare your plan, fail miserably and then learn from your mistakes and regroup. This is why, if I'm looking for a quicker experience, I loved going for the mobile prisons instead. As opposed to the main levels, the mobile prison stages have you trying to escape from some sort of large moving vehicle: A train, boat or plane to be specific. In contrast to the other prisons, anyone you come into contact is hostile, so combat is much more important, which makes them a great way to practice knocking out guards.
The escapes are a bit more simple, usually with a few specific exit points each requiring a unique item you'll need to craft. Since the prison is moving, you're doomed as soon as it reaches its destination, so you'll need to be mindful of the, fairly short, overall time limit. I love this mode, because you can still go about escaping a number of different ways, but it's a bit more action-oriented, so if you need a break from busting your brain planning a Shawshank-esque escape, you can bust out of one of these like a movie star instead without devoting your entire evening to one prison.
Multiplayer, on the surface, seemed like it would make escaping even easier, except I forgot one crucial detail: you both need to escape. Coordinating with a friend over voice chat, we attempted several times trying to bust out of the first major jail. Being able to have multiple people gathering resources and someone else to bounce ideas off definitely helps, but making sure everyone can get out together really ramps up the difficulty in some unexpected ways. Let me give you an example of one such twist as I tried to escape with my friend.
My cell was in an optimal position to tunnel through a few walls and escape to freedom. So, after crafting a pickaxe and a bed dummy for both myself and my friend, we decided he would follow me back to my cell and we would escape together. That's when trouble struck in the form of my cell door. Slamming behind me, after lights out there's no way for him to get into my cell and no way for me to escape alone. We did eventually figure out a winning plan, but I'll leave that to you to figure out on your own.
There's a lot to like in The Escapists 2, but it did have its share of bugs along the way. Some were more benign, but a few caused some annoying issues that hindered play quite a bit. One in particular had my friend, while we were playing multiplayer, suddenly lose ownership over his desk. This is a big deal, because you can both store and hide items in your desk and if you don't own it you can't access the hidden compartment with all of your juicy contraband inside. The console version, which is what I played, also feels pretty clunky when dealing with your inventory. It's still playable, but I could easily see that I could be doing things a lot faster if I were using a mouse, which could make a difference in some tight-timed situations like copying a key.
- Multiplayer adds a new satisfying layer of challenge
- Mobile prisons offer an action-packed quick escape adventure
- Plenty of variety in prison types and settings
- Some random bugs that can sour a perfectly good escape
- Difficulty curve is high and can feel intimidating starting out
- Inventory management on console version feels clunky
Breaking out of the virtual prisons of The Escapists 2 requires problem-solving, planning, but most of all patience. When you finally manage to pull off your great escape, it feels all the more rewarding, because you likely got caught a bunch of times in the process. Escaping with a buddy adds even more to the experience than I thought it would going in by forcing you to craft a plan that will get two inmates outside the wall. The Escapists 2 is available now for PC, PS4, Xbox One and is coming soon for the Nintendo Switch.
Promotional consideration provided by XOGO Consulting and Team 17.