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The Escapists 2
Developer: Team 17
Publisher: Team 17
Category: Role-playing, Simulation, Strategy
Release Date: 01.11.2018
The Escapists 2 is the latest Nintendo Switch release from the delightful Team 17, and it is a very unique release at that. In The Escapists 2, you take on the role of a prisoner, and your goal is to escape the prison. While you are gathering your materials to realize your dream, you must navigate the daily routine of being a prisoner, including interacting with other prisoners. This is where the game finds its footing.
To start off with, most prisons have a schedule. If you do not follow this schedule, it elevates the security level of the prison, which makes it harder to escape, and more difficult to carry out any other tasks that you may be trying to accomplish. So, when it is roll call, it is best to sprint off to roll call. When it is time for breakfast, it is usually best to go to breakfast. Than there are other scheduled routines throughout the day, but you really only have to show off long enough to be seen, and can then go about your day. There is even scheduled free time. Now, what you’ll be doing to occupy your time is what makes up the bulk of the playing experience.
Meal times are especially important, because most or all of the prisoners are located in one place, at one time. Other prisoners will ask you to perform favors and tasks for them. You can choose to accept, decline, or put them off by saying “maybe”. These are often things as innocuous as “please find me this item (magazine, apple, specific tool or weapon), as violent as beating up another inmate for some offense, and as creative as planting soil in another prisoner’s desk so that it appears to the guards that they are attempting to break out.
Much of your time will be spent speaking with the other prisoners, and rifling through their desks when they are out of the room to find the items you need for favors, and the components you need to craft the items that you need for escape.
If you don’t have enough favor with others, you may end up getting jumped. If that happens, you’ll end up in the infirmary, which takes away time that you could have been utilizing to find your tools, or completing tasks for others.
There are certain prisoners that will have items for sale (indicated with a dollar sign over their head), and the ones that need favors will have exclamation points over their heads. You can also loot the other prisoners’ pockets, but if you get caught, there will be repercussions. It is best to do this after other prisoners, or the guards, have beat them unconscious, but before the medic carries them off.
The Escapists 2 goes for a 16-bit art style, with a top down perspective reminiscent of old school adventure and RPG games for the SNES. It is billed as a sandbox adventure game, and it is, but it is also not too far off from being a life simulator as well. Between carrying out the daily life of a prisoner, building relationships with the other prisoners, suspicious behavior elevating security level, gathering materials, and crafting weapons, it is hard to pin down exactly what The Escapists 2 really is. It’s an adventure life simulator with survival elements. The Escapists 2 is like if Animal Crossing met Grand Theft Auto.
There is also a multiplayer version of the game where you jump into games with others online, but for me it wasn’t much different than playing offline, except that the other prisoners controlled by people seemed to have been more aggressive than the AI. I think that if I were to manage to get a game going with friends, this would have been a much more enjoyable experience. I didn’t get a chance to try out the local multiplayer, however. You are given emotions and gestures associated with the direction buttons to assist you when playing multiplayer, however. You can use these gestures in single player mode, if you wish.
In addition to the routines and favors mentioned above, you can also participate in various activities that improve your stats, such as exercising to bring up your strength, and reading to improve your intelligence. You can also get a job, different ones which are available in different prisons. These usually have a strength or intelligence rating above what your start with, so to get a job you will need to exercise and/or study while on your free time. You can also learn to paint, play an instrument, and unlock tons of new customization options and playable prisoners.
The controls take a little getting used to, but they’re not difficult. There are just a lot of buttons that are used for different things. The biggest thing that kept frustrating me early in the game is that I would complete a favor, but it would still be in my log. I eventually figured out that you need have a favor actively selected to complete it. Otherwise, you will have to find and give Clive a lot of cookies before you finally remember to activate that favor.
The devs integrated HD rumble into the game to add a little extra to the game, but I felt that it was under-utilized. Most people won’t even notice, so it isn’t a big deal, I just like to include a small summary of any use of what is one of my favorite features. In this case, The Escapists 2 uses it when we expect rumble to happen (explosions, combat, loud alarms), but they will have less intense rumbles for smaller impacts, and more intense, sharper rumbles for big hits and explosions. My favorite use that I noticed was when I used a sock mace to knock someone out during the tutorial level, and there was a medium intensity rumble in the right joycon only.
Overall, The Escapists 2 is a unique and innovative title, and high level of addiction. Plus, I get to play as a gray haired man with a brown beard named Hilary. So it has that going for it, too.