A few years back I reviewed the original The Escapists game, Moldy Toof Studios’ take on the prison escape genre. Up until now it has still not had much serious competition, proving to be one of the highlights of the escape simulator genre. I say up until now because The Escapists 2 has arrived, and it is better in every way over the original. It feels like Moldy Toof has learned lessons from the original and applied them. And don’t worry if you think they’ll have made things easier, because The Escapists 2 retains the same level of challenge as before.
In The Escapists 2 there is more of a linear path when it comes to unlocking prisons. When firing up a standard game you’ll be encouraged to try out a tutorial prison to get the basics of the game, but to be honest outside of the foundations most of your learning will be done while plotting your escape from the real prisons. At the beginning you can choose between Centre Perks 2.0, Rattlesnake Springs, and Cougar Creek Railroad. The final one in the list is a new type of prison, in that it is a transport location with a time limit to escape from it. You’re on a train with a number of different carriages, but many are not places your prisoner will be going.
The transport prison plays quite differently to a standard one because of that time constraint, requiring you to think on your feet quickly. Guard patrols can be harder to avoid due to the confined space so you’ll be having to keep an eye on their patrols, and running through as quick as possible. Of course you’ll need to scavenge for supplies and craft together basic items to aid your escape. However the more streamlined nature of Cougar Creek Railroad made the experience feel easy, with my escape time clocking in at under five minutes.
The regular prisons will feel similar to those who played the first The Escapists. Each prison has its own routine which you’ll follow to avoid suspicion, things like going to meals, hitting the exercise yard, and attending jobs, which may get a little repetitive – but then I hear prison is generally monotonous. Outside the standard prison routine though you’ll be participating in favours for other prisoners to earn money, as well as casing the joint to work out how you’ll escape. At least here time is on your side. The standard way to escape is to try and break out through the perimeter, like digging a tunnel or breaking through a wall. However there are more subtle and creative ways to escape.
Without giving too much away you may notice things like certain visiting groups going around the prison, or have the warden tell you a little historical fact about a prison that can be used to your advantage. It’ll take a little skill to take advantage of these opportunities but they give players a lot more to work with when planning an escape. Of course you won’t be able to pull off an escape if you don’t have the right tools and equipment.
In The Escapists 2 stats like strength, fitness, and intellect are back, with intellect perhaps being the most important. Without it certain craftable items will be out of reach, unless you happen to stumble upon them while rooting through desks or manage to buy one from an inmate. Just like in the original each stat is increased by doing an activity that corresponds to it. So strength rises through doing weights or pull ups, while intellect increases through studying. The minigames are little more than pressing R2 and L2 at the right times, or holding them for a certain time. It doesn’t take long to max out the stats.
When it comes to crafting there’s a whole host of items that can be made, from a basic blanket rope all the way to super whips and super knuckle dusters. You can even brew a cup of tea. Of course you’ll need to have the right resources, which requires a little luck and, of course, some money. You can even find the items you need while doing favours; they don’t take long to complete, unless the item is in a locked part a prison, and are a quick way to earn both money and items if you’re lucky.
The major new addition, apart from transport prisons, is the introduction of multiplayer which is both online and offline. You may wonder how such a feature works in a game like The Escapists 2, but it does so pretty well. There’s both a co-operative mode as well as a versus mode. In co-op players have to work together to escape the confines of incarceration, with maps having specific areas that can only be accessed with players working together. On the flip side in versus mode players face off against each other to see who can get out of prison first. The modes support up to four players and it’s a great addition to the series.
When it comes to the actual visual design of The Escapists 2 it is an improvement over the original. The UI and menus look neater while character sprites don’t seem as rough around the edges when compared to their previous counterparts. The sound and music also blends really well with each environment, with the melodies fitting the themes of the prisons.
The Escapists 2 is a game that has added a lot to the formula that gave its predecessor success, while managing to maintain its core identity. If you played the original Escapists then getting the sequel is a no brainer, while if you fancy taking on a generally very challenging game where you have to rely on your own wits then The Escapists 2 may be just what you’re looking for. There will be times when you get a little frustrated when you lose an item through messing with the wrong guards or a plan going wrong, but when you finally escape you’ll feel elation as you’ll love it when your plan comes together.
Version tested: PS4