When The Escapists launched back in 2015, it was developed by an actual bedroom developer who spent most of his time roofing to pay the bills. With the support of Team17 to help complete the game, it was well received and more than justified a sequel with a lot more time and at least as much love dedicated to its development. That sequel arrived last summer – catch our original review here – but now it’s made a break for the Nintendo Switch.
The Escapists 2 immediately feels like a more refined game than its predecessor, and with ten prisons to try and escape from, the game provides a good combination of ideas, objectives and situations to help the player escape each prison. The game doesn’t rely much on handholding, so breaking out of your preferred prison can be quite difficult.
Key to your breakout attempt is knowing how to bend the rules of the prison. Each day has a set routine, from getting up and going to breakfast, to performing chores and having some free time, before you get locked away for the night. It’s all about coming up with a plan to escape the routine where you can and beaver away at an escape plan, with some really quite audacious ways of getting out.
The control scheme throughout the game is extremely simple, to the point that you can play with just a single Joy-Con, and the game does a great job in showing you the ropes so you can make the most out of items and the situations you’re in.
There is a noticeable improvement to the quality of the ZX Spectrum inspired art produced for The Escapists 2, but it stays true to its roots and the original’s sprites and pixel art design. It looks great on the Nintendo Switch and each pixel looks crisp in both the Switch’s docked and portable modes. The Escapist 2 soundtrack is also a good fit throughout each of the game’s ten levels, even if you probably won’t end up humming the tunes in the shower.
Throughout the ten prisons in the game, character dialogue is often simple, charming and funny. It does tie in well to the everyday tasks and jobs you’ll be given as an inmate and gives the game a sense of realism between breaking out of the various prisons in the game, but can sometimes feel quite unimportant to what you’re trying to do.
The main problem I have with The Escapists 2 is that it’s too reliant on accessing menus, which can often take you away from the game a bit too much. Crafting interesting items can be fun, but when you’re spending time in a menu for this, it can often be slightly annoying – the interface itself is well made and simple enough to understand though, even when compressed to the Switch screen in handheld play. It would have been nice to have seen a quick crafting method for items that can be crafted together with a push of a button for instance. The combat is really simple, relying on knocking out guards when they’re distracted, and it’s often simplified even further by crafting, purchasing or finding the correct weapon for the job.
What’s truly special about The Escapists 2 on the Switch is that it features a wonderful selection of multiplayer modes, with both local and online play, just as on other platforms. You can head online for four player co-op and versus multiplayer, or play locally with two player split-screen in either mode. While that’s half the number of local players compared to other consoles, but has the advantage of letting you play with shared Joy-Con – the buttons remain simple and easy to use, even with a single Joy-Con.
Playing co-op is near enough identical to the single player mode, except you’re working with others to achieve freedom together. Versus mode shakes things up as you individually try to escape prison in the fastest time, giving a slight twist to traditional PvP.
The Escapists 2 for the Switch is a great prison escape game, which stays true to its intention of bringing 8-bit sandbox games into 2018 and while there may be other ways to create a game of this genre, it is still hard to imagine other prison escape games being as fun as this both for a single player and multiplayer experience.