If you’ve ever wanted to feel like a 16bit Michael Schofield then The Escapists 2 is the game for you.
In The Escapists 2, you’re tasked with escaping various pre-designed prison scenarios, tackling numerous favours for the inmates, while trying not to get blasted over the head with batons by the high-end security.
Once you’ve customised the person inside the orange jumpsuit through the surprisingly in-depth character creation tool, you’ll get a brief tour of your surroundings before being dumped in your cell and left to figure out your next steps. The game guides you with a brief tutorial to begin with, but after that you’re well and truly on your own.
So, you will need to spend time clocking your environment. It could be that you use the roaming television crews as a distraction, or you curry enough favour with your neighbours to get access to new items. Your main purpose is clear though: find a way out.
The Escapists takes cues from various different games and blends them together really efficiently. Your prisoner will have an inventory and is able to combine items for use in different situations, like putting a cloth and a bar of soap together to make for an effective knockout weapon. You can also accept jobs to make a bit of in-house currency to buy new swag, or perform favours to get your approval ratings up.
The Escapists 2 immediately puts you on the clock and while the prison hubs are wide open for exploration, enabling you to do things your way, there are rules that must be obeyed. You have to be punctual for roll call, meal time, and interviews, or the guards will start to get suspicious. You can also be forced to deal with random cell searches and if you’re caught with something you shouldn’t have, you’re probably going to be taking a trip to the emergency wing.
The Escapists 2 does an effective job of making sure you stick to the routines of day to day prison life, but ultimately it’s down to you how seriously you treat it. It requires you to be familiar with your map and punctual, but also forces you to be smart, opportunistic and seek out advantages in order to make your getaway.
In your downtime, you can also work out in the gym to improve your stats, like strength and dexterity. Reading books will increase your intellect, and making sure you are regularly following your routines will keep heat off your back. If you’re a model prisoner, you’ll build up some trust and rapport with the establishment, and they may even be more lenient with you in certain situations. Which makes each gameplay experience unique as every playthrough works out differently.
And the good news is that The Escapists 2 runs like a charm on handheld as well as through your TV set. The portability factor of The Escapists 2 is a massive draw as this is a game that really suits being dipped in and out of, and there are no obvious performance sacrifices to make that happen. True, The Escapists 2 probably isn’t the most technically challenging game on the eShop, but it’s nice to see a new release run so effortlessly all the same.
Another big draw on the Switch is that you and a buddy can play locally by grabbing a Joy Con each in a race to break out first. The Versus mode even strips away all the quests, routines and snipers, enabling you to concentrate on finding structual weaknesses and taking advantage of them. A nice touch and another great advert for couch co-op play.
You can also jump online against friends or against anyone in the public space. It did take me a bit of time to connect to a game publically, but once in, the experience felt silky smooth with no noticeable lag or hiccups. The game lets you communicate with others using the D-Pad buttons on the Left JoyCon, saying Hello, Dig Here, Wait, or Follow. But you also need to be careful as if a guard sees you collude with someone causing damage, you’ll get wrapped up in their drama.
To be honest, The Escapists 2 will not be everyone’s cup of tea. If you played the original and didn’t enjoy it, The Escapists 2 is not going to do much to tempt you into the fold. It still sports the same aesthetic, and it’s largely the same experience with some new bells and whistles. However, what you have here is a lot of fun if you give it a chance. It will take you a while to figure out how to navigate around, as well as what you could and should be doing and how to do it, but once you’ve got a taste, you’ll find the hours on the clock go whizzing by with its infectious charm and gritty undertones.
Don’t let the slow-paced beginnings put you off, The Escapists 2 is a really in-depth, feature-rich, compelling game, that acts, works, and runs like a treat on Nintendo Switch.
+ Content rich, expansive sandboxes to explore
+ Witty humour and hard-hitting activities make for compelling viewing
+ Diversity in approach makes each game session completely different
+ Online and co-operative options work a real treat
– Slow-paced, and initially difficult learning curve
– Won’t be very appealing to those who disliked original
The Escapists 2
8 out of 10
Tested on Nintendo Switch