The Escapists is a game that I’ve known existed for a long time, but had no idea what it actually was. It was just this game that was constantly on sale on Xbox, and at one point was free for Xbox Live Gold members. That’s when I picked it up and it’s been sitting on my hard drive ever since. Today, I barely scratched the surface, but I can now say that I know what this game is.
Right away, it was clear that the game was some kind of prison break simulator with an 8-bit style aesthetic. You start off with making your inmate, but you don’t have a whole lot of control over what they look like. You basically just toggle between multiple pre-made dudes. I eventually settled on an older looking character.
The game contains multiple prisons for you to try to break out of. When you select the first one, the game transitions into a tutorial. It teaches you the basics, such as picking up furniture and placing it somewhere else and using tools. The first thing the game asks you to do is grab a screwdriver, move a table underneath a vent, and then stand on it and use the screwdriver to open the vent.
From there, you move to another cell, where you buy a bar of soap from another inmate. Then, the game introduces the Minecraft style crafting system. You use that bar of soap and a sock to create a weapon, which you use to knock out a guard and steal his clothes. Now, you can sneak right past the other guards, hop into a hole in the ground, and dig your way out.
This all seemed too easy, but just then, you wake up. It was all a dream. But, this was a pretty solid way to introduce the basics of the game. What it doesn’t teach you, is that you also have to go about your day to day life in the prison. This means participating in the required activities as to not make yourself look suspicious. So, when it’s time for roll call, you line up with your inmates. When it’s time to eat, you go to the mess room and you eat.
During all this, you’ll also be doing favors for other inmates. If you see someone with an exclamation point above their head, that person has a favor to ask you. These can include finding specific items for them, beating up someone for them, or even causing a distraction so they can do whatever they need to do. You’ll be rewarded with money for doing them. The game implied that it would help you make friends with your fellow jailbirds, but I didn’t play enough to see how that manifested.
There’s also little minigames that you take part in throughout your day. One time, I found myself on laundry duty. I had to grab dirty laundry and throw it in the washing machine. When it was done, I threw it into a clean laundry pile and then went back to it. There was also a workout activity, where I pressed the two trigger buttons over and over to lift weights and raise my stats.
Throughout all this, I’m also supposed to be figuring out how to escape. I didn’t really get a good sense of how I was supposed to do this. But, like I said earlier, I didn’t really play a whole lot and have only scratched the surface.
I really like the overall presentation of the game. The 8-bit style is kind of overplayed these days, but it looked pretty cool here. The title screen art made me think that everything would be 3D, sort of like Minecraft, but it actually is 2D. The music is really upbeat and peppy, which I enjoyed even though it doesn’t really fit the prison atmosphere.
The Escapists is a really interesting game. It has a lot of elements of other games that I’ve played, but I can’t think of another game that really feels like this. I’m not sure how much I really enjoyed the game though. I’m intrigued enough to try it for a little longer and see how it goes.