This article is really about the almost four year old game The Escapists and is neither a sequel, nor does it have anything to do with retro. The reason for the delayed test for the prison simulation is the release of the Nintendo Switch version in the form of a Complete Edition.
Films and TV series such as Flucht in Ketten, Alcatraz or Prison Break show us exactly what you need for a perfectly planned prison escape. First of all, there are various digging tools to dig the obligatory tunnel into freedom. A homemade weapon, such as the soap in the sock to ward off annoying fellow inmates or to take out the guards, is of course also part of a prisoner’s standard inventory. And then the uniform of a supervisor must not be missing, which I exchange for my orange outfit, so that I can walk through the prison complex unharmed. How to get to these utensils is left to the convicted criminal. I can get such a nice blue service suit by knocking out a guard, for example, or by taking a job in the laundry and simply letting the garment go with it. For digging, however, I can simply take the cutlery from the dining room, which is rather useless for concrete walls and stones. Then I have to make more effective tools out of various tools.
But of course you can also do without sophisticated escape plans, because sometimes it is enough to simply instigate a small revolt. While prisoners and guards are fighting each other, you can try to escape in peace and quiet. Or you can lay a few extra layers in the training room and use brute force to make your way out thanks to your hardened body. Not necessarily the most elegant way and also mostly not crowned by success – but still lies in the area of numerous possible solutions.
The outbreak is the target
The prerequisite is of course always that you want to break out at all, because in The Escapists the escape to freedom is the given goal, but at its core it is a simulation of everyday prison life. This means that every prison has a fixed daily routine that the inmates have to stick to. This includes night rest, appeals and also unannounced controls of the cells. The latter are particularly nasty, because if the supervisors find illegal objects and materials, they are not only confiscated, but one immediately wanders into solitary confinement or wakes up on the infirmary again. The social structure of a prison is also recreated, so that every fellow inmate, but also every guard, has individual personality traits. Some sell useful things at horrendous black market prices, others demand a “favor,” such as procuring various objects or beating other prisoners. For example, you will receive one of 185 unique objects that can be converted into something more useful. Or you turn other prisoners into accomplices and pull supervisors to your side. But also the opposite can be the case, because at least as fast one loses the won favour also again and is put by the colleagues on the so-called black list. Thus complete prison hierarchies are formed, in which one should stand as high as possible. Of course you can stay out of all trouble and take one of about ten different prison jobs or train in the gym – the actual goal, the escape, should never be lost from sight.
Playfully, the social component tends to remain in the background. It is almost always a matter of collecting various utensils for the escape and waiting for the right time. But even if you can escape every prison with many different possibilities and The Escapists offers a lot of freedom to tinker – really clever plans are not always necessary. Especially the first prisons are kept relatively simple. After that the level of difficulty rises rapidly and often reaches the frustration limit due to trial & error.
Optically The Escapists offers atmospheric 8-bit pixel art, accompanied by an adequate, squeaky sound background. Thus the switch version is almost identical to the one on the other platforms. As already on the other consoles, the control, at least in comparison to the PC, is a bit awkward. On Nintendo’s hybrid console, navigating through the menus, at least subjectively, is even a bit more tedious. But after a short training period one has come to terms with these peculiarities and knows which keys trigger which action. In terms of content, the Complete Edition offers not only the original game including all DLC packs, but also the bonus levels and with Paris Central Pen and Fhurst Peak two new prisons, exclusive to the Nintendo console.
as a result
The gameplay of The Escapists in the form of an open-world prison simulation is still ingenious even just four years after its first release and has lost nothing of its fascination. The almost infinite possibilities allow different solutions and motivate even after a successful outbreak to play through again. But at the same time as its strengths, the new Switch version has also inherited the game’s weaknesses. After a very moderate introduction, without much explanation, the learning curve quickly rises steeply and many challenges become a tedious trial & error. In addition to good talent for combination, a lot of patience is also required here. You will be rewarded with a great puzzle game in a cool setting. The Complete Edition also offers a very nice complete package and fits perfectly to the mobile Nintendo console. On the other hand, smartphone and tablet owners can experience an almost identical gaming experience for far less money – so whether the manageable exclusive features on the switch justify the higher price is up to everyone to decide for themselves.
- What is The Escapists Complete Edition? Outbreak simulation in which players get a carefree insight into everyday prison life.
- Platforms: Nintendo Switch
- Tested: Nintendo Switch
- Developer / Publisher: Mouldy Toof Studios / Team 17
- Release: 25.09.2018