[dropcap size=big]T[/dropcap]he Escapists is, in a way, the anti-Prison Architect. Whereas Prison Architect places the player in the role of all-seeing overseer constructing a prison and doing their best to keep the inmates locked in, The Escapists places the player in the role of a single inmate doing their best to bust out of the slammer. But is The Escapists worth your money; or is it doomed to languish in mediocrity, forever being called Fish by inmates ready to shiv it at a moment’s notice?
The entire point of The Escapists is to bust your way out of a prison. There are seven prisons for you to try to break out of, each more difficult than the last. You have to juggle sticking to the routine while gathering the materials necessary to escape, while trying to make sure the guards don’t get wise of your little scheme. You can scavenge materials lying around the prison, loot them from other cells, and occasionally take them off of an unconscious inmate or guard. You can then use these materials to craft new items (such as a sock mace) to aid you in your escape.
If rooting around in dirty rooms doesn’t appeal to you, you can always try to buy what you need off of your fellow inmates. In order to get the necessary cash, you have two options. The first is to accept tasks from your fellow inmates. These range from causing a disturbance during a certain time, to beating up another inmate, and (my personal favorite due to how absurd it is) even stealing back a teddy bear taken by a jealous guard. The second, less action-y way to earn money is to get a prison job. Prison jobs also allow you to obtain value materials (like a guard’s jumpsuit), but failing to meet your quota will result in you being canned.
When I first started playing the game, I didn’t really like the game’s art style. There was something about the pixel art in it that I didn’t find very appealing, but as I continued to play it eventually grew on me. It has a charming 8-bit style, similar to classic NES and Atari 7800 titles. The only downside to it is that many of the characters in the game look identical to each other, and while the the soundtrack is also pretty good, and I believe it fits the game perfectly. It’s excellent at building the atmosphere.
There’s two major downsides to The Escapists, the first being a particularly irritating mechanic. Whenever the guards discovered you’ve committed certain offenses (like having contraband in your room, or stealing a key off of an unconscious guard) you’re instantly warped to solitary. It doesn’t matter where you are, the invisible hand of justice is swift and unforgiving. For instance, I was once disguised as a guard. I had a key, and I was barely a foot away from escaping. Nobody suspected anything, but then suddenly a guard found a glass shard in my desk. I’ve never ragequitted a game, and out of everything I’ve ever played (including Superman 64) only The Escapists has made me want to quit purely because of this mechanic. It’s just that annoying; infuriating even. The second downside is that the game becomes somewhat a repetitive a couple prisons in.