25th Jan2018

‘The Escapists 2′ Review (Nintendo Switch)

by Emma Rees

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The Escapists 2 is a sequel to 2015′s The Escapists and, like its predecessor, is all about creatively escaping prison. Not only are the visuals more detailed, there is a focus on multiplayer, which was an absent feature in the the original game.

There are ten prisons to choose from, including the tutorial ‘Precinct 17’, although only three are available at the start: Center Perks 2.0, Cougar Creek Railroad and Rattlesnake Springs. ‘Precinct 17’ is recommended for learning basic aspects and controls although if you forget, there are instructions in the ‘options’ menu. More prisons can be unlocked via keys which are earned by fulfilling escape requirements on the ‘Criminal Record’ Sheet. Prisons range from bog standard, high security prisons to a train and a ship.

Before you start you can customise your characters name and appearance. The selection of hairstyles is varied enough to sink a few minutes into and they all give your character a stylish or cute look. To further personalise your experience behind bars, fellow inmates and guards can also be customised. It’s even possible to have popular YouTube streamers in the selection, although this can be toggled on and off in the options.

You can choose to play with up to three players either online or offline, with players conveniently able to drop in and out. Sessions can also be made public, for anybody to join, or limited to friends. It’s easy to see who’s online by the dedicated panel on the menu which shows a list.

Once you’re introduced to the chosen prison, you can begin exploring to plot your cunning breakout; vents, underground tunnels and wearing a disguise are just a few of the methods available. Some exits are suited to single player whereas others are made for a multiplayer escape. There are also areas where you are likely to be shot and if that happens you will be whisked off to a medical room.

Although exploration is vital to discovering escape routes, you will need to follow prison routines, such as roll call, mealtimes and activities, to avoid hostility and suspicion from the guards. Failure to attend routines will result in being hunted by the guards along with an increase in security level. Damage in the vicinity will also cause the security level to rise. When security is high, the number of guards on patrol will increase and dogs will assist them. Dogs are a real pain because they can sniff out contraband; they are also fast moving and deal more damage than guards. It is possible to hide from guards in lockers but dogs have the ability to sniff you out. A full security level will cause the SWAT team to be deployed. Another consequence of missing routines is the prison going into lockdown. Getting caught during lockdown will ensure you get taken to solitary confinement where you will have to peel potatoes to be freed. Beating up too many guards is also a surefire way to cause a prison lockdown. If you are caught in lockdown, weapons and contraband will be confiscated, meaning any potential escape could be delayed as you will need to find or craft the items again.

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Items can be stored in your desk and contraband can be stored in a hidden compartment. This is handy for when guards do a random check of your desk. You can also search desks in other prisoners cells; the objects in them reset and randomise every day. Being caught in an inmate’s cell will get you reprimanded and guards will watch you more.

Guards and inmates can be beaten up with a variety of weapons. Mops, razor blades and screwdrivers are a few which can be found in prisoners desks.
Some items and weapons must be crafted and require a certain level of crafting. The crafting skill can be increased by reading books to increase your intellect. Other skills include strength, fitness, health and stamina. Strength and fitness can be increased by working out in the gym. Strength is useful for dealing damage in combat whereas fitness decreases the amount of stamina used.

Stamina decreases during any physical or mental activity such as digging, cutting, reading, working out or fighting. It can be regained by sitting down, showering, eating or sleeping.

Fellow inmates can be very useful as many of them sell useful items. To earn money you can do ‘favours’ for inmates which can involve innocently crafting gifts to causing trouble for other prisoners. You can keep track of ‘favours’ in the journal, which allows you to abandon or prioritise whichever one you want. Another way to earn money is by getting a job. The jobs on offer depend on the prison type and have certain requirements such as strength or intellect. Getting a job also depends on there being a vacancy; not that you can’t get somebody fired…

As well as money, jobs can reward items which may or may not come in useful. Jobless prisoners can earn a small amount of money by talking to the job advisor staff.

The most fun to be had in The Escapists 2 is in its multiplayer. Working together to plan an elaborate escape is very satisfying and makes you feel brilliantly cunning. You can leave items for each other which can be marked on the mini map or you can place items in a friend’s desk. It’s also useful to have friends with certain skill levels. If you would rather work against friends, the ‘versus’ mode will pit you against them to see who can escape the fastest. Escapes are given a ranking which can encourage retrying maps to find a faster method of escape.

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The Escapists 2 has cute graphics made up of 2D sprites and the music has a tendency to stick in your head after a while. Guards and inmates dialogue is shown in speech bubbles during gameplay. Dialogue isn’t important but can be amusing and humorously stereotypical of the prison genre.

Unfortunately there are issues with the user interface while in split screen multiplayer. Text is very small and dialogue bubbles can get half hidden behind the mini map, as can directional arrows. The most frustrating thing, however, are the occasional crashes where the game will completely close. Luckily the game saves quite often.

Other than that, The Escapists 2 is an extremely fun and rewarding game which can be as funny or as tense as you make it. Even better when experienced with friends, there are many different ways to escape and trying to bust out as fast as you can ensures that it never becomes tedious.

**** 4/5

Published and Developed by Team 17 Digital Ltd and Mouldy Toof Studios, The Escapists 2 is available to download now on Nintendo Switch.

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