In a departure from my usual style, I present instead the story of Clive. Clive was a prisoner at the Centre Perks 2.0 prison until his recent escape. How did he escape? Well, disguised in some stolen civilian clothes he hid behind a bush in the gardens until nightfall where he then cut a hole in the fence and legged it. It’s not the most exciting end to a story, but the story that precede those events actually summarises The Escapists 2 rather well.
Routine is core to prison life, and Clive’s day is dictated by the need to be present at certain times of the day for routine activities such as role calls, lunch and his job as the prisons waste disposal technician. Failure to attend rouses suspicion, and the more suspicious guards are the more likely they are to hand out a beating and confiscate any belongings or contraband from Clive’s cell. As such, Clive just plays it safe for the first couple of days using the time to run some chores for other inmates to build some reputation and to earn some money.
After a brief settling in period, Clive’s thoughts have shifted to formulating an escape plan. There are many options, tunnel through the wall, repel from the roof, steal a key from a guard. But Clive doesn’t just want to escape, he very much wants to escape in style, Shawshank levels of style. An onsite television crew are making a documentary, probably about prison soap or something, and they look like the ambitious ticket out of here that Clive was looking for. If he can catch one of them alone, knock them out and steal their clothes and equipment then he should be able to slip out of the front door and make a dash before anybody even notices that he is missing.
After tailing the TV crew for most of the day, it seems they spend a reasonable amount of downtime in an AV lab upstairs. Getting in will require either breaking through a wall in a busy corridor or sneaking through a series of air vents. The later makes the most sense, and as such Clive gets to work acquiring the materials needed to fashion some cutting tools and fake vent covers. Items can be hard to come by in prison, and after a few days of dealing and stealing from other inmates – alongside a few fights with Hillary just because – Clive finally has everything he needs to execute the first part of the plan.
During lights out, Clive carefully sneaks through one series of vents, across a well patrolled corridor and into a second vent shaft carefully covering his tracks using some fake vent covers he created from glue and toilet paper. He carefully lowers himself into the AV lab, and much to his surprise the whole TV crew are still here, burning the midnight oil working on their documentary masterpiece. After a short wait hiding in a locker Clive rummages through some draws and finds a civilian outfit, perfect. He silently and promptly returns to his cell, skill fully avoiding the guards and making it back before anybody even noticed that he was gone. Spoils secured, tomorrow he’ll don his new outfit and simply walk out of the front door. What could possibly go wrong! Well, quite a lot actually. Somehow the night before, it seems Clive had actually donned his new outfit and left behind his distinctive prisoner outfit, and come morning role call was oblivious to the fact that he stood out like a sore thumb against a backdrop of orange jumpsuits. The guards weren’t however, and Clive was served a beat down promptly followed by a full sweep of his cell. A school boy error so they say, and a somewhat major setback. The dream of escape was far from over.
After recovering in the infirmary, Clive returned to his cell. The vents had been fixed and virtually all his contraband had been confiscated. It had taken Clive days to action that plan, and he didn’t really have the patience to go through that all over again. Instead he would try and catch one of the TV Crew alone during the day, knock them out and steal their outfit and belongings. This plan was also doomed to fail, as for some reason the TV crew were invulnerable to all Clive’s aggressive advances. Born out of a blend of frustration – mostly with the game developer – and lack of perseverance, Clive soon discovered that the door to the AV lab was never locked and he could have at any point just walked in and helped himself. The elaborate planning and skilful execution had all been a waste of time, needlessly extending his stay in this hell hole. New outfit in hand, and the insight not to immediately equip and dispose of his prisoner clothes Clive waited for the morning free period, swapped clothes and calmly walked past the guard post to the front entrance. Suddenly the alarm sounds.
Shit, seems that open door was actually a metal scanner and the trowel and scissors in his pocket has set the stupid thing scanner off! A short beating from the guards sees Clive awaken in solitary confinement, walking out of the front door is obviously quite frowned upon. His punishment, and the only way back to the cell block, is to peel potatoes until the warden deems the lesson has been learned. A couple of mini-games later, forgiveness is granted and Clive returns to his cell to asses the damage. Once again the place has been turned over by the guards and everything bar his toothpaste and soap confiscated. Back to square one.
By this point frustration was getting the the better of Clive, and each subsequent escape plan got less and less ambitious. His attempt to beat up a guard and steal his clothes resulted in a mauling from the prison dogs. His attempt to just ‘run for it’ resulted in a further mauling, and an outrageous broad daylight attempt to cut the perimeter fence ended with Clive being gunned down by snipers. But, and thanks in part to the miraculous abilities of the prison doctor, each failed attempt was gently educating Clive in how not to successfully execute an escape plan. Then, on the evening of day 11, Clive finally escaped. It lacked any creativity or originality, he instead cut through the perimeter fence having spent the day hiding behind a bush waiting for the cover of darkness. It felt lame, simple and lacking of any real drama. But screw it, he was free! And freedom never felt so good.
And that was Clive’s story. He got there in the end, his tenacity finally paying off even if the mechanics couldn’t quite fulfil his initial ambition. This however wasn’t the end for Clive, instead more like the end of the beginning. There wasn’t anyway I was going to accept that as my completion story, and the games reward of ‘f’ also left me with a bitter taste in my mouth. So back I went. New Game, Day 1, Clive. This time, i’ll befriend a guard, clone his keycard and make a broad daylight escape to be proud of. And so I didn’t, instead choosing to cut through the fence escaping in 1 day rather than 11. ‘B’ rank, still not good enough. Time to try again, and again, and again. And once you perfect that, the game offers up further levels, each designed to be more challenging and encourage you to employ more cunning and involved escape plans.
As you can tell from the above, I quite enjoyed playing this game. The simulation aspect is very well considered, serving up a fun but challenging sandbox that affords the player freedom to be creative within some loose but thematic constraints. There are some limitations, which I touch on above. Some levels also feel comparatively linear and weak compared to the freedom afforded by others. But for the price, the game is solid value has plenty of variety alongside a multiplayer mode which give the game great replay value. The learning curve is a little prolonged, and understanding all the mechanics and how they work will take a fair amount of trial and error which might put some players off. Post that initial 3 or 4 hour investment however, the game develops into an enjoyable, challenging and frustratingly humorous experience that leaves you with many a story about your creatively woeful attempts to escape prison.
The Escapists 2 was provided to us by Xbox/Team 17 via a digital code for Xbox One.