While I don’t consider myself a “jack of all trades” when it comes to game genres, I do tend to favor certain ones over others and there are a few that I can say I somewhat excel at. Stealth isn’t one of them. I can handle games like Metal Gear Solid where if you’re spotted, you just have to fight your way out and wait for everything to calm down. Then there’s Splinter Cell where if I’m spotted the game just ends (at least the ones I’ve played, which are few and far between). So how in the world am I expected to break out of prison without anyone noticing me doing it? I decided to check out The Escapists 2 on the Nintendo Switch and find out.
The Escapists 2 is essentially about you taking on the role of a prison inmate who is trying to escape prison. Simple enough, but it’s not quite that simple. The game consists of several different prisons, each with their own layout and methods of escape. While a lot of the game may seem the same (ie. follow the routine and keep up appearances while you plot your escape), it’s not going to be that simple as the further in you get, the more difficult the prisons become to escape. For instance, one prison is actually on a train and unlike in other prisons where you can just wander around freely as long as you keep up the daily routine, here you can’t get spotted by any guards or they’ll come after you. Another prison early on has guard towers and they will gun you down if you’ve already drawn unwanted attention to yourself. You can customize the various inmates down to what they look like and their names, as well as the roster of inmates you can control.
There are a few different ways to escape from each prison, usually with a hint for each method somewhere you can find. Each method typically requires you to craft a couple of items and there are a ton that you can craft depending on your intelligence level which can be increased by reading in the prison library if it has one. The catch is having to find the correct materials and which items are really necessary or required to escape. You can view each item you can craft, and this is one of my minor nitpicks I have with the game, at least on the Switch. Maybe it’s because of the need to fit everything on the screen for portability, but when you move over an item to craft, while it will show you what you need to craft that item, it’ll also mostly cover up the item you’re crafting. That means you might have to move the cursor a bit more just to see what you can craft with those items. It’s kind of hard to explain without actually seeing it.
Items are obtained by either finding them in desks or buying them off of certain inmates (this requires you to be in good standing with them). You can improve your standing with inmates by doing favors for them which means either sabotaging someone or just beating the crap out of them. Since you’re in prison, how do you get money? At a certain time during the day you’ll go to whatever your job is. On the first day you’ll have to go to the job center in the prison to see what jobs you can apply for depending on your strength and intelligence levels, such as waste disposal or mail sorting…or if the jobs are all filled up you can just sabotage an employee to make his job open up for you to take. Then as long as you meet your job quota for the time when you’re supposed to be at your job, you’ll earn some money.
Once you have your items ready it’s time to make your escape. If the method you’re using doesn’t involve a disguise or any sort, you’ll likely have to wait until “lights out” at 2300 hours as not to arouse suspicion. If you just want to advance the day, just go to bed and time will rapidly move forward until near 0700 the next day unless you manually get out of bed prior to that. However, the early hours of the morning are also a good time to sneak out of your cell, though you’ll have to get crafty as your cell door will likely be locked for the night. Beyond that you can use the vents, dig a hole, cut through a fence, or whatever else it takes to escape. To make things easier you’ll have to study the guards patrol routes to see where they go and when the best time to move is. If at any time a guard spots you doing something you probably shouldn’t, your heat with them goes up and it can take a long time for it to come down. If it’s up too high, they’ll chase after you and likely beat you down unless you can take them out. To make matters worse, if you’re caught and taken down, you’ll lose any items you have on you meaning you have to start your escape from scratch.
As stated earlier there are several different prisons, around ten or so, but not all of them are available from the start. Beyond the starting three prisons, the rest require a certain number of keys to open up. You get a key for every unique way to escape a prison that you find. What’s weird though is how game progression works…well, sort of. At first I thought you would pick a save file, choose your inmate, and then you get your choice of the first three prisons and you work towards unlocking everything. In an interesting change to the status quo, each prison itself can have up to nearly a dozen save files which actually made more sense to me the more I thought about it. It you’re like me and are terrible at figuring out how to get out of prison, it could take several in-game days to find a way out. On top of that, some methods can’t be done on just any day so if you miss your opportunity for a particular escape method, just save that game and start another attempt with another file.
What makes the game even more interesting is multiplayer. There are several different types of multiplayer including Online, Local, Co-Op, split screen, and probably what sounds the most interesting, Versus. I haven’t had a chance to check out multiplayer with friends yet, but from what I’ve researched Versus is basically race to see who can escape the prison first except you only have one day to do it, there are no hourly routines such as check in and meal times, items are free, and there are no snipers to shoot you down as you try to escape. It’s basically a race to see who can come up with the proper items to escape first. Even with just normal co-op modes I’d love to give this a shot with my friends to see how everything would work with several of us trying to escape at the same time (you can play with up to three other people).
After not having the chance to play the original game, I enjoyed my time with The Escapists 2 once I understood what I was supposed to do. There is a tutorial prison that basically has a prisoner tell the story of how he escaped prison, and you play the part of that prisoner as the game tells you the basics. However, unless I missed it I didn’t know at first that as long as you check in to the proper location for each routine, you can then leave and do whatever you want. I initially thought you had to stay there the entire time leaving me very little free time to actually start plotting my escape. The second prison really threw me off at first as well as I had been used to walking around anywhere with guards without any problems as long as I didn’t raise any suspicions. Then came the train prison and as soon as you’re spotted there you’re heat level instantly goes up to 100 and it can take a long time for it to come down, so you have to be even more careful on how you proceed. The only other real issue I have is with the loading times. While not always that bad, I have had times where it’s taken quite a while to load a prison. Again, not a huge issue but it can seem longer than it should.
Overall though, The Escapists 2 is a pretty good game and it’s fun to see the different ways you can escape from prison. It can also be painful when you try to use tactics and methods from one prison on another and realize it doesn’t always work out for you, but I digress. In terms of anything specific to the Switch, there are some touch screen controls for menus and such, but the big plus is, naturally, portability. The ability to break out of prison on the go is a plus and this is definitely a game you can play in short fifteen to twenty minute bursts if need be. While I hope to never have to break out of prison in real life, I’ll continue to do so on my Switch with no regrets.
* The product in this article was sent to us by the developer/company.