The first Escapists was a pleasant surprise. It took the usually dark and gritty world of prison life and made it bright and lighthearted. No gangs, no racism, no riots; just good, clean prison escape. The Escapists 2 extends that same tone while making quality of life improvements for an overall improved experience. Unfortunately, many of the same complaints I had about the first Escapists resurface here, as well as an overall lack of polish that I found quite disappointing.
The big new addition to The Escapists 2 is multiplayer, both local and online. Prisons are designed for both solo play or for up to four players total. Unlike the first game, there are several scripted escapes, usually involving crafting some unique item for that level and then taking it to a specific area to trigger your escape. These scripted escapes are exclusively single player or multiplayer, resulting in an odd choice where there are some items and areas you simply cannot access if you are playing alone. Conversely there are events you can’t complete if there are more than one person in the game. Aside from the scripted escapes, each prison can be escaped through more traditional means, which the game calls “Perimeter Breaks.”
The co-op is where I have run into most of the glitches and issues. In fact, the entire game seems poorly optimized for playing co-op. Playing split-screen, which naturally we’ve done connected to a TV, results in almost all of the text in game being nearly impossible to read without sitting unnaturally close to my 55’ screen. When loading in from a previous save or rejoining a multiplayer session, non-host players lose items and any quests they were working on. However, you will often still see quest indicators on the map, even though they have been wiped from your quest list.
All that being said, the addition of co-op does breathe fresh air into a game that doesn’t see a whole lot of other changes. Adding another person into the experience makes a big difference in plotting, resource collection, beating up guards/inmates and ultimately executing the plan. The Escapists was a fun game to play solo but adding more people just takes it to an entire new level of fun.
Aside from the addition of multiplayer, not much else has changed mechanically in The Escapists 2. The game still consists of running your daily prison routine, earning money by doing a prison job or doing favors for inmates, collecting items by stealing or spending money and then crafting those items together to eventually make your escape. The scripted escapes start out straightforward but get more complicated as the game goes on, requiring you to obtain more complex crafting items or make copies of keys and key cards to access restricted areas of the game.
There are plenty of quality of life improvements that you would expect in a sequel that make the experience overall better. Favors for inmates are easier to manage and feature in-game indicators to let you know where to go. The recipes for most items are already in the game so you don’t have to look up a wiki for how to build items. Your desk now comes with a hidden compartment for hiding contraband, a necessity as you will amass many illegal items. There is even an in-game hint system to clue you on how to tackle the new scripted escapes.
The game can still feel a bit monotonous, which isn’t necessarily surprising considering it is prison but it’s still disappointing. Spending your day following the daily routine is fun but does drag on after a while. If you are trying to get specific items to complete your escape, this can lead to major boredom. In one map, I needed a wooden dowel to craft a crossbow but after several in-game days checking every area of the game as well as inmates who were selling stuff, I eventually just gave up. The task of tracking down which guards have which keys (they are all color coded) can also be quite annoying as you isolate and beat down guards only to find they don’t have the specific color you need.
The Escapists 2 offers a total of ten prisons plus a tutorial prison to escape from, compared to six in the original. There are also new “transportation” prisons featured in the game that are more streamlined, scripted experiences where you must escape before a set time limit. These offer no type of daily routine, just avoiding guards, collecting items and making your escape. They are fun but don’t offer the same type of excitement found in the traditional prisons. The regular prisons see you visit even more exotic locales than the original, featuring prisons in the Siberian Tundra, an old oil platform and even a literal space prison.
The Escapists 2 also gets a massive visual upgrade while still maintaining the pixel graphics charm of the original. Everything has gotten a bump in overall visual quality plus the addition of better lighting and shadows, which add a lot of depth and character to the game. Add that to the greater variety of environments and you have a great looking pixel art game that is night and day compared to the original.
The Escapists 2 makes welcome improvements to the original, resulting in a more joyous experience of escaping from prison. The new scripted escapes might seem too easy at first but they become more complex the further in you get, and you can still go for simply digging your way out or cutting through the perimeter fence if you want. The big news here, though, is the addition of multiplayer, which turns out is a fantastic way to escape from prison. Unfortunately, this new mode is hampered with glitches and problems that hopefully will get ironed out over time. Even with these problems The Escapists 2 does enough to make it a sequel that is worth checking out.
SCORE: 7.5 out of 10
A code for The Escapists 2 was provided to Pixel Related for review.