Lil and Laarg have to escape, but it will take a lot of effort and a whole heap of dying. This is not the kind of escape plan that spawned several seasons, as a show aptly named Prison Break did. Nope this is a slow escape taking them one room at a time closer to the exit of the dark, and dreary prison. And I mean prison in a real general term, as this is not a place that would be sanctioned in a modern country 2012. There are obstacles littering the levels, but also maliciously placed death-traps. Lil and Laarg will get squished, sawed, burnt and crushed to death more times than I can remember. Or actually I can since they get the number of deaths for each of them, as a small counter on their chests.
Escape Plan is one of the launch titles for the PS Vita, and so far the only real puzzle game for the system. I am not counting Lumines as a puzzle game, but rather as an arcade casual game. As such Escape Plan has quite a large role to fill early on to bring in the less hardcore gamer to the system. At times it works brilliantly, but at others the controls let the game down. Too often I get frustrated at unintentional taps, and unresponsive characters. Worse is the fact that the controls feel like the puzzle instead of the actual challenges in the rooms.
You start the first levels with Lil, but Laarg soon gets into the action. Each level you enter is about escaping through the exit. Swiping across them to move, and tap them to stop does controlling the characters. You can also control a lot of the environment by using both the front, and rear touchscreen. As a seasoned iOS gamer I find it natural to use the front touchscreen for movement. The rear however is much harder to get to terms with. As I can’t see through the Vita, and the game requires precision tapping it is hard to use it properly. By properly I mean that I should be able to pinpoint a location in my first tap. Now I have to tap some trace taps before hitting the mark. This would not be a problem if the game hadn’t been judged on the number of interactions the player has with the screens. Now I get mostly annoying one-star ratings out of three because I can’t see through the device, or use a mirror to see exactly where my hands are.
The puzzles are often quite easy to figure out. Most often it is a case of a rather obvious obstacle that has to be passed to reach the exit. What takes the most time to solve is how the controls will work to get past the obstacle. When Lil and Laarg are too close to one and another it is also really easy to get them both in motion in the wrong circumstances. Escape Plan is the first game that has made me want to throw the Vita far away.
All is not bad in the land of Escape Plan, or rather there are some aspects that are truly awesome. The presentation is marvellous blending a kind of French artsy look with modern De Blob aesthetics. The characters look, and behave realistically considering their size and abilities. The sound effects are also spot on, and some squish noises makes my stomach nearly turn. Listening to the farting when poking the characters might seem childish, but I can’t help giggling a bit each time. A weird concoction of jazz, electronic and carnival music makes the game seem even weirder.
Escape Plan blends uniquepresentation, hefty game life at an affordable price with at times frustrating controls, that can feel gimmicky. If you are the least interested in puzzle games, or escape the room games, then it will appeal to you. Just be prepared to be frustrated when you accidentally tap the back, and ruins your scores.