Developer: Fun Bits Interactive
Medium: Digital Download
Escape Plan is a really unique and humorously dark puzzler for the PS Vita that was unfortunately smashed in with the rest of the rather large Vita launch lineup seemingly at the last minute. Why do I say "unfortunately"? Well, mostly, because it probably deserved a little more breathing room and publicity before hitting the platform.
Escape Plan is subtitled as "A Touching Adventure", and actually, that's a pretty good description of the game. There is a whole lot of touching going on, usually in the form of puzzle solving, and it's a game that utilizes some of the unique features of the Vita rather nicely.
The game is, to put it lightly, a bit odd. Lil (the thin one) and Laarg (the round one) are two hapless heroes who somehow get captured by the evil Bakuki, for the purpose being recycled into yet another of his evil minions. Both characters begin the game locked up awaiting their gooey fate when you, the player, steps in and help them escape Bakuki's prison and the deadly labyrinth containing them.
The first thing you'll notice when playing Escape Plan is the distinct, black and white visuals and rather interesting art designs. At first glance you may compare it to LIMBO, but the game is dark in a more humorous, slapstick kind of way. "Survival humor" is also another fitting description. Escape Plan is incredibly sharp and clean and shows off the impressive black and grey range that the Vita screen can produce. Sure, there's no color to be found, but for a puzzle adventure game, it is extremely attractive with nice production values all around.
The gameplay in Escape Plan is pretty simple, guide Lil and or Laarg from room to room, without getting them smashed, popped, burnt, disintegrated, or otherwise horribly maimed and ripped to shreds. If either of the heroes do meet their demise, it's okay, since they'll just regenerate when the stage restarts and (in a nice touch) be branded with the number that coincides with the amount of "deaths" they have had.
This is where the touching comes into play. You don't directly control Lil and or Laarg usually, you kind of influence them my manipulating them and the environment. If you want either to walk in a direction, you swipe with a gesture, and tap them when you need them to stop. If you want them to touch a button, you touch it for them and they will try to do the same. The front and reach touch surfaces are used extensively to, for example, push items in or out of the screen, or to squeeze the characters for various reasons. The motion controls even get some use as well. There are quite a few puzzles that require outside-the-box thinking when it comes to figuring out which controls to utilize, and listing them out would honestly ruin one of the many great "a ha!" moments found in the game. A few of solutions brought a huge smile to my face when finally figuring out how to get past a seemingly simple obstacle. There are a few instances where timing is very important and those probably took the most time to successfully navigate, but I can't think of any in particular that I would call frustrating. One thing is for sure, when you fail and cause Lil and/or Laarg to bite the dust, it's usually in a violent and humorous way, accompanied by what looks likes an ink blot splatter. It's worth messing up a few times just to see the results.
The Vita's impressive audio output isn't touched on quite enough I feel, so it's definitely worth mentioning in Escape Plan. The music is a weird mix of classical tunes that somehow goes along with the style of the game nicely, and playing through to the end credits will treat you to an awesomely 80's inspired track that honestly made me laugh out loud. The sound effects, especially if using headphones, are extremely crisp and almost three-dimension sounding. A few times I had to take my headphones off thinking that some of the ambient noises in the game were actually coming from inside my house.
Escape Plan is only available on the PlayStation Store and will set you back $14.99 if you're interested in downloading a copy. For a single player game, even one as unique as Escape Plan, the price may seem just a little bit on the high side in my opinion. To put things in perspective, I felt the same about LIMBO's pricing, and overall, I believe that I enjoyed Escape Plan more so.
Regardless of the pricing, there are a nice amount of levels which will probably take the average player a few hours to get through first time. If you're like me, and need to finish with nearly perfect ratings for each level, then add a couple more hours on to that estimate. There are also some cleverly hidden stickers in a good portion of the environments which are fun to seek out and collect, once you know what you're looking for.
Even though it may have been lost in the PS Vita launch mix, Escape Plan is very much a game worth checking out. It's dark, it's funny, it has some head-scratching puzzles and it finds some unique ways to use the Vita's touch and motion control capabilities.