Initially released as a launch title for the PlayStation Vita, Escape Plan is one of several titles that have been ported over to Sony’s newest hardware, the PlayStation 4. It’s got an interesting look and a dark sense of humor, but how well does it handle the transition from handheld to console? Let’s see.
Given that Escape Plan was built to take advantage of the Vita’s unique functionality, it’s not a huge surprise that there are some performance issues on the PS4. Rather than tapping the screen, you now must move the cursor using the left stick and push/pull objects using a face button and trigger. It works out alright as long as that’s all you’re asked to do. Once the game demands more of you, however, it becomes troublesome to scroll the screen and then snap back to manipulate an object while also trying to float a particular direction or force fan blades to spin rapidly.
Let’s focus on floating for a moment as tilting the controller to angle your character in one direction or another is incredibly frustrating. The responsiveness seemed consistently poor, and I’d conservatively estimate that 75 percent of my deaths came on the levels that employed that gameplay mechanic. To be fair, it’s not as though I’ve loved tilting my Vita, either, but I find it difficult to believe it could have been as cumbersome as this.
You’re also asked to make use of the Dualshock 4’s touch pad for a handful of actions. Again, I didn’t think it worked particularly well, though in comparison to the floating it’s great. None of these problems truly cripple Escape Plan, but they make things harder (and by extension, more frustrating) than they have any right to be.
Viewed purely on its artistic merits, Escape Plan is well done. The black-and-white setting and strange looking inhabitants give the game a unique look; and the way your characters bear the number of times they’ve died on their chest is a cool touch. There isn’t much variety, however, and the backgrounds from one location to the next were so similar that only trophies unlocking tipped me off that I’d departed one area and entered another.
Probably the best presentation element is the soundtrack, which utilizes some well-known classical tunes to tremendous effect. The sound effects are solid, too, as the oafish Laarg makes funny noises and Lil jitters and sputters nervously after downing (what I assumed to be) coffee. There are also canned reactions from a “studio audience” that add some humor.
As the title suggests, your goal in Escape Plan is to escape. Well, technically you’re there to actively guide Laarg and Lil to freedom, while the evil Bakuki and his minions try to prevent it. There are a handful of short cut scenes, and Bakuki will show up every now and then to remind you he exists, but the game is really about figuring out how to bypass room after room of traps.
There are roughly 80 levels in the main mode, ranging from simple to quite complex. Many take less than 30 seconds to complete, and only a handful of them really tested me in terms of planning and/or execution. That being said, I still managed to accumulate more than 100 deaths between the two of them — though as previously noted, most came on the hard-to-control floating stages.
Puzzle solutions repeat quite a bit, and it’s somewhat surprising how infrequently you’re required to blend multiple steps to clear a level. Instead it felt like they cycled through in bunches. A few floating levels followed by one where you needed to activate switches, then a couple where Lil drinks coffee, and then Laarg has to break through a wall and so on.
That’s not to say they don’t get tougher because they absolutely do. It’s simply that the one or two mechanics needed to complete said mission are trickier to complete than earlier. For instance, you might need to trip three switches at once instead of two or navigate a character encased in a bubble past multiple objects that could pop it.
Clearing Escape Plan should take around four hours, and once you’re done you can always go back and try to earn three stars on each level or find all the hidden safety signs. There’s also a series of prequel levels that come included along with several rounds of optional DLC for those that enjoy the setup.
Escape Plan is an interesting game. There are some really good elements at work (graphical style, soundtrack, clever puzzles) that often find themselves at war with some shoddy implementation (imprecise “tapping” controls, poor tilt functionality). The result is a game that’s worth playing but not necessarily one you’ll remember once you’re done.