As our quest to cover all Vita games continues,we take a look at one of the launch titles we have missed.
Escape Plan is a funny little game. If you’ve been following the Playstation Vita from the start you may remember lots of footage of this touch screen puzzler as Sony were keen to show off their technology prior to launch last year. One of a small handful of downloadable only titles to launch alongside the Vita, Escape Plan really took my heart when I first tried it, though I do now wonder whether my excitement was from the game, or from the fact that I was playing it on (personally) the most beautiful handheld to grace the planet.
For those early adopters of the Vita despite a fantastic launch there was, as is often the case, precious little to play in the post launch months and so I delved into Escape Plan largely due to the beautiful art direction and the chance to play something a little left of centre. Escape Plan casts you into the role of Lil and Laarg, two characters of completely opposite proportions who are attempting to break out of the prison they have been held in by Bakuki. What this boils down to is a series of rooms that you are tasked with escaping from in the quest for freedom. Being one of the early Vita games, controls are pretty gimmicky and use the touch screen, rear touch pad and gyroscopic controls largely instead of the analog sticks and face buttons. Each room can take anything from a few seconds to a couple of minutes to complete, and what begins as a straight forward set of rooms becomes gradually more complex as you edge towards freedom.
Controls are straight forward, though responsiveness can be an issue (despite since being patched to improve this). Swiping across either Lil or Laarg allows them to move left or right, and tapping them causes them to stop. You can also tap to change character though this can be hit and miss, and as each room has a three star scoring system tied to speed and the number of gestures used the shoulder buttons are better equipped when it comes to character switching. You start the game as Lil only and after a few levels you are able to release Laarg from his cage to continue the quest as a duo. Once the two are united many rooms involve controlling both, though often Lil and Laarg will exit rooms in different areas and have to continue on solo until they meet again. The first set of rooms serve more as a gentle ice breaker into how Escape Plan plays and are a doddle to complete, with progress more often possible due to control of each room’s environment, rather than through controlling Lil or Laarg directly. Each level is rendered in greyscale, and this alone gives Escape Plan a unique look and feel. Everything is rendered in 3D, though play only takes place on a 2D plain. While initially you could be mistaken for thinking Escape Plan was animated by Dreamworks or Disney, there isn’t enough variety to each section of the game and so what initially looks a visual treat can become rather boring towards the game’s conclusion, though visual cues (there’s no HUD) such as your death count being displayed on Lil and Laarg’s chest and the wonderful black splattering of blood when you die never gets old.
What Escape Plan can be proud of however is the pacing and the puzzles. Though ideas repeat themselves fairly often they are introduced in stages throughout the game to keep things feeling fresh. For example, fairy early in the game Lil finds a coffee machine that allows him to move rapidly if you pinch him using the touch screen and rear touch pad at the same time. Further on Lil also gains the ability to use a helium canister to blow himself up and float around using the gyroscopic sensors, while Laarg has the ability to break through certain walls with his brute force. It’s often fun working out how to progress from room to room, with continuously imaginative use of the Vita’s multiple inputs. Certain levels will have pipes in the background that leak poisonous gas and using your finger (or often several) you can plug the hole to allow Lil and Laarg to progress unharmed. There are also fans you can spin that activate doors, and enemies respond to taps of the rear touch panel allowing you to lead them into the game’s numerous traps.
All of this is rather fun, if a bit short lived. I breezed through the game in about three and a half hours and once it’s over the only real reason to return is to find the hidden signs littered throughout the game or to get three stars in each room. The hardest trophy involves playing through the game again in Challenge Mode, without accidentally killing Lil or Laarg more than 20 times. While this may be difficult on play through number one, due to the nature of the puzzles it’s actually very easy to achieve as long as you have the memory to remember what each room throws at you. There has since been a few extra rooms to extend the experience and some DLC levels, but you can’t escape (no pun intended) the fact that this is a short, albeit fun game that is now drastically overpriced.
When I first purchased Escape Plan at £9.99 it didn’t feel like too bad of a deal, but with the Playstation Network now teeming with loads of games and indie titles that are cheaper (and better) it comes hard to recommend. Escape Plan still stands out due to the uniqueness, art direction and beautiful orchestral music but it just isn’t enough to warrant purchasing, given the price hasn’t changed in well over a year. The majority of Vita titles from the launch window have had permanent price drops and I’d recommend waiting for Escape Plan to go on sale or have a permanent price drop before buying; it’s not that it’s a bad game at all, far from it, it’s just that there are so many titles out now begging for your attention and as a result Escape Plan has gotten a bit lost.