PS Vita
3.5 stars
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Overall Grade
3.5 stars

(click linked text below to jump to related section of the review)

The Game Itself
3.5 Stars
The Video: Sizing Up the Picture
4.5 Stars
The Audio: Rating the Sound
5 Stars
Replay Factor
2 Stars

Escape Plan

Street Date:
February 14th, 2012
Reviewed by:
Review Date:1
March 20th, 2012
Game Release Year:
2012
Platform:
PS Vita
Publisher:
Sony Computer Entertainment
Developer:
Fun Bits Interactive
ESRB Rating:
RP (Rating Pending)

Introduction

Designed by the producers and creative team that were behind the comic medieval adventure game Fat Princess on the PlayStation 3, Escape Plan puts the player into control of two unlikely heroes named Lil and Larg looking to escape from a depressing, industrial factory. Aptly named, Lil is a little wisp of person and incredibly skinny while Larg is extremely obese, but can throw weight around when needed. The duo team up to get away from an evil genius named Bakuki that’s designed tons of deathly traps throughout the entire factory. While the game is generally light on the narrative and doesn’t dive into the motivation behind Bakuki’s madness, the story is lighthearted and provides entertainment between different portions of the factory.

The Game Itself: Our Reviewer's Take

Structured as a typical puzzle game, the developer introduces the player to all the actions available on the touchscreen through pop-up notifications during the early levels. For instance, Lil can drink a cup of coffee in a level to gain energy for quick bursts. This energy is released by “squeezing” Lil with finger taps on the front and back touchscreens at the same time. Movement of the two characters is contolled by swiping a finger across the character in the direction that they need to move and tapping that character will stop them in their tracks. Larg also includes the ability to bust through wooden sections of the floor.


Another interesting use of the Vita’s functionality includes the ability to alter the direction of Lil after the character consumes helium. Once Lil becomes a floating object, the player uses the accelerometer to control the angle at which Lil ascends. Tapping on Lil releases the helium in a comical moment of flatulence and allows the character to descend in the same manner. Since Bakuki leaves plenty of nasty, sharp blades mounted to the walls to deter Lil, it makes for some tense situations when navigating the character around the level. Since only the initial actions are explained, the developer often relies on trial and error for the player to continue. Death is a necessity, but not an annoying one. Each level is typically around 30 seconds to one minute long when performed correctly and the game reloads the level almost immediately after a death.

The biggest fault of the developers is forcing the player to perform a series of relatively precise taps and swipes over a period of a few seconds. The Vita definitely feels awkward in your hands while attempting to swipe on the front screen to start character movement, then tap on the back several times to push open a timed platform as they walk across the screen. This only gets worse when the player also has to hold down a finger on the screen to block a steam pipe or spin a fan in the room with a circular motion in order to clear out the poisonous smoke. Add in attempting to zoom in and out of the screen with the analog stick and your fingers are ultimately playing a freaky game of Twister.

However, the developer allows the player to skip any level that’s too tough to complete. It’s useful after becoming too frustrated with a puzzle; however the developer does a good job of interspersing easy levels among the extremely difficult ones. The game’s scoring system counts the number of interactions with either touchscreen during each level and assigns the player a star rating based on the number. The goal is to traverse the level with the fewest number of interactions, a difficult goal until the player understands the layout of the entire level.


The Video: Sizing Up the Picture

The black and white visuals are absolutely stunning in motion and reminded me of the visual style of a game created by Tim Schafer or perhaps a movie directed by Tim Burton. Levels are filled with background scenery and the factory seems to always be alive with moving platforms, steam shooting from pipes and spinning fans. I loved the cute detail of the number on Lil and Larg’s shirt increasing by one every time the character dies. Character animations are extremely fluid and the world always reacts in interesting ways when the user touches the rear or the front screen. Often times, I found myself tapping objects all over the two screens just to bat them around the level. Levels load extremely quickly and there are no framerate issues that I noticed.

The Audio: Rating the Sound

The music within Escape Plans is mainly comprised of popular classical tunes, light jazz melodies and European accordion tracks, all very satisfying and adding a fair amount of lighthearted fun to the levels. The music often softens the blow of continually getting killed over and over by the intentionally maniacal design of the levels. The sound effects will also make you chuckle and work effectively to bring life to the inner workings of the dismal factory.

Replay Factor

This genre of game doesn’t lend itself to multiplayer very well, thus there’s no multiplayer modes included within Escape Plan. However, the star ratings on each level and the thirty collectible signs within the game may encourage players to continue coming back for more. Star ratings and general stats can be compared against other players on a global leaderboard.


There also appears to be a challenge mode within the game that may turn into weekly challenges downloaded from the PlayStation Network. The current challenge is called “Clean Run” and wants the player to complete the entire game with less than 20 deaths between Lil and Larg. These challenges ties into the trophy system, thirteen of which can be earned at the time of this review. Tasks include completing the game, dying within every single level, killing the main characters in different ways or simply collecting all the signs.

Final Thoughts

While the game can be frustrating due to the order and precision of tasks required to safely navigate the two protagonists through levels, Escape Plan is definitely an entertaining puzzler and easily qualifies as one of the best looking launch games on the Vita. The somewhat short three to five hour length of the game is forgivable due to the low $15 price tag when compared to other Vita games currently available. If you are a fan of puzzle games, touchscreen games or simply a whimsical tale, check out Escape Plan on the PlayStation Store.

Tech Specs:

  • Location : PlayStation Store
  • Download size: 924 MB

Video Resolution/Codec

  • 1Q HD

Audio Formats

  • Stereo

Motion Controls

  • Yes

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Available now. Buy Now»