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Escape Plan Review

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On 03/13/2012 at 09:42 PM by Nick DiMola

What's a puzzle game without the puzzles?

Not Recommended.

Don't judge a book by its cover – it's a lesson we've all learned before, but one that holds particularly true in the case of Escape Plan. If you've seen Escape Plan before, you may be confused right now – Escape Plan looks great, but looks can be deceiving. Wrought with issues, Escape Plan is at worst frustratingly imprecise and at best, blasé.

There's little question that Escape Plan is brimming with personality. Taking cues from Tim Burton's deranged style, the world and its inhabitants are odd, but endearing. The monochromatic color palette only serves to accentuate this unique design and despite the limited animations for protagonists Lil and Laarg, their personalities come through in full force.

The two are on a quest to escape a prison that antagonist, Bakuki, has seemingly built to destroy them around every turn. Using the touchscreen and touchpad, players will control both the pair and the environment itself in order to complete the 78 one room puzzle-based challenges. More often than not, the two are separated, but in rare instances, players will control both in the same room for some co-operative puzzle solving.

Escape Plan's problems don’t immediately materialize. The game understandably starts slow, introducing players to the world, its mechanics, and how to properly interact with everything. As such you'll find yourself traversing from left to right with little issue – you'll push items out of the way with the front touchscreen, spin fans to clear smoke from rooms or power an elevator, bump platforms out from the wall and interact with enemies with the back touchpad, and direct Lil and Laarg around the environment with some simple gestures and taps.

After you get through the equivalent of the tutorial, Escape Plan never really progresses beyond the simple constructs it begins with. More often than not, each room boils down to bumping platforms out at the right time or killing enemies in immediately obvious ways. There’s no attempt at puzzle design despite the fact that this is indeed a puzzle game.

Instead, the game’s challenge is born entirely from controls. While everything works fine to begin with when you’re performing a limited number of gestures, as the game progresses you’ll need to begin performing many in sequence to make it to the exit and things start to fall apart.

Most issues are born from using the back touchpad – believe it or not, it's not always apparent exactly when you're touching and how that correlates to the images on the screen. This is made no better by the scrolling camera, which makes it even harder to pinpoint an exact spot on the screen to tap.

The issues really come to a head toward the end of the game. When bumping objects out with the back touchpad, they typically only stay protruded for a short length of time. The game, in its infinite wisdom, will force you to bump out a succession of platforms for Lil or Laarg to traverse. Just hitting the right ones in the right order is difficult enough, but when you also have to use the touchscreen to direct them to move forward in time, while also removing other impediments, it induces a reaction beyond frustrating to utterly infuriating.

While the touchpad is annoying in its own right, the rest of the experience features a whole separate set of issues. For instance, Lil can suck in air, allowing him to float upward. Aside from being slow and meandering, it's aggravating to control. Using tilt, you'll direct him around the stage, but this isn't the problem. The problem comes when you have to pinch him in order to make him fart (yes, fart). You'll have to angle him using the tilt controls, then pinch him and hope he moves in the direction you thought he was pointed. Often the game will require precise control to get him to go where you wish, which isn't exactly simple when tilting and touching simultaneously.

Design issues pervade even the best of the rooms. In the instances where you finally get to use Lil and Laarg together, you won't often get to use their distinct abilities to solve puzzles together. Laarg can bust through floors and walls and he carries more weight, meaning he can push down bigger buttons on the floor that Lil couldn't otherwise. Rather than play with the unique abilities, each are on their own track to get to the exit, which in some cases is even unique for each character.

The resultant experience from all of these little niggling issues is utterly boring and often intolerably frustrating. (Thankfully?) It's also incredibly short, clocking in at a little over two hours. It has a small form of replay value in that you're scored up to three stars on each level based on a combination of the number of gestures you make and the time it takes you to reach the exit. This would be viable if it weren't so easy to make accidental touches to the back touchpad while playing, easily dropping your score.

Don't be fooled by Escape Plan – it sure looks great, but it's just not. It's not fun, it's not puzzling, it's not interesting, and most importantly, it's not worth your money.

Review Policy

In our reviews, we'll try not to bore you with minutiae of a game. Instead, we'll outline what makes the game good or bad, and focus on telling you whether or not it is worth your time as opposed to what button makes you jump.

We use a five-star rating system with intervals of .5. Below is an outline of what each score generally means:

All games that receive this score are standout games in their genre. All players should seek a way to play this game. While the score doesn't equate to perfection, it's the best any game could conceivably do.

These are above-average games that most players should consider purchasing. Nearly everyone will enjoy the game and given the proper audience, some may even love these games.

This is our middle-of-the-road ranking. Titles that receive three stars may not make a strong impression on the reviewer in either direction. These games may have some faults and some strong points but they average out to be a modest title that is at least worthy of rental for most.

Games that are awarded two stars are below average titles. Good ideas may be present, but execution is poor and many issues hinder the experience.

Though functional, a game that receives this score has major issues. There are little to no redeeming qualities and should be avoided by nearly all players.

A game that gets this score is fundamentally broken and should be avoided by everyone.



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