When the PlayStation Vita was revealed for the first time, there were games one would normally expect to appear on the system. But for me, it was a chance for Sony to endorse some unique concepts and one of the more promising that was shown was the striking Escape Plan – one of the few games in recent years to adopt a completely colourless presentation. It stands out from the crowd, that’s for sure, but does it do it for all the right reasons?
What is most endearing about Lil and Laarg’s bid for freedom against the evil Bakuki and his minions is how it is presented on-screen. Its monochrome style features a surprising amount of detail for a game that aims to be as minimalist as possible with its interface. The soundtrack features a mix of musical styles from classical music to one or two original tunes, which fit the aesthetic that Escape Plan tries to use in a wonderful way. It manages therefore to give off a Charlie Chaplin vibe with its light-hearted slapstick nature that is a refreshing take on what could easily have been a dull and lifeless experience.
Interactivity with almost everything on-screen is part of how this charm works so well. Seemingly small bricks can be nudged out of harm’s way, while fans can rotate with the spin of a finger. Touching Lil and Laarg will make them react, with perhaps one of the funniest interactions being making Laarg fall down. While there are occasional queues to performing most of the tasks, you rarely feel as if the game is holding your hand through the experience. But as endearing as the game looks, this Escape Plan isn’t without its faults.
The first snag in the scheme is that you don’t directly control either Lil or Laarg. For the most part, this isn’t a problem as you can adapt to their movement patterns quite easily; but as they are both pretty slow and fragile creatures prone to slapstick, it makes you wonder if the trial and error strategy you are working on in a particular level will actually work. Escape Plan does use quite a lot of the control schemes available to the PlayStation Vita, though to mixed results. Floating using the tilt controls feels lethargic, while prodding the back panel feels very imprecise at times. There are a couple of puzzles that involve luring either minions or sheep to designated points. Minions are generally quite obedient in being led to their deaths, but attempting to make a sheep stand on a platform is very difficult indeed.
Spanning across four chapters in total, each with two segments, Escape Plan isn’t very long either when you consider it usually takes around a minute or so to finish a level. This means that you can get through the entire game in just a few hours. The good news is that there are quite a few warning badges for you to seek out during your bid for freedom, which are usually hidden directly from view.
Attempting to get three star rankings on each level is an ordeal however as the game is very sensitive to the back panel being touched. This in short makes it so you have to hold the PS Vita very gingerly, which is less than ideal. Lastly, there are challenge modes that will in time feature weekly challenges for you to complete. While they aren’t available at the time of review, it is nice to see that Fun Bits Interactive thought ahead about the lifespan of the game.
As adorable as this Escape Plan is, I can’t help but think that this bite-sized game is missing a few tricks. It easily one of the more stylish launch titles on the PlayStation Vita with enough character to charm those who see it. While the controls aren’t broken, getting used to them is about as challenging as the game gets as the entire experience is over all too soon. Sometimes a short run time works to a games advantage, but in Escape Plan it only serves to point out its unfortunate shortcomings.