It follows its own stupid rules;get up, appeal, eat, work, eat, work out, leisure, work, eat. But there are other rules behind the routine: discord, violence, corruption, trade, production, breaking out.
The Escapists is the creation of one man, Chris Davis, who wanted to recreate a ZX Spectrum title called School Days. It began life on Kickstarter before Team 17 picked it up, and here it arrives on Xbox One to sit alongside the PC version.
Unfortunately the game doesn't come with the prison editor that looks to be the long-term lifeblood of the PC build, as according to the creator, it's too fiddly with the controller. A shame, given the likes of Minecraft on console are proving a hit.
The game puts you into one of six prisons, with a varying level of difficulty and complexity. It's not an easy start, as you understand little about your setup, the locale or the people you're stuck behind bars with.
A mini-tutorial helps point out the other side of prison life though, and soon enough you'll form alliances, collect knowledge about which items can be combined together to form new equipment, which inmates are best to avoid, and when is the ideal moment for a neat blow to the back of the head with a soap-filled sock... or a pickaxe.
You'll be caught with illegal goods, be put in solitary confinement, get beaten down by guards and sabotaged by fellow prisoners. Despite the basic pixelated graphics, this is a bitter experience, blocky sprites not softening the violence that happens so often across the cell blocks.
But what that does do is drive the need, the want, to escape as soon as possible, no matter what the cost. Suffering can help forge a good plan. And putting together a quality plan is the core here. The game may look basic, but it's built on solid foundations and a great gameplay hook.
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