CRank: 5Score: 0

User Review : Escape Plan

  • First rate visuals / score
  • Likable protagonists
  • Flawed control scheme
  • Long load times

A challenging puzzler for all the wrong reasons

When I first heard rumours back in 2010 about the various patents filed by Sony for the highly anticipated ‘PSP 2’, I was intrigued by the inclusion a rear touchpad that was capable of driving the device’s UI.

In retrospect, it was surprising that such an ingenious solution had not been brought to market sooner. I speculated on all the benefits that such an interface could have on the end user’s experience. Being able to scroll, swipe, pinch and pan without covering any of the screen seemed revolutionary. When I finally got my hands on the PS Vita, I could see the potential immediately.

The only gesture that doesn’t work in practice is the ‘tap’. Without a visible cursor, tapping is an interaction which is difficult to pull off blind with any kind of precision.

Enter Escape Plan; A beautiful game that is inherently flawed based on the above principle. Aesthetically, this title looks and sounds like a Tim Burton animated feature that’s been given the Pixar treatment. Our two androgynous protagonists, Lil and Laarg, are likable – if rather limited - and the monotone visuals are complimented by some well-known classical scores.

Gameplay relies almost completely on touch, with the exception of the right analog stick - which controls the camera - and the in-built accelerometer. The main function for the rear touchpad is to push platforms and pistons out of the walls, which is where the control scheme fails. It soon becomes very difficult to manipulate the characters and other objects using the front screen, while timing precision taps using the rear pad. All too often, you will miss your intended target, condemning Lil or Laarg to a rather messy (and flatulent) death.

Trying to hold the device steady while you’re using every available digit to tap, squeeze and spin your way to victory can also become problematic, especially when you have to shift the camera manually. I nearly dropped the unit on several occasions, prompting Tourette-like outbursts that caused some concern amongst family/friends/complete strangers.

Unlike Angry Birds or Cut the Rope, where constantly failing and restarting happens instantly, Escape Plan can become infuriating because you feel as if you’re fighting the game’s fundamental shortcomings. The reload times are only a few seconds, but in the context of a portable experience, it can seem like an eternity.

And while it was never too taxing to deduce the most appropriate escape route, I often found myself trapped in relatively simple rooms, progressing only through a mixture of perseverance and blind luck. The scoring system (a three-star meter) is not very intuitive either, marking you on the time and number of gestures taken. This means that accidental brushes against both pads can severely hamper your aggregate score.

Play through time for Escape Plan was just over three hours. I finished the story whilst trapped on a rather unpleasant commute (I hereby apologise to my fellow travellers for my behaviour). This probably brought me closer to the plight of the two protagonists, but in the end I was left unimpressed by the overall experience of a game which sadly never fully realises its potential.

At £9.99 Escape Plan may well be overpriced when compared to its counterparts on other mobile platforms. However, it is evident from the menu screen that a multiplayer component will be implemented in the near future, which may add some much needed replay value.

The developer, Fun Bits Interactive, certainly had a tough assignment; to produce an original launch IP that exhibits all of the PS Vita’s marketable features, yet retains the everyman appeal of today’s mobile classics. In this respect, it has fulfilled its remit.

Ultimately, however, it has produced a title that surpasses the standard bearers on the technical front, but lacks the charm and playability of the more established franchises.

Fun Factor
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limewax2281d ago

I think your review is well written however I personally feel you have marked the game pretty low for the few shortcomings you listed. I haven't had too much time with the game myself yet, however you state that the load times are only a few seconds and then mark it down for long load times?

Also with the low score you have given it doesn't seem as if you covered the flaws of the game effectively enough to warrant the low score. I don't mean I feel the game deserves a higher score (as I have yet to finish it) but I find it hard to understand why it received a 4 when the only 2 complaints were few second load times and iffy controls, of which we are all having to adjust to since it is a new system.

I do personally feel that often my deaths in the game are actually caused by not being used to finding the right place on the rear touch, rather than the actual game itself, However I also have played Vita games that respond a lot better to the rear touch pad (Little Deviants)

Jurat2281d ago

Thanks for your comments.

For the sake of brevity I try not to labour any points, good or bad, however I don’t think I stressed enough just how awful some of the rooms were. The main reason is the flawed rear touchpad mechanic, which actively hampers progression.

Frustrations are then compounded by the game’s reload speed, which forces you to stare at an inky mess, before fading to black, redisplaying the room title, then and having Lil or Laarg enter in their trademark waddlesome sloth. The whole process takes about seven seconds, which is six seconds longer than necessary. It seems petty, but after a few hours it can become unbearable.

Contrast that to the likes of Cut the Rope or Angry Birds, which offer almost instant gratification on a mobile device, and the issues become even more apparent.

I do agree that Little Deviants exploited the touchpad perfectly, as did Uncharted and FIFA12. Escape Plan, sadly, did not.

kikizoo2279d ago

With that kind of avatar, you can't have good tastes ;)

escape plan is really marvellous, especially for 9,99£, and i don't have any problem with controls (counterparts on other mobile platform ? yeah right, show me just one)

InTheLab2278d ago

I completely agree with the score as well as the written review. Escape Plan is a good idea that's executed poorly.

It's a touch only game but the touch controls are broken. Even if I had a good time with the game, which I didn't, fighting the controls would greatly affect the score and tone of my review.

Also, the game is way overpriced, but so are the rest of the games on Vita. Games that appear on other platforms that are on Vita cost 400% more than they do on IOS or Android. Hell, some of those games are cheaper on PS3 than they are on Vita. The point is, Escape Plan is too expensive for what it is. The game should cost no more than $6. Sony needs to take a look at the pricing for some of these download only titles. Escape Plan is about as good as any IOS/Android game but it costs 2 to 3 times as much.

smashcrashbash2276d ago

Your talking absolute nonsense.Stop trying to compare phone games to handheld games. They are not on the same level. Saying that Escape Plan should cost $6 without even knowing what was put into the game is idiotic. I could play lots of clones of IOS/Android games for free on online gaming site but you don't see me running around demanding that they should be free. Handheld games, console games and phone games are three different things . Stop trying to talk as if they are on the same level or are in the same league.

InTheLab2276d ago

Tell me the difference between Plants vs Zombies IOS and Plants vs Zombies Vita besides the $13 difference in price? How about Dungeon Hunters Alliance IOS and Dungeon Hunters Vita (which is a direct port of the IOS version it originated from) besides the $39 difference in price?

That's what I thought.

I'm well aware of the difference between handheld games and IOS/Android games. I know the quality and scope of Uncharted GA trumps anything on IOS or Android. But I also know s*** like Escape Plan is also not in the same league as Uncharted GA or Unit 13. Were it not for the rear touch function that rarely works properly, Escape Plan could easily be an IOS/Android game.

When you say handheld game, you better be talking about Golden Abyss or Unit 13, because games like Infinity Blade 2 and Modern Combat ARE on par with games like Escape Plan.

As for what it costs to make Escape Plan, you don't know what it cost to make that game either, so save your bulls***...

@ the 4 disagrees..

f***in fanboys. Probably don't even own a Vita...

Captain Tuttle2278d ago

That's a very well written review. Thanks, I enjoyed reading it.

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