Escape plan is a downloadable puzzle game developed by Fun Bits Interactive and is produced by Chris Millar, known for his previous work on the Fat Princess franchise, for the PS Vita. The plot to this puzzle game is in the name, to PLAN an ESCAPE. I might be using the work plan a bit loosely here, as I will explain in a moment, but the idea is you have to help two, weird, gimp like characters (Lil and Laarg) in escaping from another gimp-esque character called Bakuki. That is the main premise to the game. It sounds simple, right? How could the possibly get this wrong?
Well apparently they do. The game suffers on one major thing games need; which is not to be extremely dull. The core gameplay mechanic is to use the touch screens to solve extremely simple puzzles. I may be a little harsh as there are two or three puzzles which require a small amount of brain power to complete but the rest are extremely simple (talking about most levels being completed in under a minute, some even in ten to twenty seconds). However, that isn’t what makes this game dull as simple puzzles can still be a joy to play (look at Thomas Was Alone). It’s the extremely slow place nature of this game that makes it a chore to play. Lil and Laarg have different abilities but they are both extremely slow moving. It’s like watching your overly drunk friend trying to stumble down the street, slowly putting one foot in front of the other, as you try in vain to get them moving quickly. I found myself hoping the more I swipe the quickly the moved despite knowing this technique does not work. I can see the reasoning behind the slow moving design choice, as it does make the puzzles a little harder to complete, but I just become infuriating.
What makes matters worse is the use of the back touch pad. Now I have seen the back touch pad work well (for instance; canoeing in Uncharted: Golden Abyss and poking stuff to the foreground in LittleBigPlanet Vita) but the way the puzzles are designed makes using it more like trying to shot at a target with a blindfold on. The back touch pad is used similarly to how LittleBigPlanet Vita uses it (to poke things into the foreground) but it is often hit and miss you get the right object (which is annoying when it comes to get timings right). You can bring up an aimer by just holding down your finger on the back touch pad which is very useful for earlier puzzles. It’s just the later puzzles which require quicker reactions where this feature cannot be used and I often found myself getting through levels with just blind luck.
There are parts to Escape Plan which are done right. I did like the chiaroscuro visuals. It’s pretty nice to look at considering the game consist of just variations of black and white. The characters (looking like they came from some hardcore, European pornography) did actually fit this art direction. The odd, classical soundtrack seems to be a really appropriate fit for the art style. Admirably, there is a star rating for each level so you can go back and get a better score and other challenges to complete (but I couldn’t face multiple run-throughs). Also, not all the controls are as bad as the example I just mentioned. The other simple touch screen gestures work very well and are intuitive. I saved the best thing they did right till last. Killing Lil and Laarg is actually really fun. Now this enjoyment could be down to me finding them annoying because they move slower than a herd of snails traveling through peanut butter, but there are quite a lot of unique and fun ways to kill Lil and Laarg which the developers should be credited for.
Overall I just found this game painful to play. Despite loving the unique art style and other various aspects Escape Plan has to offer, the slow nature of Escape Plan is just torture and ruined my experience of this game. Forget waterboarding, let’s just use this game instead