I’m going to make this really easy for you: if you’re a PlayStation Vita early adopter then you need to own Escape Plan. The rest of this review will go on to explain why this is the case. Really though, just go and spend the $15 on the download. Then play, and be delighted.
To me, Escape Plan accomplishes what Little Deviants tries so hard to do in showcasing what Sony’s Vita is capable of. Unlike Deviants‘ discrete, function-focused minigames, Escape Plan plays out as a cohesive whole (though it never uses the built-in camera). More than that, it challenges you at every turn to experiment. To tap the screen. The rear touchpad. To tilt and to shake. You learn the game as you go through experimentation rather than dedicated tutorials.
At the most basic level, Escape Plan puts you in control of the slim, coffee-loving Lil and the jiggly, spherical Laarg. Sometimes just one of them. Sometimes both together. Your moment-to-moment goal is to guide either or both of the characters through a hazard-filled room.
Early on this could involve nothing more complex than tapping a brick on the floor to shove it out of the way. Later you’ll be tilting the Vita to steer a balloon-inflated Lil between deadly, oversized razorblades and pinching her, using both touch surfaces, to make her “fart” out some of the air that’s keeping her aloft. There are fans to spin, leaking pipes to temporarily plug, ink-black lambs to shepherd and blowdart-shooting enemies to trap and squish.
Fat Princess developer Fun Bits Interactive put a lot of effort into delivering a polished presentation with Escape Plan. The black & white visuals are some of the best on the Vita at launch and the art design is immediately striking. There’s a little bit of a Rube Goldberg aesthetic going on, but Escape Plan cartoon elements feel much slicker.
The sound design is also tremendous, particularly the music. The soundtrack changes every few rooms, jumping between different and often familiar orchestral pieces. You’ll also frequently hear canned audience applause when you perform a particular task correctly in the game. Escape Plan‘s grim B&W art design plays very well against the playful classical music renditions and self-conscious design choices; this is a game that seems to revel at every turn in never taking itself too seriously.
You’ll rarely spend anything more than a minute or two in each room, especially once you’ve got it figured out. The replay hook is built around earning better rankings in each room, with up to three stars awarded based on how long a room took to complete and how many gestures you used to complete it. There’s also a dedicated challenge mode; the big one right now is to complete the game with less than 20 deaths spread between the two characters, but a second screen promises that weekly challenges are incoming soon.
The only real problem I have falls more on the replay value side. It’s great that you can replay any room you want to shoot for the higher star ranking, but with the game recording every gesture and marking it against you if you use too many, the Vita’s extremely sensitive front and rear touch surfaces will often be your own worst enemy. You really need to grip the device in a very awkward way if you want to avoid contact with either surface until it’s absolutely necessary.
Such a minor complaint though. That shouldn’t deter you from sampling one of the strongest titles in the Vita’s launch library. Fun Bits Interactive continues to show off its talents as a developer with Escape Plan, leveraging the unique features of Sony’s latest hardware platform to deliver a rewarding and visually pleasing puzzle game that is equal parts fun and funny.
Score: 9 out of 10
(This game was reviewed on the PlayStation Vita on a copy provided by Sony Computer Entertainment)