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PlayStation Vita  header logo

Escape Plan

For: PS Vita

Break out success

Product: Escape Plan | Developer: Fun Bits | Publisher: Sony Europe | Format: PS Vita | Genre: Puzzle | Players: 1 | Networking: wireless (network) | Version: Europe
 
Escape Plan PS Vita, thumbnail 1
This review of Vita downloadable game Escape Plan comes with a category B warning. In case you don't know your international review categories, the B stands for Beret. It means that things are about to get mighty pretentious.

What makes Escape Plan great is what it doesn't show you - what it isn't trying to do. In a launch line-up that contains some of the best-looking and most complicated games yet seen on any portable gaming device, Fun Bits Interactive shows remarkable restraint in its release.

Lil and Laarg

There isn't a great deal of voice-acting, and the soundtrack is largely made up of familiar classical numbers and muzak. The palette is kept to tones of black, white, and very occasionally red. Its characters appear as blanche-faced, black latex fetishist claymation oddballs.

Controls are simple and touch-based for the most part. Swiping across the unlucky duo of playable characters horizontally sets them in motion, tapping them stops them in their tracks, and tapping a usable object – such as a coffee machine or broken steam pipe – asks them to interact with it.

You'll often need to push a piece of the environment into the foreground or background to clear your path, which involves another quick tap of the screen or rear touch pad. Distracting the Shy Guy-like enemies or scaring the jet-black Sheep also uses the rear touch pad.

The left and right analogue sticks respectively zoom and pan around your environment, a push of R shoulder switches between the two protagonists Lil and Laarg, and tilt handles Lil's movement when he inflates himself with hot air.

The controls are simple and responsive, which is hugely important in letting you navigate your way through the deadly traps and pitfalls that litter the four themed areas.

Unlike in Abe's Odyssey – which is a decent comparison – you're never stuck for too long attempting to figure out how to reach the exit on each stage. Instead, the challenge comes from twisting your hands around the system in just the right way to perform every required action at the correct pace.

In many instances you'll have two fingers from your left hand stuck firmly to the screen covering poisonous gas vents and cradling the system itself while you use two from your right hand to tap ledges that retract after a set period of time, meanwhile bending your thumb into position to coax Lil and Laarg forward. Escape Plan stretches your thenar as much as it does your neocortex.

Black and white characters

After the ending sequence plays out, there's not too much left to the game aside from mopping up Trophies and attempting the Challenge mode that will update each week (though this functionality was unavailable at the time of writing). Without Challenge mode, Escape Plan weighs in at three to four hours of content.

Escape Plan doesn't necessarily last all that long, but it does linger. The story is an amalgam of black humour and silent era slapstick comedies, and while it's sparing with its narrative you quickly find yourself attached to the misfits in their perilous situation.

Fun Bits imparts more characterisation through a few yelps, caffeine-fuelled giggles, and vacant expressions than most other games achieve with a hundred lines of dialogue and a thousand polygons.

The game rarely speaks to you directly, preferring to treat you as an audience member instead. Objectives take the form of level titles, and early gameplay hints are restricted to ghostly sweeps of lines indicating how to use a lever or break through a door.

You're largely left to your own devices, so every flawless run is a testament to your ingenuity and lateral thought.

And flawless runs aren't easily won. Escape Plan has clearly been playtested extensively for maximum cruelty. For instance, at one point when your attention is drawn away from one of your team by a moment of tenderness elsewhere, the game literally removes the floor from under your feet. 

The Vita needs to see more games like Escape Plan in the future: visually arresting, imaginative in its construction, and compartmental enough to be enjoyed in multiple brief sessions. Its short length will put a few people off, don't let yourself be one of them. This is a fantastic experience and an essential purchase.
 
Escape Plan
Reviewer photo
Peter Willington | 20 February 2012
An inventive noir brainteaser that's short but dense, filling out the package - not with fluff - but smart puzzles, visual gags, and a bucketful of inky black blood
 
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