A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this game.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that The Escapists is a downloadable strategy simulation about people who have made bad decisions in their lives and now find themselves in prison. You don’t learn about their pasts -- they’re in jail, and that's that. The main thrust of the game is how they continue to make poor decisions while attempting Machiavellian undertakings to escape prison and return to society before their debts to society have been repaid. This isn't done through politicking or coercion. It’s done through cold, decisive action and manipulating your environment with the things you do, not the things you say. Violence is limited to fistfights and hand-held weapons between inmates and guards, but, due to the game's pixelated look, nothing overly shocking is visible.
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What's it about?
In THE ESCAPISTS, you control a single inmate who tries to escape from a series of increasingly tightly controlled prison compounds. Whether it’s a minimum-security prison or the one on maximum lockdown, the objective is the same: Fall into the routine around you (go to mess hall, the workout room, do your job), learn to spot the cracks so you can wedge your way into exploiting gaps in the guards’ focus and their routines, and finally make a hasty retreat to start your new life as a fugitive.
Is it any good?
The Escapists is an acquired taste, one that requires a lot of patience and watchfulness. True to its spirit of being a prison-escape sim, you spend a lot of your time going through the motions of life as a prisoner. You eat when you’re told to eat, work when you're told to work, and enjoy free time when you're allowed. That also means you spend a lot of time stumbling through an unfamiliar life, getting acclimated as you go -- in many instances having to let several days of embarking on these activities pass by in drudgery before learning where and when you can sneak away. But you'll be confused, also, figuring out where to go and what to do once you’re there.
Although that's what a game like this should be like, there's certainly fun to be found -- if you’re patient. This is a game of hedging bets, being risky, and failing a lot in the process. You have to learn where the exits are, when you should get to them, and how to make your own luck in seeking your freedom. Escape requires cunning, gathering the gear to strike, and noticing opportunities to run. The escapes can play out in any number of ways, which can be frustrating after spending an hour or two only to realize how you fell short in the planning, but when it works, it works well. If doing favors for inmates, working jobs while seeking out places to stash gear, and tunneling your way out with spoons sounds like a good time for you, then you'll enjoy the very focused thrills here.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about why people escape from prison. Are there people in jail who don’t belong there? Is escaping a wrongful conviction the "right" thing?
Discuss whether it's wrong to do people a favor if you only want them to do something for yourself. Is it greedy or manipulative if both people get what they want?
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