The Escapists was a game originally released on Steam Early Access back in 2014 and then had its full release in 2015 on Microsoft Windows, Xbox 360, Xbox One and PlayStation 4. Developed by Mouldy Toof Studios and published by the great Team17 (Yeah I still love Worms!). The original game was set around multiple prison environments where you take control of an inmate trying to escape. This was done through building reputation through tasks and acquiring items through bartering, stealing or crafting. Now after a lot of success the title has moved forward and been brought into the comic version of The Walking Dead, this instantly caught my attention and I was ecstatic to be offered the chance to review this new version set in the world of one of my favourite zombie apocalypse series.
The Escapists: The Walking Dead starts you off in the only possible place it could, with Rick Grimes awakening in the hospital as your tutorial. You are quickly thrown into your first escape scenario and taught the basics of the game from movement, crafting and the danger of the undead. The tutorial ends very quickly and the game then begins after a short cutscene with you being placed on the Greene family farm. For long-term fans of the comic and TV show you will be already be getting excited about the characters you come across including the Greene family, Glenn and Dale. One of the most unique features in this game is time management, there is a watch at the top of your screen that you will want to make sure that you pay attention to. During the day you will be faced with tasks to complete from doing laundry to performing daily headcounts and sitting down for meals with the survivors. Making sure that you complete the tasks will keep the threat meter low and stop unexpected undead from invading your sanctuary. This does actually limit you to the time you will have to explore the map and complete your quests because if you venture too far and miss a task the chance of invasion becomes increased and walkers will start to respawn, this will make looking after stronghold a problem and might end up with you losing a member of your team if you re not paying attention. You do have the option to skip going to bed of a night and using this time to venture but this will prevent you from resting up, a risky choice that will have some benefits if you look in the right places.
The main aim of each map is the same as the original title and that is to escape, so as well as your daily tasks you will be set missions to complete, on the Greene farm you are gradually set missions that build up to you clearing out the barn (I am sure you will all remember this). To do this you will need to build up the rest of the survivors and equip them to defend themselves, you will do this through finding and crafting items, weapons and armour. This can be anything from a razor comb (razor blade mixed with a comb… duh!) to a full-fledged pistol, like you would expect a gun might offer range but can also alert more nearby walkers that will overpower you if you are not careful. When venturing out into the world to look for supplies you can take other characters with you as backup as long as they have a good moral standing with you and would seriously advise you do, this is not a forgiving game on any level. You will have access to books to build up you intelligence which will allow for you to craft better items and gyms that will build your strength and speed through button mashing mini games like boxing and running on a treadmill. There is the chance to earn currency in the game by performing fetch quests for the other survivors who will then pay you a small reward that can be used to buy items from a vendor (remember I said about going out at night).
When it comes down to the look of the game I really can’t shout about how amazing it is for an 8-bit title, it really just works great, from tiny animations, well detailed characters and walkers, there is nothing here that can be faulted. The levels that have been chosen from the comic are captured perfectly and bring to life the original story be it in a cut down way. The cutscenes are also done within this 8-bit style and grant you a little bit of story without too much detail that does just enough to bring you into the next level. Obviously if you are new to the series and would like to avoid spoilers it would be best too far ahead though there are currently only 5 locations available for you to venture. When it comes down to the background in the music it looks to have been deigned perfectly, it’s eerie, depressing and beautifully put into place setting the tone for the world around you. You will notice that the music changes depending on the situation whether you are currently in free time or running to save a comrade who has been ambushed by a walker unexpectedly.
This is definitely a title that every fan of The Walking Dead and The Escapists alike should own. A game like this just shows that it isn’t all about making a title that looks as realistic as possible to give you something that can be really enjoyed. This might just be the retro fan coming out in me from the games I used to enjoy back in the days of my childhood but this game will have replayability for sure and can be done at your own pace depending on how much you want to kit out your team, if you want to find all collectables on offer (they come in form of issues of the comic!) or just generally explore the whole map. I even found myself spending time just reading what the other characters were saying while you walked near them or sat down at meal times, simple little things that give the game a lot of life. Go and give it a try yourself and let me know your thoughts, currently available for £19.99 in all good retailers.