Escape Plan PS Vita Review

Publisher – Sony Computer Entertainment Europe – Developer – Fun Bits Interactive – Genre – Puzzle – Players – 1 – Age Rating – 16+ – Other console/handheld formats – N/A

When an innovative piece of hardware launches, you normally get one or two launch titles that are a showcase of some of its features. Fun Bits’ downloadable Escape Plan is one such game. Launched on the same day as Sony’s PlayStation Vita handheld, the developer has made some cunning use of some of its bolder features, although not always to particularly high standard.

Escape Plan has a very simple premise: escape. You take control of Lil and Laarg, one small and one large, but both bizarre with their mostly featureless faces. The two characters are trying to escape Bakaku’s prison. There’s a dark sense of humour running throughout, and the cartoon black-and-white visuals are full of charisma. The game makes use of Vita’s entire touch control feature set, with both the screen and the rear touch panel coming into play.

Levels have a basic task of escaping from each one-screen level, with various things getting in the way of this very simple mission. Swiping across a character gets him moving, while the rear touch panel is handy for pushing objects out of the background and into the foreground. The gyroscope feature of Vita is also called upon at times, in which you’ll be tilting your system in order to get a bloated Lil through an area, passing wind when you want to deflate.

Escape Plan may not be completely button-free, although it’s very close with touch controls being by far the dominant manner in which you play the game. Switching between the characters, if they’re separated, happens through a button press, and camera control also requires you to get your fingers on the sticks.

Puzzles are wonderfully imaginative, with buttons to press, levers to pull, walls and weak flooring to be smashed through, walkways and cushioned landing areas to be created and much more. So, indeed the objective is very simple, but it’s the getting there that can be the tough part.

When you do manage to complete a level, the game will rate your performance one to three stars. Ratings are based on the amount of gestures you employed and the amount of time that you took to reach the end of the level. This definitely gives the game some replay value, and learning how to get through a room with as few gestures as possible to achieve the maximum three stars is sure to satisfy many.

It’s just a shame that Escape Plan has some rather uneven controls. The touch screen is mostly reliable, but, for a game that requires sparse use of Vita’s touch controls, the rear touch panel can become a bit of an annoyance. Touching the panel by a mistake can end up having a hit on your final rating, which feels a little unfair, and it’s these awkward moments that are Escape Plan’s biggest letdown. Some will probably blame Vita, although the developer could have worked around this in one way or another.

Regardless of its shortcomings, Escape Plan is a very clever puzzle game and is an early game that shows off some great promise for the future of Vita. This is a game with a dark sense of humour, one that looks good with its black-and-white stylings, one that is a generally a lot of fun to play, but also a game with its imperfections.