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Gaming Review

'Escape Plan' review (Vita)

By
Released on Wednesday, Feb 22 2012

'Escape Plan' screenshot

© Sony


Also available on: N/A
Developer: Fun Bits Interactive
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
Genre: Puzzle

There is no shortage of heavy hitters among the PS Vita's launch lineup, but it's the console's digital library that might end up stealing the show. Fun Bits Interactive's debut offering Escape Plan is exactly what the handheld has been crying out for; a game loaded with originality that makes innovative use of its hardware features.

Escape Plan is a quirky puzzle title rendered in stylish black and white. The object of the game is to guide two characters - Lil and Laarg - through 78 booby trapped rooms using gesture-based controls. It's a game with plenty to offer, from jaw-dropping visuals to head-scratching conundrums, and it's arguably the best demonstration of the Vita's inputs to date.

The game dishes out challenges in palatable chunks, making it a good fit for a portable platform. Each room consists of a series of puzzles that can effectively be treated as standalone challenges that you jump into at any time. Puzzles themselves are both creative and varied. The majority involve manipulating the environment with the front and rear touchpads, and using screen swipes to guide your characters around obstacles.

Certain themes are recycled throughout, yet Escape Plan has plenty of surprises lying in wait. For instance, some stages see Lil and Laarg inflated by helium, calling upon players to guide them to safety using the Vita's motion sensor. Failure to guide either one of the protagonists around a hazard usually results in a gruesome death, either splattered against a wall or something equally unpleasant. Canned laughter from a faux studio audience then kicks in, showing off the game's warped sense of humour.

Players are given a star rating at the end of each room depending on how they performed. Those who traverse levels using the minimum amount of gestures receive the top rating of three stars, and it operates on a sliding scale from there. As stages are relatively short and easy enough to revisit from the main menu, most players will find themselves replaying them to record a higher score.



Escape Plan is controlled almost entirely through touch and motion, with the shoulder buttons and analogue sticks occasionally used to shift the camera. It's a clever and organic interface, though there are instances where it falters. Character movement and object manipulation usually respond first time, but the occasional stutter is enough to make for a cheap death. Moreover, accidentally resting against the rear touchpad costs you a move, often the difference between scoring two and three stars. While these issues don't break the game, it would have been a more well-rounded package with them ironed out.

Despite a few control hiccups, Escape Plan's overall presentation is stunning. The chiaroscuro backdrops are slick and stylish, and the character models quaint and unique. Given the Vita's capacity for vibrant colour, grayscale seems like an odd choice on the developer's part, but it helps emphasise the gothic tone. An effective musical score plays its part too. Edvard Greig's whimsical 'In the Hall of the Mountain King' plays at intervals to spearhead an apt soundtrack.

There's no shortage of sequels and spinoffs in the Vita's launch-line, so an original work like Escape Plan is a breath of fresh air for the system. It's one of the most unique and charming looking games you'll ever play, and the pick-up-and-play value makes it perfect for a handheld. Minor control issues prevent it from achieving perfection, but it's still perhaps the most effective showcase of the Vita hardware to date.

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