The concept of time management and crafting featured in The Escapists is what Team17 has done with The Walking Dead, which works for great for some aspects, some could’ve used more work. Despite the fact that The Walking Dead is probably more appropriate for mature audiences, it gets the cutesy 8-bit treatment which translates in comical ways.
Intro and Gameplay:
Opening the game with Rick Grimes in the hospital was everything I hoped it would be. His sense of confusion is depicted clearly and the way it introduces you to the basic mechanics of the game starts things off great. This was before the objectives and time management mechanics were introduced. The issue I had with objectives were that some were perfectly clear on where you needed to go and what to do, and some had bizarre and unexplained obstacles in the way. I had no idea if I needed a shovel or dynamite in order to proceed. Time management became a frustration in the middle of this because as I would go far off the beaten path to fetch something for another character, I had to rush back for lunch before figuring it out. Or at least the alarm beeping implied that it was necessary. The level layouts, though offering some decent sized scale, also conflicted with this when you had to constantly make your way all the way back.
Graphics and Sound:
I can’t say enough good things about how much I love the animation and overall look of the game. With the two frame animation making Rick’s head bob up and down as he runs around is brilliant, and I felt like they certainly knew what they were doing when it came to how to visualize the cutscenes. The music, although well written and recorded, left me wondering if the gameplay itself got in the way of implementation. There seemed to be a lot of out-of-context music going on as I wandered, but I would think that has a lot more to do with the execution of how events are triggered in an open layout such as this.
Fun and Value:
I’m pretty sure if I could get a few more hints as to how to prioritize what I was actually doing, then I’d have a better sense of what objectives to handle first. When Coral (ha!) was in immediate need of help and I was sent to gather the right items for Hershel to perform surgery, I went right after it and the gameplay was fluid totally enjoyable. It’s when it tells you to just go out there and find things to do that the sequence of events become aimless (going back to the shovel or dynamite dilemmas). Seeing as how The Walking Dead has always been very much story driven, this kind of linearity actually improves the experience. If you know this going in, you may have a higher threshold of patience than I did after too much running back and forth because of alarms.
For fans of The Walking Dead and those that enjoyed the gameplay of The Escapists, go right for it. If you have the patience or possibly luck in knowing what to do at all times, so that the sequence of events fall into place, this could be a fun retro take on The Walking Dead. Otherwise, the story and level advancement don’t hold their weight, as you can’t really grasp the context of the random dialogue. When everything does fall into place and you know exactly how to advance, it is an excellent experience in post-apocalyptic world of The Walking Dead and everything that I would’ve hoped for in this style. It should be considered for a PS Vita version as well if it's not already in the works.