If you trust the internet, bacon is allegedly the best thing ever made, behind cats and pornography. It’s amazing how memetic it’s become; some salty-tasting pork is apparently descended from heaven itself and has the power to cure cancer; even though it’s far from the truth. Nevertheless, even if I don’t personally understand the fascination, the world has a love affair with bacon. As such, why not base an entire mobile game around the meat? Specifically, it’s raw bacon, or as they’re scientifically known, pigs, so the creators have the added appeal of cute animals – not a bad approach to take in making Bacon Escape.
Bacon Escape is fairly high-concept: you play as a pig and must escape prison on a minecart on abandoned and rickety train tracks. Along the way, you must avoid obstacles to make it to the finish line on each level, as well as collecting extra lives in the form of apples and optional cosmetic pick-ups to allow you to customise your game, such as different player characters and minecarts. It uses a simplistic yet established framework: linear progression of levels that get increasingly harder with non-mandatory pick-ups for more interested players, and harder, more challenging routes on levels you’ve already played that offer more coins. I strongly believe in starting as you mean to go on, and Bacon Escape does exactly that, offering a strong start that will initially impress players with how much depth it looks to offer, especially for a mobile game.
Brevity is the soul of wit when it comes to writing, but for mobile games, simplicity is the soul of fun. Bacon Escape, in its high-concept genius, can be played with one finger. It’s an on-rails 2.5D game where the minecart, without any player control, moves to the right; the general consensus being that the pig itself is in control the vehicle, not you. Instead, the player is in charge of the track itself. Much like the staircases at Hogwarts, it has several moving parts which can be switched, and they’re all colour-coded for player convenience. Blue parts switch on and off, and a single press changes their position and red parts have to be held down to stay in place. This involves switching parts of the track to avoid pitfalls and line up jumps to secure yourself extra coinage. Bacon Escape, as such, begins as a puzzle game and ends up a rhythm game, where the colour-coded tracks start to get faster, begin to flash by, and then a new test begins; your reflexes get tested, and it suddenly becomes a dance: tap, hold, tap, tap, hold, hold, tap. This makes the game shockingly engrossing for what it is, heightening the motivation to get the little piggy out of prison.
It works well, but that doesn’t mean the game lacks frustration. You need to execute all of it’s little sequential taps perfectly, or else your pig will either fall to his doom or get trapped. Thankfully (or not – this is a double edged sword, decide which side fits you best) you can resume play from wherever you last died by watching an advert or spending some of your in-game currency to start from where you left off – free-to-play gaming saves the day. It befits those who are looking for casual play. but if you insist on doing things properly when you die, no bother – Bacon Escape doesn’t insist you play by the casual rules, and you can start from the beginning for the level, which should offer a fitting challenge for those who seek it.
What makes or breaks this game is the level of control. Thankfully, in this regard, Bacon Escape is extremely responsive to the player’s touch, and there’s absolutely zero lag in between inputs, despite how much potential mayhem could be occurring on screen at any given time. Even with the frustration of potentially getting it wrong, if you’re in the zone and get everything right, Bacon Escape is a joy to play, and that comes in no small part to how fluidly it runs on screen. Any sort of visual stutter could have made or broken this game, but thankfully, it deftly sidesteps it.
Visually, Bacon Escape is fair. Not bad, not outstanding, it’s just fine. Everything in the game is chunky, colourful, and 3D-modelled, which will doubtless appeal to those who are very young, but in comparison to other titles available on the App Store (especially when 3D on mobiles has come such a long way), the graphics of Bacon Escape look a bit cheap and rough. Nothing that won’t pass expectations, especially when you remember that your eyes might not be taking it all in as you’re always watching the track to see what’s next, but it is a marked cut under the aesthetic standards already set for mobile games.
Musically, this game is a failure. It could have played any selection of heroic or stimulating musical pieces to punctuate the action. Instead they go for garish EDM that channels the woeful “Party Rock Anthem” by LMFAO (yes, really). I suppose it will play well with the kids; fair enough, but this is just high-frequency noise, and this is coming from someone who appreciates dance music, so you can stop writing angry letters to the editor now. Bottom line is that the piercing din just doesn’t blend well with the rest of the action; this stuff belongs in a desolate on-rails shooter, or maybe Final Fantasy X-III, but not here.
Despite shortcomings that could admittedly be counted on a single hand, Bacon Escape comes off favourable and, in terms of quality, manages to rise above the hoi-polloi of mobile games. A lot of adages and neat phrases get thrown around in games journalism, so indulge me as I do it again: Bacon Escape is easy to play but hard to master, and I think that’s what makes it so appealing to play, especially on the handheld screen. Illusion Labs has performed well here, and in terms of saving the on-rails rhythm game, pig-in-a-minecart genre, it really saved its bacon.
Bacon Escape (Reviewed on iOS)
This game is good, with a few negatives.
A good outing that sees a few minor shortfalls that don’t hideously impact the game, Bacon Escape is worth sinking your teeth into.