If you've played Prison Architect, then you probably wondered what it was like for the inmates trying to escape. How would you fare in their prison-issue shoes? Thanks to The Escapists, you can find out! Your mission should you choose to accept it, is to escape a prison. Right now it's only a single prison, as this is an Early Access game. However, it is pretty much complete, apart from that.
The graphics are top-down sprites, however you never struggle to work out what's going on with digging animations and the likes. The music suits the mood and changes depending on what is going on. For instance - it's more militant when it's time for roll call, more relaxed during the free time.
You live the life of a convict - which means following the rules of the prison. You must attend roll call, meet a quote in your prison job and not have contraband or be caught somewhere you shouldn't be. Every morning you have to go to roll call, then breakfast followed by your job. There is a job in the kitchen, pressing metal into license plates, washing clothes or making chairs. You have to meet a quote, otherwise you lose your job and don't get any money to buy things from your fellow inmates. After work - or free time should you quit or lose it - there is another roll call, then free time. This is followed by dinner, exercise and a shower. Finally, you have one more roll call and bedtime. Bedtime means saving - which won't happen should you try to go to sleep after 4am. This means that reloading will take you back two days and undo all of your progress, should you decide you need to reload.
Missing a roll call results in the prison going into lockdown - all doors lock and backup is called. You then have 90 seconds to escape or be found by a guard before you're found by the police. Being found gets you put in solitary confinement for three days. You can miss anything else through the day, so long as you're not spotted somewhere else. If you're spotted, the guards start getting suspicious in increments - 10% for getting spotted in, say, the showers during dinner time, 15% for being in someone else's cell or fighting. At 100% you get put in solitary.
If you decide to breakout and not serve your sentence, you have several options. Dig out, copy a guard's key or take over the prison. Of course, none of these are the easy option. You need to find somewhere to dig that won't be spotted, or find a way to hide it while you're not there. Or you need a load of putty and melted plastic to copy keys. Or you need to make all the other cons friendly towards you, so you can have their help.
You can do jobs for people such as distracting the guards during a certain time of day, beating someone up or finding something they need. This gets you a little money and some opinion points. You can also just give them stuff or money to increase these points. There are certain cons who will sell you things, four items at a time, such as special items like foil, timber, files or even things you can find in bedside cupboards like toothpaste and magazines. However it is very luck based - the cons have new inventory every roll call, but it doesn't help your digging out if, for five days, nobody ever has any timber to craft into braces.
You can carry six items at a time, which means you have to plan ahead. Do you take four spoons, or only two and hope you can get some duct tape, timber and a metal plate? Will you need the cup of molten chocolate to take down a guard - if so will you have time to steal his key and copy it, so need some putty? You can drop things on the floor, but there's a chance the guards will pick it up and dispose of it. Keeping contraband in your bedside cupboard will result in you getting put in solitary, should your cell get searched. Every roll call, two convicts are chosen to have a cell toss - handily they tell you so. Should you see your name pop up, you should probably run back to your cell and make sure there's nothing with red writing - meaning contraband - on it.
Now, on to the actual escape. There are guards with sniper rifles, making escape during the day pretty much impossible. But if you get out of your cell at night, you run the risk of being spotted and immediately put in lockup. However, getting out gives you eight game hours to do whatever you like. Unfortunately, doing anything like digging, cutting, exercising or reading eats away at your stamina. You need to eat, shower or sleep to be able to do more, therefore it's important to work out a balance - which is the main challenge in the game.
You can get out of the first prison pretty easily - once you have the schedule worked out. You can dig instead of eat, but you need to eat to dig - or you can spend all of your time reading to get the job pressing plates, so long as you attend roll calls. It turns out that breaking out of prison involves a lot of patience and a lot of luck. And it will be fun seeing what else comes of The Escapists when it reaches release.