The PS Vita is ripe for original games with its dual touch screens and, of course, motion technologies. Very few games in the launch lineup take advantage of these features as well as Fun Bits Escape Plan. This grayscale puzzle title uses nothing but the handheld’s distinctive features to allow players to guide its two protagonists through a series of brainteasers. If you like unique and quirky games, Escape Plan is definitely something you will want to download for your shiny new Vita.
I will admit, when I first booted up the game I was confounded. Why is my character not moving when I push the analog stick? Then, I realized that the entire game is controlled using the functionality of the system. Want to move? Slide your finger from left to right. Want to push something from the background to the foreground? Tap on the back touch screen. These little touches take some getting used to, but once it clicks, you’ll begin to appreciate the design of it all.
You play as Lil and Laarg, two characters that couldn’t be more different and, at the same time, so much alike. The idea here is to escape, as the name implies, from the clutches of the evil Bakuki. There are 78 total rooms, each one with its own unique puzzle. What I loved about the game is that there is little penalty for dying. In fact, it serves as more of a learning curve for future rooms. The objective is simple: make it to the exit. In practice, though, you will see your loveable duo perish over and over again. I love that the developers put the death toll directly on the protagonists’ chests. I wonder if the counter can hit a million.
Each puzzle is unique, but the principles eventually start to bleed together. As I said, you can tap the back screen to move items forward or distract guards. You can pinch the front and back to make Lil run faster once he has had some coffee. You can also move the system in order to manipulate the environment. It really does use the gamut of the device’s features. The traditional buttons are actually only used for camera movement. This can be both a good and bad thing. Holding the device to use the screen can sometimes result in poor button presses. I put my system to sleep several times, and even managed to exit the game once by hitting the PS button.
Another small gripe is that actions on the touch screen are oftentimes jarring. I don’t mind messing up because the penalty for failure is literally non-existent, but the game enforces a scoring system that feels unbalanced. You are scored on how many gestures you make, such as swiping the screen or tapping it. The problem is that you can do these actions without much effort, meaning you may have executed 4-5 accidental gestures per level. This negates the scoring system entirely. Ranking me on mistakes because I was adjusting my grip on the machine is not representative of my skill in solving the puzzle.
These issues are definitely ones that will test your patience, but so much of Escape Plan’s charm makes up for them. Like I said, the penalty for failure is not large enough to ever warrant much frustration. The imprecise controls can be annoying, but when you lost 3 to 5 minutes tops of game time, you can’t really be that upset, especially when you reach some of the more unique puzzles and their solution just hits you.
Escape Plan may be unique in its mechanics, but it also sports a pretty special visual style. The game is completely devoid of any color outside of black and white. Each level sparks a unique feel, and the four worlds all feel visually inimitable. In fact, the visual style in and of itself is enough to draw gamers into the world. Before reviewing the game, I was highly intrigued simply because of it. I love the animations when your character perishes, and the little touches, such as the death toll on their chests, are a welcome addition. Audio is also impressive, with audience sound effects and a soundtrack that truly feels out of place and perfect at the same time.
Escape Plan is a wonderfully unique downloadable game that truly takes advantage of the PS Vita hardware. The quirks with the scoring system and finicky controls can be overlooked thanks to its charm. The visual style is distinctive, and the puzzles are challenging, yet accessible for anyone. If you enjoy brainbending games, you definitely need to check out this little gem. I guarantee it will be some of the most fun you have out of your Vita at launch.
Review copy of game provided by publisher.