PC, Xbox One; £12.99; Release Date: 13 February

Most games ask you to solve puzzles. Few games expect you to have an encyclopaedic knowledge of prison films to solve those puzzles. Here’s The Escapists, a wondrously challenging game from Mouldy Toof Studios, with help from Worm’s creators Team 17. Still going through it’s beta stages (the full game’s released on Feb 13) the game already has a pretty large YouTube following.

Chris Davis, the game’s developer, didn’t expect it: “It surprised me how popular it is for streaming… there are certain games which I thought wouldn’t appeal to being watched but The Escapists seems to be one… people enjoy watching it, I think cause of the adventures the streamer brings to it, I guess that’s the appeal, but it’s popular, I think that’s responsible for how it’s been doing lately.” It’s not just a slightly popular, videos have millions of views and thousands of comments.

In The Escapists you play as a prisoner in a series of prisons with one simple goal: to escape, but, obviously, that is never as simple as it seems – with each prison having multiple ways of escaping, as well as different guards, fellow prisoners and crafting tools – used to make new items out of other item you find, steal or buy.

 

You could, for instance, spend your days bulking up in the gym until you’re strong enough to overpower all the guards. You could tunnel your way through the walls using kitchen cutlery (not recommended), but risk getting caught out by random searches. Whatever you choose, you need to find a way through that fence at the end.

If you did choose to tunnel your way through the wall you could always craft a poster to hide your tunnel. If that sounds familiar it’s because it’s the ending of lauded prison film Shawshank Redemption (if that was a spoiler, you really should have seen it by now). A lot of the items have backgrounds in popular culture and real life; if you’ve seen it in Prison Break it probably works in The Escapists.

“I was watching loads of movies,” Chris says, “watching all the shows, I was on Google finding out what people, real prisoners, had made to escape prisons. I was doing a lot of research to get it all in – even some of the more over the top weapons in the game are all from real prisons.” So, which over the top weapons would that be exactly? “People have made whips out of wire with razor blades attached to it.” Gory, but available to craft.

The pop-culture detail gives the game the extra jazz it needs to be really fun, it adds a referential element that draws you more into the plotting and planning that take up most of the game time. Just be warned, this is not a pick-up-and-play commuter game, this is a your-entire-weekend kind of game. It’s time to rewatch Prison Break.

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