Fol­low­ing a range of down­load­able add-ons, and a suc­cess­ful spin-off themed around

TheWalk­ingDead, Mouldy Toof Stu­dios’ top-down prison-es­cape strat­egy is get­ting the se­quel treat­ment. The Escapists 2’ s big­gest new fea­ture is a drop-in, drop-out mul­ti­player mode, though the team has taken the time to ad­dress the most com­mon com­plaints lev­elled at its pre­de­ces­sor. “One crit­i­cism of the orig­i­nal was that if your plans were scup­pered, you were just told that you’d done some­thing wrong and that was that,” says de­signer Grant Tow­ell. “So it was quite pun­ish­ing and bru­tal. This time there are no in­sta-busts. We’ve come up with new so­lu­tions to get around that.”

One of those so­lu­tions is a new star sys­tem for alerts, sim­i­lar to GTA’s Wanted rat­ings. If a guard spots some­thing amiss, they’ll head to the se­cu­rity room to re­port it and the num­ber of stars will in­crease, with se­cu­rity tight­en­ing ac­cord­ingly: more pa­trols will be posted, and later you’ll have guard dogs to worry about. Good be­hav­iour will bring that down, but if you no­tice a guard about to re­port some­thing, you can knock them out en route to the se­cu­rity room and they’ll for­get what they were do­ing. It won’t be game over, even with a max­i­mum star rat­ing, though you’ll face a chal­lenge es­cap­ing when there’s a full lock­down. “It al­lows you to re­group and fix the is­sues with your es­cape plans, rather than start again,” Tow­ell ex­plains. “So it’s more for­giv­ing, but there’s still that buzz of, ‘I’m go­ing to do it tonight.’”

Pris­ons will be big­ger this time, spread across sev­eral floors. We’re given a guided tour of Rat­tlesnake Springs, a Wild West fort whose con­victs all sport black-and-white hooped uni­forms. Along­side the more generic es­cape meth­ods – like dig­ging holes or cut­ting through fences – each jail has a set of be­spoke es­capes, tai­lored to­wards the num­ber of play­ers. And the pixel res­o­lu­tion has been dou­bled: it re­tains the sim­ple charm of the orig­i­nal de­signs, but it’s un­doubt­edly a bet­ter-look­ing game.

Com­bat, mean­while, is less rudi­men­tary than in the orig­i­nal, with blocks and rush at­tacks, while you’ll have a bet­ter idea of who and who not to pick a fight with, since the weapons of tooled-up cons are clearly dis­played. And there are no cut­aways: ev­ery­thing plays out in re­al­time, so you’ll see guards car­ry­ing you to the in­fir­mary or soli­tary con­fine­ment. Spells in soli­tary can be ac­cel­er­ated by com­plet­ing a sim­ple potato-peel­ing minigame. There’s a wider range of QTE styles for your prison chores, too. And the new game will have a much broader cus­tomi­sa­tion pal­ette. “Last time I checked, we had 278 dif­fer­ent [cos­metic] un­lock­ables,” Tow­ell says. “I think we’ve ac­tu­ally got more hair­cuts in this game than there ex­ists in real life.”

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