I’d heard a lot about The Escapists before playing this sorta-sequel. It’s a prison simulator, right? So, how would that translate to the brutal world of The Walking Dead? Well, the answer depends on what you’re looking for. As a Walking Dead and Escapists game, Team17’s The Escapists: The Walking Dead works very well, with prison life being traded for a harsh life running from the living dead. But, if you’re looking for a violent horror title like The Walking Dead: Survival Instinct or a story-driven apocalypse tale like Telltale’s The Walking Dead, you’d best look elsewhere. The story is restricted to short still-images and text before and after a level along with text bubbles above characters during gameplay, and these just touch on important parts in the lore. It’s a small weakness, but one nonetheless.
The game follows the comic books rather than the television show, though since the two medias share locations, you’ll recognize a lot of them regardless of which you prefer. The story starts when Rick Grimes wakes from his coma in an abandoned hospital up to a race against time in Alexandria with stops in The Governor’s Woodbury and a correctional facility. Each level opens with a set goal that you have to reach however you want while collecting supplies and surviving the zombies. You also have to perform daily routines to keep morale up and keep the base safe, from attending meals to doing chores (i.e. laundry, sewing pillows, unloading supplies). If you don’t and miss too many, the danger level goes up and soon zombies will start randomly spawning in the usually-safe confines of the home base. This can spell certain doom for your survivors if you don’t gear them and yourself up. To do this, you use the game’s simple crafting system to create armor, weapons, tools and consumables from random items you find around the fairly-open levels. As mentioned before, though, don’t come looking for a narrative-driven like Telltale’s games.
The audio is a bit repetitive, but that’s to be expected and it does fit the game well. The graphics are very endearing, playing on modern consoles but looking more like it belongs on the SNES or Genesis. The characters even walk in place like games from generations ago. There are no graphical glitches to speak of, though other bugs do pop up. For instance, in one level, I saved and when I came back later I’d be turned into Carl Grimes, Rick’s son. I was named Carl, had Carl’s stats, and even my personal desk of items had been renamed “Carl’s Desk”. This wasn’t fixed my reloading, either! In another level, when I laid in bed to rest and got up I was teleported outside the playable area of the level and couldn’t re-enter. Out of the 15 hours I played, this only happened twice, so it’s not exactly common, but it can cause a lot of issues and a restart if they do. In the case of the Carl glitch, I had to start a new save for that level.
The Escapists: The Walking Dead is a fun little game. You can spend hours playing and replaying levels, killing zombies, collecting loot, and trying to beat your score. The problem is that if this isn’t your main goal, it can be a short experience. With only four levels and the means to beat each level fairly quickly if you know what you’re doing, the replayability is minimal. But, if you want an enjoyable romp through the undead-plagued world, crafting Molten Coffee to throw at Walkers, then this is a great choice.