Jul 24, 2013
Escape From Alcatraz as a retro-looking jailbreak puzzler that is quite interesting. I mean, the very name Alcatraz invokes thoughts of the strong arm of the unforgiving law.
I admit, I’m a sucker for arcade-type 8-bit gtaphics. This game got me. Minimal coloration meets old’school animations. It’s effective, and for folks like me, attractive too. It feels a bit like Rogue.
The gameplay is in parts interesting, in parts infuriating. Controlling our freedom-craving jailbird using a simple, 4-way virtual d-pad, the simple goal is to roam around, collect items and effect the escape. It is fairly simple gameplay, that is fairly forgiving of basic bungling around. Interactions are a big part of the game; nearby objects can be collected to be used.
For example, using a sheet to procure a dropped bunch of keys gets the caper underway. Going “up” and “down” from cell to cell (and then to and from rooms) allows for the collections of more materials, and the interaction with other persons. Objects and tools can’t just be collected wantonly; there is a limit to how many items can be stored in inventory. Thus, there are times when an object might be collected to fill up the inventory, and then one that is more immediately useful is encountered; it can be good strategy to ditch the temporarily unneeded gear for a later time. I liked such subtle, logical elements that fit into the gameplay. The gameplay is all about solving mini-puzzles and situational riddles to get the jigsaw of escape complete.
The game is not so easy as just wondering around, solving puzzles and escaping, though. There are things to be avoided. Like guards… of course. Running into a guard is game death, euphemistically known as being returned to the cell. Going down the wrong path and falling, for instance, or using overly loud equipment bring about the same dismal result.
On the other hand, while I think the simplicity is mostly charming, I think the combination process is a bit clunky by way of too many button presses. The bumbler in me would have also appreciated some save points; all or nothing is part of the challenge.
Escape from Alcatraz is a pleasant time waster that is surprisingly hard to put down. No matter what anyone says, escaping from that prison is/was always fascinating. This game lets us keep on pretending we can.