Just why Sony has talked up Little Deviants ahead of Escape Plan bewilders me. Both titles fully utilise PlayStation Vita’s unique alternate control functionality but it is the latter and not the former that makes Vita all the more exciting to actually get to grips with. Despite its downsized status as a downloadable only game, there’s nothing “Lil” about this “Laarg” byte sized adventure, one that is, if nothing else, one of the best adverts for what the Vita’s tech can actually do.
Escape Plan is the story of two blotchy inky companions, the instantly likeable “Lil” and “Laarg”. As you can probably guess from their names, both characters differ in size and mass and as such have different abilities and different attributes to contribute in their quest to escape the insular dorms and death rooms of the facilities ahead of them. The game’s visual styling looks wonderful on Vita. This would almost certainly be up to scratch on the PlayStation 3. There’s a kind of white and white noire feel to everything. Never once does a colour that isn’t somewhere between the black, white and grey spectrum allow itself into the picture. It’s unanimously charming and despite its bleak exterior, it’s actually quite pretty to look at.
The game comprises of micro-levels, rooms that encourage you to think about how best to make it from the entrance to the exit without getting killed and essentially splattering your black vinyl guts all over the walls, floors and ceilings. It can be quite tough though. What you have here is a very slow platformer that involves a considerable about of puzzle solving. How you interact with the rooms is completely down to how you use the Vita’s touch screen, track pad and SIXAXIS. Each room is filled with any number of contraptions, like wall fans, barrels, or even the odd enemy or two, and you have to figure out how best to overcome these obstacles to get through. You will die, you will die a lot. Lil and Laarg are quite vulnerable. If something so much as winks at them they will die, re-spawning with a number on their chest reminding you just how many times they’ve died in the time you’ve been trying to figure out how to get out of the room you are stuck in.
Everything is done on the touch screen for the most part. You can tap and swipe at both characters to get them to actually move in the direction you want them to go. Laarg can actually bounce off the ground and push his way through any weak flooring. All of these interactions are done via the touch screen. You can also alert the characters to devices that can be interacted with. They can inhale helium to expand and hover, or drink coffee to become a little more alert and frenzied. Once again, all of this is achieved by touching items in the room. You can drag barrels out of vents by touching them, spin walls fans by making circular motions with your finger, or plug up poisonous gas leaks with your digits too. Some of the interactions are quite clever and will take you a few goes before you realise that the game will actually actively allow you to perform a certain action. The same can be said for the track pad. You can push platforms forward towards you or close doors and push items towards the protagonist using the rear pad. Again, it works quite well. Following that you will tilt the Vita and guide the characters from time to time too, so there’s quite a few Vita features working in tandem here in order to get both characters from point A to point B.
The controls can be cumbersome though, especially when it comes to actually interacting with both characters directly. Sometimes it takes them more than a few nudges to actually get where they are supposed to be going. Sometimes even a moment’s hesitance will get you killed. For whatever reason though, you can actually skip any levels you are stuck on. Why they allow you to this is bizarre. If something’s worth completing, it’s worth doing it in order.
There’s no more than three hours of gameplay in here and very little replay value, unless of course you’re a trophy hunter. It could have been potentially bulked out a little bit more, but for everything it does, it does it quite well.
Lil and Laarg will probably never achieve PlayStation mascot status, but they certainly have a neat little game under their belts with this first outing. Let’s hope there’s more Escape Plan in the future in some way shape or form, be it DLC or something else. If you’re looking for something a little different with a unique sense of novelty from your Vita then give this a go.
TGL SCORE 7/10
Release date: Out Now
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
Developer: Fun Bits