With the vibrant screen of the Vita, it might come as a surprise that one of the most beautiful games coming for the system is black and white. Escape Plan makes use of every bit of that visual potential, though. Only a screen of its capabilities could display the fine gradation of greys the style demands. Screenshots only partly do it justice. The game looks like a fine classic cartoon, lovingly drawn on paper, and come to life on the Vita's screen.
Chris Millar, CEO at Fun Bits, the studio developing the game, told me that one of the early influences of the game in fact came from the award winning animated short film "Rejected" by Don Hertzfeldt (watchable below and well worth the 9 minutes to see if you haven't). Throughout my demo the game struck the chord perfectly with just the right selection of music the ranged from orchestral classics to original music that sounded lke something a French café of the 30's. And there are little touches too, like a subtle sound of audience applause when a puzzle is successfully overcome.
The core concept behind the game was already an idea the team had been kicking around prior to the Vita. Two characters, Laarg and Lil, must escape from captivity. The player helps them make their getaway by solving the puzzle each room poses so they can advance. It plays something like a classic adventure, with lots of tapping items on the screen and interacting with them. With a controller, it just never quite clicked for them. But when they got an early look at the Vita, it was an obvious fit for the touch and tilt controls.
The result is a simple to control game, which keeps the focus on interacting with the two characters and solving the puzzles they face. A simple swipe slaps Lil or Laarg, getting them moving; a tap tells them to stop. Most off the rest on the game plays the same, with touches--from the front, but sometimes the back as well--handling pretty much everything needed.
Lil and Laarg also have two unique abilities. Laarg can do a powerful wall or butt smash to break through obstacles and Lil can dash and inflate. The latter is one of the more clever uses of the system's touch controls. Once blown up like a balloon, Lil is pinched--from front and back--to squeeze out an air jet for propulsion.
There are some enemies in levels of the game. They too reflect the game's quirky style. Millar described them as, "Red Bull infused oompa-loompas in vinyl suits." I think that gives a pretty good glimpse into the creative imagination that's going into Escape Plan. It's one of those evocative games that if it speaks to you connects almost immediately. At least, it has with me, and now sits right at the top of my most anticipated Vita launch games.