Sometimes, games come along that are just missing a little something.  Escape Plan, is one of those titles, and it seems to have misplaced the fun. It’s hard to figure out why, though.  It would seem Fun Bits Interactive and SCEA are on to something with this almost fun  game, but it may take a sequel to really land a solid fan base.

Escape Plan is a cell phone style puzzle game that almost exclusively uses the front and back touch screens for control.  The only time you will move away from the touch screen is to explore the entire level with the right thumb stick.  The touch controls are, unfortunately, where the game falls flat.  They just not tight enough for a puzzle game that requires a great deal of accuracy to finish each stage.

This will happen to you... a lot.

In all honesty, I spent the later parts of the game figuring out how the puzzle worked, giving it a few shots, then skipping the level.  You can do this without any drawback besides losing the stars for the level that you decided not to stumble through.  Even with ten or so skipped levels, I was able to see the ending, credits and hints at an inevitable sequel.

But what does Escape Plan get right?  Everything but the controls is the short answer.  Art, music, level design (if you could control the game), humor, interface and polish are all top notch.  The problem is, video games need to control well to be enjoyable.  Even with all the spit, shine, giggles and wonderful soundtrack, it is hard to enjoy your trip through this puzzler when you are constantly struggling to control it.  Parts of the game require you to hold your finger over a hole in a pipe so the smoke won’t kill your little guys.  Eventually, you need to plug four or five leaks while also controlling the characters, and with my giant hands, I couldn’t see the screen anymore.  Maybe those of you with pencil like fingers will have less trouble at that point.

The number on Laarg is the amount of deaths, I ended up with 50+ on each by the end.

The game is black and white throughout, which gives it a silent movie feel.  Escape Plan has an invisible audience that laughs and claps as you fart, push bricks and kill bad guys, but is never acknowledged.  The Gunstringer did something similar, but much more effectively by showing the audience throughout your journey.  EP is basically a beautiful piece of art, disguised as a less beautiful game.

You will play as Lil and Laarg, two friends trying to escape the evil Bakuki’.  Each level should last between ten seconds to two minutes and will give you 0-3 stars based on the number of gestures and how long it takes to complete the stage.  The setup of the game is very similar to Angry Birds or Cut The Rope, which made me feel like I was playing a game originally envisioned as an iOS or Android game.

Bubbles are fun, once.

Lil and Laarg will journey through a dystopian factory, apparently used to harvest their race for some insidious purpose.  If they ever told me what is was, I forgot somewhere between my frustration and feeling of total defeat.  While the art style is wonderful at first, nothing ever changes.  Sure bubbles, sheep and electricity will be added to levels as you progress through the factory, but after 40-50 trips through the same environments, especially considering the complete lack of color, you start to wish for anything different, and never get it.

One thing that never gets old with Escape Plan is the music.  You’ll recognize a great deal of the soundtrack, most of it is classical music spanning the ages.  At the half way point, you even get an intermission with a great track that gives you a much needed moment of relief.

The game does have a nice visual flair.

The title will also remind you of how much you have failed.   Each character has a number on his chest that will correspond to the amount of deaths with that character.  I ended up with 50+ on both Lil and Laarge but only 10-15 of those were not control related.  Those numbers added more to the frustration of the game than the enjoyment.   A small complaint, but a complaint none-the-less.

I’m sure there will be fans out there that will ultimately love the game, but I imagine those will be few and far between.  Escape Plan is like a stereotypical supermodel; amazing to look at, fun to mess around with for a little while, but ultimately lacking the substance to keep you invested for the long haul.

Here’s the Rundown:
+ Music
+ Art
+ Humor
– Controls
– Controlling
– Anything having to do with controlling the controls

6 and 6.5 represent a game that doesn’t do anything spectacular or drastically fails to meet the high expectations people had for it. These scores are for games that you would only recommend to diehard fans of the series or genre, something that the average gamer wouldn’t miss very much if he/she skipped it. A game in this range has rental written all over it.

Escape Plan was developed by Fun Bits Interactive and published by SCEA for PS Vita. The game was released in North America on February 14, 2012 with an MSRP of $14.99. The copy used in this review was provided to RipTen by the publisher for the purposes of review.