Escape Plan was something of a mixed bag when it launched alongside the Vita back in February. The gameplay took great advantage of the portable’s diverse control options, and there was a certain lo-fi charm to its black-and-white visuals, but those strengths were unfortunately held back by a few questionable design decisions.
Thankfully, in the months since release, developer Fun Bits Interactive has listened to player feedback and improved the game considerably through a series of title updates. They’ve removed the frustrating gesture limits from the star-rating system, fixed countless bugs, and even added new prequel levels free of charge.
Now, the studio has released the game’s first paid downloadable content, The Asylum. Set just after the conclusion of the main game, this 18-level expansion finds our monochrome heroes, Lil and Laarg, trapped in an insane asylum run by baddie Bakuki.
While The Asylum sees a few new gimmicks and obstacles thrown in for the sake of freshness, the most noticeable shift is in the overall design philosophy. Now that you’re no longer forced to be stingy with your gestures, the levels are free to become much lengthier and more complex. They’re not revolutionary by any means, but the added challenge makes them a bit more enjoyable than the standard batch.
In addition to the new levels, The Asylum introduces new themed costumes for Lil and Laarg (which are every bit as pointless as they sound) and seven new “Efficiency Challenges.” These remix the levels from the game into small groups, then award you a cumulative score based on the time and number of gestures you use to complete each set. Die once, and you’re forced to start over again from the beginning. They’re certainly more accessible than the original challenge mode, which required you to play through the entire game with a limited number of deaths, but counting gestures isn’t any more fun here than it was in the original game, and there’s just not much reason to play them unless you’re a sucker for high scores.
Now, it’s always somewhat unsavory to discuss pricing in a review, but in this case, I think it’s unavoidable. See, Fun Bits has announced that The Asylum will only cost 25¢ for the first two weeks it’s on sale, as something of a “thank you” to everyone who purchased the game. Once the launch promotion is up, though, the price will be raised to $5—a 20-fold hike.
And that’s the real problem here. For a quarter, there’s just not a whole lot a DLC pack needs to do to justify its existence, but when you’re talking about $5—a third of the cost of the base game—expectations are naturally going to be much higher. The Asylum, with its measly half hour of gameplay, just can’t live up to them.
To add insult to injury, the pack ends with a cliffhanger, meaning Fun Bits clearly intends to add to the game again, either with more DLC or a full sequel. Rather than bothering with all this two-tiered pricing nonsense, they could’ve easily just rolled this content into whatever they’re planning for the future. As it stands, they’ve ensured The Asylum has a built-in expiration date, since there’s no real way to rationalize paying five bucks for how little content you’re getting.
For the moment, The Asylum is a solid addition to Escape Plan, and it’s definitely worth picking up if you’re a fan of the main game. Just make sure you nab it before the impending price jump makes it an expensive proposition.
Escape Plan: The Asylum offers enough variety and fun to justify a purchase, but only if you plan on grabbing it before the launch sale ends.
|Escape Plan: The Asylum DLC is available on . Primary version played was for . Product was provided by for the benefit of this coverage. EGM reviews on a scale of one to five stars.|