There has been a lot of attention paid to the PlayStation Vita's retail launch line-up, but that doesn't mean that the PlayStation Network doesn't have a little something to offer to new Vita owners as well. Nestled alongside 275 or so PSP games are a handful of Vita only titles, the most unique of which is Fun Bits Interactive's Escape Plan. It's the monochromatic adventure of two imprisoned test subjects as they try and escape their bleak fate with their lives intact.
Lil and Laarg are being held against their will in Bakuki's facility where bad things are happening. Players need to help Lil and Laarg escape by completing a series of puzzles, one room at a time. Control both characters by using the front and rear touch screens for standard moves (go forward with a swipe, touch to stop), as well as a unique skill based on their body size. Give Lil a pinch after he's had some coffee and he'll sprint across the screen, whereas Laarg can smash through walls and floors.
The Vita's graphics have been one of its biggest selling points since it was announced, with Uncharted being the flagship title used to demonstrate the console quality visuals. However, Escape Plan does just as good of a job showing off how crisp a game can look on the Vita's OLED by putting the system's grays to the test. If you've ever bought an HDTV then you know that the contrast ratio is one of the most important features, since being able to distinguish between different grays is what really defines images. Escape Plan's monochromatic color scheme really demonstrates the range of definition you can get from the Vita's glorious screen.
While Escape Plan does have a lot going for it, the game's controls may end up being a sticking point for some gamers. With touch being the main input method for the game, players will need to hold the Vita in one hand, and point with the other. While this is an easy task for a smaller device, like an iPhone, the Vita gets to be a little bulky when trying to hold it with just one hand, especially when you need to touch both the front and rear screens. It's far from ruining the experience, but it does take some getting used to.
Each room in Escape Plan is expertly designed, and will make even well versed gamers stop and think about their next move. However, as with most puzzle games, there's a very good chance that the twisted puzzles of Escape Plan are likely to become a bit too difficult later in the game, as new gameplay opens up to Lil and Large. Experienced gamers shouldn't have trouble balancing the sometimes-frantic gameplay with the precision controls. However, novice gamers might get frustrated trying to coordinate multiple touches on multiple screens in a very short period of time before Lil and/or Laarg die, again.
If nothing else, two of the absolute best things in Escape Plan are Lil and Laarg. The quiet couple should emerge from this release as newly minted stars. While neither character has a voice, or a mouth for that matter, their presence on screen is consistently entertaining and amusing. From Lil's caffeinated dance to Laarg's tendency to fall at the accidental tap, Fun Bits have created two are adorable characters that we'll hopefully see more from in the future.
Overall, Escape Plan is simply one of the most unique Vita launch titles - bringing creative gameplay mixed with entertaining characters to the small screen. While the controls may come with a bit of a learning curve, Escape Plan demonstrates how to create a well-designed, robust experience for a game with touch controls. The puzzles may get to be a little too challenging for some, but you never know what kinds of skills you may learn and be able to use the next time you wake up in a mysterious facility, with no clue how you got there. In other words, think of Escape Plan as more an investment in your future than anything else.