Spectrum 2.0

Review of 'Great Escape, The'

Rating:5 User: WhenIWasCruel

17 October 2016

by John Heap (Denton Designs)

The Great Escape was a further development of 3d isometric games, taking the scrolling approach of Nightshade [or even Ant Attack] and linking it with a strong arcade/adventure gameplay, based on exploration and use of items, in order to escape from a prison camp. It follows the direction of Fairlight, more than the platformer inclination of Knight Lore. Not only, it creates an enviroment that is organic, if very circumscribed, and that works in a collective movement of characters busy in the cycle of the day, prisoners and guards. It's the classic loop movement of a character or element of an ordinary game - moving through a pre-established trajectory – here expanded to become the dynamic representation of a small community, the community of a prison camp. Another exceptionality of The Great Escape is that there is no death, there are no enemies to kill or to jump or dodge in order to avoid a consequent death: your only possible death is a moral one, a terminal demoralization that makes your character lose any will of escape - each time you're caught, and do time in the isolation cell, the flag displayed at the side of the screen will lower: once it touches the bottom, there will be nothing you can do - your sprite will follow the daily routine without being controllable anymore.

It's up to you disrupting the mechanicity of the routine, skipping, for example, the exercise time or breakfast time to look for tools and items useful to the escape. The kind of charge-up tension while you're in a forbidden area or room, picking a lock, with the bell ringing alarmingly, fearing the sudden appearance of the captain or guards is something rare in a Spectrum game.
In the 2d world, a small community in movement had already been depicted in Skool Daze, with a set of very distinctive characters, stuck in a loop of school lessons, so not in a more somber way as the whole days and nights in a prison camp in TGE. The black and white graphics turn into black and blue in the night, and you'll discover at your own peril that going out of the barrack in these hours is very dangerous – lurking spotlights could find you, and the guards start chasing you. The days are differentiated by the arrive of the Red Cross parcel, a box you can open, which will cointain a different item each day for various days before restarting from the first one. A relatively small portion of the playing area is displayed, framed in barbed wire, while your sprite wanders around totally identical to the other prisoners, details that help to create a slight sense of claustrophobia and loss and and a sense of depersonalization, or just of... lack of memory.