The Escapists is one of the newest blockbuster indie titles being highlighted on Steam. This game tasks players with escaping various prisons using their wits and cunning to outwit the prison guards. From the standpoint of accessibility, the Escapists is completely accessible for some gamers with impairments, while completely exclusive to others.
To begin with, players with visual disabilities other then color-blindness shouldn’t have any problem accessing the escapists. The visuals are reminiscent of 1980’s pixel-art classics and the font size makes what little text that there is clear and easy to read. As a result, nothing in the escapists is communicated through the use of fine detail. However, players with color-blindness might struggle with this, since one of the major methods of escape involves color-coded locks that require different keys. Since all of these locks are the same shape and roughly the same intensity, some color-blind gamers may have a hard time differentiating between a Utility lock and a Staff lock. Also, as time progresses throughout each day, the lighting changes, and during the night the color-schemes get darker, bluer, and slightly less distinguished.
Bigger issues arise when examining the Escapists for those with fine-motor disabilities. To be honest, i wasn’t able to play the Escapists myself, I had to watch my assistant in order to get the material for this article. This is because while much of the escapists would be considered barrier-free, there are some key elements that are not. For example while the controls are remappable, they are somewhat temperamental in that it took several tries for me to walk through a door because the zones are a little too small, and require too much precision when manipulating the WASD or arrow keys. Similarly, there is a fair emphasis on timing in the Escapists. If you are not present for activities such as daily meals or roll call, the guards suspicion level will rise, and it will become harder to escape. While usually these time windows are generous, because of the less than stellar character movement system, players with disabilities may find themselves fighting the clock more often than they would like. This is especially true during your work hour, which allows you the money to buy the tools you need to escape. Furthermore, there are three main physical attributes that you will need to build in order to excel at the escapists. Strength, speed, and intelligence. Intelligence is the easiest to acquire since it simply requires a single click. Speed and strength however both require rapid, repeated, alternating button presses in order to progress. These quick QTE style activities are what truly excluded me from enjoying the escapists, since you will need strength and speed in order to survive in brawls with other inmates and guards, and do things like digging.
The only unqualified good news in the Escapists comes for those with hearing disabilities. This is because nothing in the game relies on sound or the ability to hear, and the admittedly the soundtrack is a little repetitive, and doesn’t add much to the experience.
On the whole, I wish that the Escapists was more accessible, it is a brilliant idea that is both incredibly flexible and challenging, but because of some design choices, large portions of the disabled gaming community will have at least some level of difficulty with this title.