ST Graveyard has written 62 additional reviews
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Does the nickname Orion_ ring a bell? Have you ever heard of a guy named Cedric Bourse perhaps? I have to admit, I didn't. Shame on me, right? It wasn't until I bought the game Escape 2042 and went to the authors website that I could tie the knots together. It seems Orion_ has made some games for Atari systems in the past, and I knew I had seen some of them before. A beautiful platformer for the Falcon CT60 and Jaguar called Alice's Mom's Rescue, 2 'Myst' like games for the Falcon called Elansar and Philia and the puzzler Yopaz on the ST...among others. I was really excited last month when Orion_, out of nowhere, posted a thread on Atari-Forum announcing his new game would be available for the STe soon. Escape 2042 wasn't coded for the STe specifically. Although the game is created in assembler and it makes use of the enhancements of the machine, it is actually already over 1 year old. It was first released in 2017 for the Sega Megadrive/Genesis, Nintendo Gameboy and the Atari Jaguar. So saying Orion_ is a great coder, seems like an understatement. This guy knows his hardware, that is for sure.
The story of the game goes a bit as follows. We are in the future (2042 I guess ... duh!) and a corrupt governement is dictating to the people, removing anyone who gets in their way. You are Shun, a computer specialist. After a clandestine operation to inform the people of what is going on, you are locked up in the high security prison called Bulor 24. However, there is one catch...You are actually a member of the "Truth Defenders" coalition. Now it is your job to 'hack' (as in "computer hacking"!) your way out of the prison and into the open world.
It is always tough for me to stay objective as a true Atari nuttcase when a new game is released. But let's try. Is Escape worth your money?
I don't really know how they pulled it off, but Escape 2042 almost looks like one of those Indie games we have today on our consoles. The animation of the main character, albeit small, is very nicely done and when there is horizontal scrolling happening, it is super smooth. The levels feature a nice array of colors and each world looks very different than the other. Between levels we have short cutscenes explaining bits and pieces as the story unfolds. I'm actually very impressed by the quality of it all.
This game features sampled music throughout. I have read from some people they got annoyed by the music looping over and over, but not me. I'm loving every bit of it, from the catchy tunes in the prison world to the atmospheric forest sounds in the last one. I just love it when something special is done with the STe. There aren't many sound effects apart from the exploding bomb, the shooting of the guards or the 'beep beep beep' when a camera traces you. The music definitely gets the upperhand, and that is not a bad thing.
There is one annoyance I want to get out of the way. I don't know if this would affect you as a player, or if it is even valid, but to me it was a bit of a nuisance. Ever since the release of Supa Zazai Da, I love playing ST games using the XBOX 360 controller on STEEM. However, the control scheme for Escape 2042 is as follows. Left and right to move the player in that direction, up for jumping and down ... to call your inventory screen! Now, let me tell you something, when you are playing a game with a controller using the d-pad and one of the directions is used for anything else but moving, you are in for some frustration. As was the case with Escape 2042. You run, you jump and ... there pops up the menu screens as your thumb accidently pressed down (or anywhere near it). Well you get the idea. I did test it on my Atari ST with a regular joystick and that works much better. Eventually I also mastered the controls using the d-pad. I just wonder how the game would play on a Sega Megadrive or Gameboy, knowing this mechanic.
But that is about the only real complaint I have about the game. Now what is Escape all about, you might ask? To me, it is a mix of Impossible Mission and even a little bit of Flashback. You control your character as explained above, and you have to avoid guards, cameras, electrical fields and spikes. There are doors for you to unlock before you are able to leave a certain screen. To unlock doors, you need to find key cards or hack computers. Hacking computers is easy. A certain combination of directions are shown and you have to mimic these correctly within 5 seconds. if you manage to do this, a certain part of the level becomes available. But beware, if you press one wrong button, you are killed. There are more items to pick up, apart from keycards, and these are grenades and fire extinguishers. Grenades are used to kill guards. This is also something that needs practise as you will find yourself hitting a grenade against a ceiling or camera more than once instead of the original target you were aiming at. With the extinguisher you are able to stun a camera for a few seconds. If you come within sight of a camera, it is 'poof' and you need to restart the screen. You do, however, have infinite lives.
There are 3 difficulty settings: easy, normal and hard. Hard mode eliminates the use of grenades and in easy mode, computer hacking is not necessary. I definitely recommend normal mode for starters. The game also features 2 mini games in between the main levels. The first one is some kind of vertical shoot 'em up. But instead of shooting hordes of enemies, you are flying through a meteor field and are chased by spaceships. It is up to you to avoid the incoming meteors without getting shot from behind. You have to lure the enemy into crashing onto one of the incoming meteors. It is a very nice take on the genre and I wish the game had more of it. The second mini game is a rock climbing game where you need to get to the bottom of the pit. Oddly enough, I never encountered this mini game in normal mode and I did see the end screen! I wonder what happened as I'm sure the Jaguar version of the game did feature it.
The level design is actually really good. All these things combined make for a great action-packed puzzle platformer. If I would put a tag on this game, I would call it a 'Stealth Platformer' as you are unable to shoot (apart from a grenade now and then) and you need to avoid the cameras and the guards. It almost feels like a 2D Splinter Cell.
The game consists of 3 main worlds and 9 levels. You receive a level code each time so you don't need to restart from scratch when your frustration levels go through the roof (and yes, this can happen here). The first world has you escape the prison facility and is by far the largest and most difficult part of the game. The second world is a desert like environment and features the same mechanics as the first world. The third and final world however has you running through a maze-like jungle with dead ends and tricky traps. This final part is really suited for some speedrun fun.
Escape 2042 is a really good game. It has its frustrating moments, and it requires practise. The controls, once you are used to them, are amazing and it is super fun the have Shun do these fast and tricky jumps over guards while avoiding the camera's sight. People have complained that this game is too short and I do understand that. For me however, it is just perfect. I completed the game in normal mode in 4 and a bit hours. There were screens that I had to attempt numerous times but once completed I was filled with satisfaction. This is what I'm looking for in a game. However, taking your time, planning your action and staying calm is key in completing the levels. If you start to hurry, you are dead.
The main question, is this game worth your money? Well, definitely yes. For 5 euro's you get the STe version and the PC version. For me, that is some serious bang for your buck / Euro. This game gets to you. I feel like playing it again on hard mode, just by writing about it. As an STe fan, you can not afford to miss it. Go on and buy it. New games aren't released often.
Orion_ will be releasing a boxed version of the game. Talk about dedication. (Just shut up and take my money!). For now, you can buy the game here.
Escape 2042 is a top notch release!
I do wonder what more can be done with that vertical shooter mini game? Maybe one day Cedric will release something in that genre? ... (are you reading this Orion_? ;-) )
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March 21, 2021 by ST Graveyard
What an accomplishment this game is. Created with such a small team, the result is really amazing. The game oozes creative passion. While the gameplay is really well balanced, it is a tough cookie, very hard from time to time with its moments of sheer frustration. As of level 3, timing becomes key. You will need to practice and learn the levels to complete this game, there are so many bad guys on screen it sometimes gets a bit hard to take.
April 4, 2020 by Morcar
Graphically, it's also nice on the eyes with well-defined graphics and animation. You really get the feeling that the developers put some thought and love into the game. Remember what I said about the large levels? Well these are wonderful and are very different to each other, they also scroll fairly smooth in all four directions.
March 28, 2020 by Morcar
When you boot up the game you’re presented with a fantastic loading picture of your ship. It's detailed with bold colours and it tells you This is 16-bit, bitch. Then you get the wonderful rendition of the Cybernoid theme that's on all the 8-bit versions. It's not exact but the changes still make it noticeable to anyone who knows it.
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