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Video Game / The Escapists

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"Welcome, cons, to HMP Irongate."

All that stands between you and your freedom is a perfectly executed escape plan. Of course, to escape, you'll need tools, and the guards aren't going to give you much. Your fellow cons might be more helpful... if you can stay on their good side. Be careful, though: Between the guards, the cameras, and the walls, escape isn't going to be easy.

The Escapists is a prison break game developed by Mouldy Toof Studios and published by Team17 Digital on February 2015.

A sequel called The Escapists 2 was released in 2017.

A island survival game set in the same universe called The Survivalists was released in 2020.


Tropes featured include:

  • Acceptable Break from Reality: Trying to cut an electric fence with a plastic butter knife will still give you an electric shock.
  • Air-Vent Passageway: Downplayed. They exist, but they're blocked all the way by slats that have to be cut through, and if a guard sees an open vent, kiss your escape goodbye.
  • The Alcatraz:
    • HMP Irongate. Not only do you have to escape the usual means, you also need a raft to sail off.
    • The Alcatraz prison available as DLC. It makes HMP Irongate look like Center Perks.
  • Bedsheet Ladder: One of the items possible to craft in the game. It's used to descend from rooftops.
  • Bilingual Bonus: One of the prisons is a POW camp called Stalag Flucht. "Flucht" can translate from German as "escape", which is what you'll be trying to do there.
  • Cardboard Prison: Even the easiest prisons avert this. You need to put some work into escaping.
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  • Cutlery Escape Aid: Plastic knives, forks and spoons can be stolen and all can be used to aid in escape: knives to cut through vents, forks to chip away at walls and spoons to dig tunnels.
  • Discount Card: The more a prisoner likes you, the less you get charged for the items they're selling.
  • Duct Tape for Everything:
    • Duct tape is a crafting ingredient in many, many useful items, like pickaxes, shears, contraband pouches, and armor. Expect to use a lot of it.
    • You also have the option of using duct tape to restrain an unconscious guard. If you have enough of it and are tough enough, this is even a potential avenue of escape.
  • Enemy Chatter: Your fellow prisoners will always have something to say.
  • Epic Flail: The sock mace, a sock with soap in the toe. The Super sock mace uses a battery instead.
  • Everything Sensor: Contraband sensors are placed around the prisons that detect anything the warden doesn't want you to have. Although they look like metal detectors, they will detect putty, comb shivs, duct tape, and more. You can foil them with a contraband pouch, however. There are a few oddities, though. They won't detect the individual components used in making contraband, anything you're wearing or wielding, and they don't seem to care about other inmates you can buy contraband from.
  • Fade to Black: Getting knocked out will result in the screen fading to black before you wake up in the infirmary.
  • Fast Tunnelling: You can dig a tunnel extremely quickly, with the right tools.
  • Fighting with Chucks: Nunchucks can be crafted from wire and timber. It's one of the two best weapons you can equip yourself with, the other being the Whip.
  • Fly in the Soup: While eating, one of the prisoners will occasionally say, "There's a meal in my fly!".
  • Great Escape: The objective of the game is to escape prisons.
  • The Guards Must Be Crazy:
    • While they behave sensibly about short-term issues, like someone stealing their keys or leaving a vent open, they will keep returning you to the cell that you've been escaping from if they catch you (after a stay in solitary) and treating you normally. They never decide to pay very close attention to the guy who keeps trying to escape.
    • They don't seem to notice random posters appearing on walls, even outside of prisoner's cells (such as on one of the hallways). It gets even more hilarious when you realize that a poster can only logically cover up one side, but if guards can walk around both sides of the wall they won't care.
    • Averted if you harass a single guard too much; even if he really likes you, if you beat him up too many times he will decide, out of the blue, to grass your ass. This is a problem for you since if it's during one of the non-free time periods, other guards will be present and if you lift a finger, even in self defense, it will be considered assault...which results in every other guard in the room dogpiling on you.
    • If a Guard does decide floor your ass in front of other guards, you can run around in a circle and as long as he doesn't connect a hit, none of the other Guards will jump in. They will instead watch one very angry guard chase you around tables for no discernible reason. Again, if he lands any hits, it's dogpile time.
  • Hellhole Prison: The HMP Irongate is not a nice place to live. Good luck getting out, though.
    • In-Universe, San Pancho. The hot desert sun turns inmates hateful and violent, so much so that guards stray from going inside the prison yard unless it's for rollcall. Any new inmate can expect to get beaten up swiftly once they start.
  • Improvised Armor: You can modify your prison jumpsuit with metal plates to make very effective armor. Lesser armour can be crafted with a book or pillow in place of the sheet metal.
  • Improvised Screwdriver: A plastic knife can be used as a makeshift screwdriver.
  • Improvised Weapon: Almost everything you can use as a weapon was cobbled together from other things. One of the few exceptions are the batons you can buy off your fellow prisoners.
  • Irony: The guard at the crossbar will say "See you tomorrow!" if he lets you pass after you give him the ID Papers. Since he just let you escape, he likely won't see you tomorrow.
  • Luxury Prison Suite: Center Perks is this, with cable TV and friendly prison guards. They even fluff your pillows. The guard dialogue even lampshades why people would even want to get out of it.
  • Locking Macgyver In The Store Cupboard: Plenty of useful materials (toothpaste, toilet paper, dental floss) are left lying around the prison for you to repurpose. Some of the jobs you can take give you access to contraband, but they put contraband sensors at the exit to deter you from stealing anything.
  • MacGyvering: A major mechanic. You can buy (or steal) tools, weapons, and gear from your fellow prisoners, and you will need to buy crafting components from them, but the best equipment is often only obtainable through crafting. Pickaxes and shovels, for example, can be made and heavily reinforced with timber, duct tape, and sheet metal.
  • New Game+: Starting a new game does not reset your list of crafting recipes, speeding up the early game considerably.
  • Non-Lethal K.O.: How combat works. You can use shivs, glass shards, spiked bats, and razor-blade whips but enemies will still stand up, dust themselves off, and go about their day without so much as a trip to the infirmary.
  • The Old Convict: You can play as one, if you like.
  • One-Hit KO: Molten Chocolate functions as these, along with the Stun Rods wielded by the prison guards at HMP Irongate.
  • Possession Implies Mastery: Pick up a crafting note and you will master the recipe forever. Make yourself some nunchucks and you'll be able to wield them effectively immediately.
  • P.O.W. Camp: There are three: Stalag Flucht is the classic "The Great Escape"-style prison camp set in a snowy tundra, while the Jungle Compound is based off of prisons in Laos. San Pancho is set somewhere in the deserts of Mexico.
  • Prisons Are Gymnasiums: They've got exercise equipment that you ought to make use of: when you enter, your speed and strength are at 30, out of a cap of 100.
  • Prison Riot: An impractical means of escaping: making that many people like you enough to attack the guards on your say-so is hard, and the prison will go into lockdown if the situation gets too bad.
  • Resting Recovery: Sleeping in your bed causes you to regain energy at a faster rate until you get up.
  • Russian Reversal: The variation of the Fly in the Soup is a reversal of the standard joke: "There's a meal in my fly!"
  • Santa's Sweatshop: Included as a DLC, the level literally named "Santa's Sweatshop" has you play an elf trying to escape Santa's factory complex.
  • Shout-Out:
    • There are a few to Shawshank Redemption, such as the guards in Center Perks asking "what the hell is a rock hammer anyways?" and the fact that you can cover a hole in your wall with a poster.
    • One of the achievements is called "The Great Escapist"
    • Inmates will sometimes say that they Better call Saul.
    • One of the in-game wardens is one Jim Sterling.
    • The guard at the crossbar, the final step to escaping the Jungle Compound, when approached with a Guard Outfit, says "Papers Please!"
  • Sinister Shiv: Make them out of combs and trade them to people for cash, or keep them for yourself.
  • Tempting Fate: (Almost) every beginning note, the one written by the warden when you first arrive on Day 1, says something about escaping.
    Center Perks: Dear (Name). Welcome to Center Perks - the most comfortable low-security prison in the county. On behalf of the staff here we wish you a happy and relaxing visit! Should you get bored of the complimentary cable TV, we pride ourselves in many other engaging activities around the grounds.
    Stalag Flucht: Sent me another one have they... Listen kid, I don't have to remind you that Stalag Flucht is famous for housing inmates with a record of escapism, so if you're planning on getting out of this one, think again! Now get yourself settled in, it's gonna be cold, long winter.
    Shankton State Pen: Welcome to Shankton State Pen, your new home for the foreseeable future. Since I've been warden we've had a few daring escapists among us, but they were promptly scooped back up and punished. No one escapes on my watch, so don't get any ideas! If you forget any of the rules around here, the guards batons will only be too glad to remind you!.
    Jungle Compound: Welcome to the jungle! Society has declared you a menace, so we've put you far away from any trace of it. Before you even entertain the thought of escaping, let me remind you that even if by some remote chance you make it past the fence, the wall, the perimeter jeeps and the guard checkpoint, there's no surviving out in the wild beyond.
    San Pancho: This is the notorious San Pancho, the roughest toughest and downright nastiest prison south of the border. The blistering heat and claustrophobic conditions here turns inmates angry and violent. Even the guards daren't enter.
    HMP Irongate: Listen here maggot. You know why you're here so no point crying about it. Generally feared as the highest security prison ever, HMP Irongate is where you'll live out the rest of your meaningless existence. Escape you say? Don't make me laugh! The handful of idiots who tried met a watery demise trying to swim off the island. Still, chin up eh?
  • Thermal Dissonance: The cup of molten chocolate, a powerful One-Hit Kill weapon, will stay molten indefinitely. Even if you take it outside in the snow.
  • Tunnel King: You can become one, and dig your way to freedom. Just have plenty of braces for the tunnel and a place to move the dirt.
  • Whip It Good: You can make yourself a whip from wire and razor blades. It's one of the two best weapons you can equip yourself with, the other being the Nunchucks.
  • X-Ray Sparks: These occur when you try to cut live electric fences, which will deal a serious amount of damage. Getting hit by a guard carrying a Stun Rod in HMP Irongate will also produce them.

"My boys found a Pothole lying around, and we traced it back to you."
"As punishment I'm placing you in solitary for a few days, hopefully it'll teach you a hard lesson!"