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Not The Way To A Good Time

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    A Way Out

    Rating: 2.0 – Poor

    Not The Way To A Good Time

    Back in the long, long ago, in the ancient history that is now 2013, Hazelight Studios released a game called Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons. It wasn’t very good. They essentially took a multiplayer game and made you play it single player, and having you control two characters at one time was only slightly more fun than controlling zero characters and just turning the game off entirely. A Way Out is the newest release from Hazelight Studios and this time they have the revolutionary idea of taking a multiplayer game and making you play it in multiplayer. It is the same sort of idea here, with two characters working together to solve a variety of simple puzzles, but this time you must play with a partner, either locally or online. You might expect fixing a major issue like this would lead to a significantly better experience, and you’d be wrong because Hazelight Studios took this opportunity to introduce all sorts of new issues instead. This is a game that sounds much more fun in concept than it actually is, and unfortunately A Way Out doesn’t stand out in any way.

    The story of A Way Out focuses on two different prisoners, Leo and Vincent, who want to find a way out of prison. They don’t know each other at first, but apparently they want the same guy dead and if that isn’t the catalyst for a good friendship, I don’t know what is. Turns out some criminal mastermind that goes by the name of Harvey betrayed both of them at some point, landing them in jail with nothing but a snazzy jumpsuit and a grudge. They’re both criminals, mind you, but they are not as criminal-y as Harvey so they’re our heroes in this story. After putting aside their differences, they decide to work together to get out of jail and deliver Harvey the justice he so definitely deserves. This is going to involve some teamwork, ingenuity, and stealing some scenes out of The Shawshank Redemption if they run out of things to talk about in between it.

    It is a fairly simple set up to the story and it really doesn’t get much more complex than that for most of the game. Harvey is very bad and doesn’t like the two playable characters, and the two of you want to escape prison and do bad things to him. That’s sort of most of the game right there, and the plot just feels like a lazy copy of better prison escape movies. It is a very formulaic experience, and a lot of these scenes almost feel perfunctory. It doesn’t help that Leo and Vincent are essentially the only real characters in 90% of the game and they’re both so boring their voices have been used to sedate patients before particularly involved dental surgery. They’re barely characters at all, and they don’t have a real personality outside of one defined character trait. Leo is brash and angry and Vincent is methodical and that’s it. The dialogue here doesn’t help, and the best way to describe this game is lifeless. It feels like a stage play put together by people that had absolutely no interest in it, and this also comes across in the stilted voice acting. The game needed something to it â€?some humor or some edge or something that didn’t make it sound like fake tough guys reading the instructions to IKEA furniture out loud for six hours.

    The story itself isn’t even that complex but still manages to implode into nonsense by the end. While I won’t get into specifics, the story near the end kind of stops making sense. It is the most interesting part of the entire game, sure, but it undermines everything that came before it. It feels like the person that came up with the twist wasn’t aware of the rest of the story up until that point, because this introduces so many different plot holes that the narrative kind of collapses in on itself and begs the player to just kill it. There are multiple scenes that simply no longer make narrative sense, and the entire plot suffers because of it. This is particularly problematic, because the story wasn’t that great in the first place. I will say the ending itself was riveting, and was certainly the strongest part of the entire game. It just doesn’t seem to work with what came before it, which is a shame.

    The main draw to A Way Out is the fact that it is a cooperative game, and they are being 100% accurate when advertising it that way. You cannot play this game alone, and you’ll either need to wrangle up someone to play with you on the couch or join an online game and hope the person you’re playing with isn’t a jerk. Playing it on local co-op is significantly more fun, so try and find someone if you can because a lot of the fun comes from just talking through stuff with the people next to you. Each chapter typically puts the two of you in some location nearby each other, and the two of you will have to wander around and do stuff. There are typically puzzles where you have to figure out what to do to get to the next area, and you’ll have to work together with your friend to get this accomplished. Then there are action scenes, driving scenes, chase scenes, and just a little bit of everything. A lot of these will have you doing something slightly (or completely) different from your partner, and the two of you will have to communicate to figure out what needs to be done.

    I am about to get into a long string of complaining coming up here, and I apologize for that (although you probably guessed that was the case when you saw the review score). But before I get into that I need to say I really like the overall concept of the game here. A multiplayer cooperative title that can be played locally and involves puzzles and good communication sounds like a great idea. There aren’t a lot of games like this, and there is some fun to be had just experiencing a game like this with another person in the room. It is almost immediately interesting, particularly if you’re playing in the same room with a friend, just because of how unique it is. And even when the game is at its worst, it is still somewhat entertaining just because you’ll have someone you can joke around with while you’re playing.

    The issue here is with the execution. The concept is great, but they never really figure out what to do with it. The vast majority of the game is spent doing basically nothing, wandering around a looking at random objects scattered around. It’s like visiting a senior citizens retirement home, in that you don’t really have much to do and kind of just want to leave. A lot of the puzzles here aren’t even puzzles, and there is only one thing to interact with and as soon as you interact with things are pretty much solved. A lot of the time the “cooperativityâ€?boils down to walking over to the same large door and interacting with it at the same time to pull it up. These feel less like puzzles and more like chores, and the game basically just gives you a simple checklist of tasks you need to complete to solve the “puzzleâ€?in most of these segments. I understand it is kind of hard to put together a good puzzle when all the characters can do most of the time is walk around and interact with objects, but maybe then you need a more complex interface. As it is, all the game is doing is having us look at things or be in the same place at the same time, which sounds less like a good formula for gameplay and more like a trip to an art museum with family members you don’t really care for. The biggest part of the gameplay is these sorts of segments, which is a shame because they’re all fairly boring and most of them basically solve themselves.

    There are some glimmers of what seems like a good idea here though. At one point, the two characters are digging around in a farm house, trying to figure out a way to get a car up and running and get themselves changed into some less incriminating clothing. You’re left to explore the farm, the barn, and the area around both of these and this was the first time I actually found myself even mildly interested in the gameplay. Sure, it doesn’t open up a lot, but here you’re free to poke around, playing horseshoes or petting cows or rocking out on the banjo. You’re discovering things while your partner is discovering other things, and the two of you are talking about what is where and where each other should go. This is exactly what the game needed. Big areas for two people to explore and work together in figuring out what to do. If the entire game was like this it would be interesting. Instead, it is almost entirely small areas with one or two things to look at where the puzzles all just about solve themselves. They seem to want to keep changing the scenery for some reason, but this would have definitely benefited from a slower, more substantial approach to the “puzzleâ€?areas.

    The game also seems entirely unsure of what it wants to be doing most of the time, instead jumping back and forth into different styles of gameplay like a desperate kid that wants to get some friends at school to like him. There are action QTE action segments where you basically just need to hit the one button the game tells you to. There are weird little minigames like exercising on some gym equipment or playing Connect 4. And then there is part where the game, almost inexplicably, turns into a generic shooter for like twenty minutes. And none of these things really feel like they are integrated well into the gameplay. It’s more like someone dropped them while carrying them over to some other game and the developers just decided to leave them there because they couldn’t be asked to pick things up themselves. None of these things are particularly fun either, and it almost feels like they were put in just because they couldn’t think of anything else to speed the game up at times. Its haphazard and incoherent, and, worse than all of that, none of these things are particularly fun.

    A more major component of the game is spent doing some simple stealth missions, which the game at least executes somewhat competently. You’ll need to sneak around avoiding search lights or prison guards, and usually you are in cover and hidden or not in cover and getting yelled at. These segments are fairly simple, and you can usually just move around behind cover when the guard is facing the other direction and sneak up behind him to take him out with a stealth move. These sections work well enough, and they pop up frequently enough that they don’t feel as random as some of the other things, but at the same time they are fairly unremarkable. None of these are all that difficult or that long, and most of the guards oblige you by just facing in the wrong direction and loudly talking about how unfortunate it would be if someone snuck up behind them. It doesn’t hurt the game, but it also isn’t something you’re going to look forward to.

    The other main aspect of the gameplay here seems to be talking to people. Random people tend to be the thing you most frequently interact with, and in any of the exploration scenes there is usually three or four people standing around that you can talk to. These conversations help build up the world, I suppose, but they are mostly boring people doing boring people things. This isn’t a big fantasy adventure where people have interesting things to say. At one point a woman complains her husband is having an affair and you can lead her to him if you find him afterwards. This is essentially the most interesting conversation you can have, and at the very least you can interact with the world in a somewhat meaningful way. Most of the time you’re just given two conversation options, neither of which tend to be very interesting. And the game isn’t even really built for this. Two people are playing two characters at the same time, and they can talk to the same group of people. However, if you try to talk to someone while your partner is talking to someone else, your volume will be almost muted as whoever starts talking first is really the only person you can hear. They do this to prevent two overlapping conversations, which is good, but it also means you just have to sit and wait around basically for the other conversation to end. The conversations themselves aren’t interesting enough to warrant seeking them out, and it also feels kind of clumsy considering how awkward it can be when both of you are trying to talk to people.

    And some of these dialogue options seem utterly pointless. More pointless in the “doesn’t affect anything in the long runâ€?sense either. I mean it doesn’t seem to affect anything at all. At one point early in the game two guys are blocking your path and refusing to let you through. You have two options here: show force or make them hear. Deciding to go the nonviolent route, I went with make them hear, at which point my guy slapped both of them in the face. So what was show force then? Either “show forceâ€?was not well labeled, or they were both violent and either way, what the heck A Way Out? This isn’t the only example of this either, and there are multiple examples where it seems like the dialogue options are the same or lead to what is essentially the same response. Slightly different dialogue options isn’t really a good gameplay feature, and it’s made even worse when it isn’t executed well.

    The sad truth is that A Way Out just isn’t a very good game. The concept sounds fun, and playing through the game with another person on the same couch as you is good for a laugh. Beyond that, there isn’t much here to be excited about. The plot is bland, derivative, and parts don’t really make all that much sense. The gameplay is both inconsistent and uninteresting, and there are only brief glimpses where the game really opens up the way it should. Unlike the similarly inspired Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons, this game is at the very least playable and with so few good couch co-op experiences it might still be worth a look if you can find it cheap enough. It is a decent experience but a bad game, if that makes sense. Playing it, if anything, makes things worse and this is a weird game where it might be more fun to just watch someone else play it while you scroll through your phone so you can just ignore all the boring stuff. Play it yourself and you’ll be certainly searching for a way out, sooner rather than later.

    Escape (THE GOOD):

    • Very interesting concept, and a two player local co-op puzzle game sounds great
    • Even with all the issues, it is still mildly entertaining to sit down with a friend and goof around in here for a bit
    • There are a couple open segments where you can really just explore a bit and it feels like this is the sort of way the entire game should be set up
    • The finale is fairly interesting

    Caught (THE BAD):

    • Almost all of these puzzles just sort of solve themselves, and there aren’t too many where you aren’t just interacting with one or two objects and then leaving
    • The story is formulaic, dull, and really only gets mildly interesting towards the end
    • Voice acting isn’t all that great and the game just feels lifeless at times
    • Gameplay is utterly unremarkable and if this was a single player game no one would want to play it
    • A lot of the gameplay “elementsâ€?feel randomly thrown in there and the game itself feels a bit incoherent because of it
    • The action sequences feel clunky and shoe-horned in to make things more “intenseâ€?/li>
    • There simply isn’t much to do in the actual game, and most of the time you’ll just be wandering around having uninteresting conversations

    Stuck (THE UGLY): There is an achievement in this game for playing the banjo really well. There should never be an achievement for doing anything with a banjo, other than smashing it against the wall. We can call it the “My Ears Thank Youâ€?achievement.

    THE VERDICT: 4.00/10.00

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