A passion project from a teenage solo developer in Sweden, Escape From Life Inc is a one-of-a-kind platformer.
Escape From Life Inc is a quirky 2D platformer with a strong focus on teamwork. Not teamwork with a second player, mind you, but with one of your three animal buddies. You see, you’ll need to switch between playing as Bob the Fish, Ern the Eagle, or a stuttering reindeer named Rick. Each one has their own distinct personality and a skill that will come in handy through the strange journey. Bob the fish can swim, reindeer Rick can bash stuff with his antlers, and Ern can – you guessed it – he can fly.
We’re introduced to each character in three bizarre scenes that act as a pseudo tutorial and set the stage for the crazy story you’re about to embark on. In a scene ripped not from the news, but from Finding Nemo, we meet Bob the fish. He’s a sweet little guy so it sucks when he’s abducted by aliens just before heading off to school. Ern the overly confident eagle gets abducted next, but it doesn’t hit as hard because he’s kind of a dick. Rick the reindeer’s story is next-level weird. In this alternate universe, Rick is in the North Pole with Santa Claus. Both Santa and Rudolph torment poor Rick for his stutter. I can see Rudolph and his nose being a high-maintenance diva, but Santa? While Rick is banished to the cold night and with Rudolph still heckling him, he gets snatched by a UFO.
Cut to our three new friends trapped inside an alien prison, where they will have to work together if they ever want to get home. It seems like stuttering Rick might be better off in alien prison than suffering Rudolph’s sick burns, but who am I to say?
When pixel graphics and bright colors are done right, they always bring back memories of my old days with the NES. Escape From Life Inc does it right with heavy Mario and Duck Hunt vibes. I doubt the developer was going for Duck Hunt, but on multiple occasions, while watching Ern the eagle flying about, I had to resist the urge to reach for my old NES Zapper as if I wear it on my hip just in case. (I don’t. I promise)
I understand why some don’t love the old-school pixel-art graphics, but it usually works for me and it works for me here. The same can’t be said for the characters themselves, however. While bright and colorful, they look a bit like the doodles of a young boy, which it turns out they were. But more on that later.
The sound design isn’t terrible, but the generic music and sound effects make it very forgettable. Forgettable is better than bad, though, I guess? The dialogue isn’t voiced, sadly, and instead it is delivered via text bubbles. This works okay, thanks mostly to the snappy dialogue. As I mentioned, the story is very quirky, but it is well told. The story is mostly going for funny but it does get a little dark, and at times, even a little sad.
My biggest complaint is with the controls. It is a platformer, so tight controls are an absolute must, and unfortunately, they fall short. It’s not game-breaking, but you’ll never get that beautiful controller-to-character connection that makes a good platformer sing. Some of this disconnect is made worse by the characters themselves. Let’s face it, wall jumping with a reindeer is never going to feel right, if you know what I mean.
The game will take about four hours or so to complete if you’re quick with the puzzle solving. They aren’t the most tasking, but they were mostly fun to solve. These usually have you deciding how to get one character to a certain switch, while another character presses a button that only it can get to due to its particular skill. Rinse and repeat. It’s not the most original game, which brings me to my final point. The game was developed by Powerburger, a one-person team from Sweden. That’s not that big of a deal, but it’s kind of cool that the one person happens to a fifteen-year-old boy. This makes an already decent game even more impressive. It doesn’t change my score, but it somehow changes the way I feel about my score. Plus it makes me wonder why I’m such a slacker. I’m three times his age, and I’ve developed zero games so far (and that’s not likely to change.)
You can grab Escape From Life Inc for less than ten bucks right now, and that feels about right to me. It’s not the best game I’ve played in recent times, but it makes up for a lot of its shortcomings with a ton of charm and heart, which is something we should all strive for.
Escape From Life Inc PS5, PS4 Review
Escape From Life Inc is a wacky little platformer that suffers from some dodgy controls and familiar puzzles. The charming characters and interesting story do their part to redeem the game and make it an adventure worth seeing if you’ve got a tenner burning a hole in your pocket.
Review Disclaimer: This review was carried out using a copy of the game provided by the publisher. For more information, please read our Review Policy.
Primary version tested: PS4. Reviewed using PS5.