A cruise is supposed to offer a fun, relaxing experience. Sunning on the deck, sipping a refreshing beverage and inland excursions at exotic ports. You know, Love Boat kinda stuff, a paradise at sea.
Book passage on the SS Fantasy, however, and a different kind of paradise awaits. One that strands you and your fellow passengers on an uncharted island in the South Pacific.
Escape from Paradise pits you as one of 50 castaways marooned on a tropical island. Your goal? Explore the isle, build structures necessary for survival, search for treasure and radio parts, make your way to the volcano at the island’s center and eventually reassemble the radio and call for help. Mysteriously, it’s all orchestrated by an enigmatic native wearing a Tiki mask.
Of course, comparisons will immediately be drawn to Virtual Villagers and Tropix, as Escape from Paradise marries the elements of those games. With regard to Virtual Villagers, you begin with a few survivors that must be bred to create an island population, while Escape from Paradise forgoes the whole breeding aspect and deposits everyone on the island at the start. Castaways’ skills need to be developed, too, but here you have three — Carpenter, Provider and Lumberjack — compared with Virtual Villager’s five. Plus, whereas Virtual Villagers never discloses the existence of other inhabitants, Escape’s Tiki-masked natives play a role in your adventure.
Similarity to Tropix, however, is closer. In both, you move from one mini-game to another in pursuing your goal. Game collections are comparable, as well, comprised of relatively basic diversions. The difference is that Tropix sports eleven mini-games to the 17 included in Escape.
Apart from these parallels, what does Escape from Paradise offer? Essentially, it’s an amalgamation of simulation, adventure and real-time strategy elements interspersed with mini-game interludes. In sim-like fashion, you direct the lives of your castaways, watching them interact with their environment and each other. You assign names (or accept default ones) and care for their needs. Specifically, you monitor four areas: hunger, thirst, sleep and social. Keep them satisfied and they’ll be happy campers. But, allow them to become too hungry, thirsty, tired or lonely and they refuse to work.
Regarding to the adventure aspect, exploring the island is critical to rescue. You must unearth various treasures, locate ten radio parts and overcome 30 challenges. In fact, a significant facet of play is completing the challenges given by the man behind the Tiki mask. These include simple tasks like building huts, digging wells and erecting bridges. Just grab a castaway and drag them to the appropriate object. For instance, to chop wood, drag them to a tree. To dig a well, drag them to a pool of water. That’s it. Successfully finish each challenge and a reward awaits — new tools or skills necessary to effect your survival and rescue.
From a strategy standpoint, Escape involves resource management, specifically people, food and wood. Initially, you begin with two survivors, you and another castaway. However, as you complete the game’s challenges, others witness your progress and join ranks of their own accord. Once integrated, you manage them to improve their skills. Lumberjacks hew trees for wood. Carpenters use wood to build. And, Providers gather food. Initially, your castaways need to be jacks-of-all-trades. However, as your clan grows, specialization becomes key, as later challenges require higher level skills to complete. Skills are advanced by experience (performing tasks repeatedly) and by points earned in the various mini-games.
Ah, mini-games! They’re a major part of Escape from Paradise. Revealed as you complete challenges, and considered challenges themselves, they include Tribal Checkers, Rock Toss (Marbles), Word Jumble, Firewalk (Simon), Chinese Checkers, Towers of Hanoi, Shuffleboard and Tribuku (Sudoku). A few are even based on popular casual games such as Shipwrecked (Bejeweled) and Furious Feast (Diner Dash). In all, 17 mini-games are built-in.
How does it come together? Surprisingly well, actually. The pace is good overall and the mini-games (playable any time once unlocked) provide both variety and the skill points necessary to increase your castaways’ abilities. As for its presentation, Escape is on par with other casual games. Not astounding, but good nonetheless.
The only rotten bananas in this basket of goodness are a lack of game speed adjustment (to quicken the pace when things slow down a bit) and the somewhat derivative nature of the mini-games. More innovation would have been good, maybe even a totally new game or two.
In the end, Escape from Paradise is an entertaining diversion. With 30 challenges to engage in and 17 mini-games to tackle, it offers an enjoyable getaway to a relaxing tropical oasis.