PlayStation Vita's February 22 U.S. launch should be huge, with midnight openings, parties and an overwhelming amount of coverage on the biggest games, like Uncharted: Golden Abyss and Wipeout 2048, both of which should receive the most attention.
Unless, of course, Escape Plan steals the show.
Revealed a few months ago, this promising puzzle game from Fun Bits Interactive stars two buddies, Lil and Laarg. Together, the twosome must escape more than 50 challenging rooms by making use of their signature abilities. For the pint sized and skinny Lil, this involves speed bursts and filling up with helium to float like a balloon. For the bigger, more rotund Laarg, it means smashing through objects with brute strength.
Some puzzles feature both characters, others supposedly just one. Regardless, the premise remains the same (go from point A to point B), while the controls should help make Escape Plan stand out amongst the Vita's lineup.
First, there are no buttons to speak of. The entire game was built from the ground up to take advantage of Vita's touch screen, rear touch pad and gyroscope controls.
To move Lil or Laarg, you simply tap the character and draw a line (left or right) to instruct them where to go.
If you play iPhone and iPad games, that is par for the course, even the way the developers let you drag two fingers across Vita's five-inch screen to pan the camera, or pinch to make items smaller. The same can also be said of gyroscope controls. By now (with iOS powered devices, 3DS, PS3 and the Wii), tilting should feel instantly familiar.
With this in mind, part of what separates Escape Plan from the competition is the use of those aforementioned screens. You'll press the touch screen to push objects inward, then press the rear touch pad to push them out.
Then, as Lil floats upwards, you'll press both screens to essentially squeeze the air out of his body. Definitely a cool feature that'll turn heads.
That said, the various puzzles throw Lil and Laarg into a variety of dangerous situations. One second, you'll need to figure out how to stop two fan blades from moving to grant Laarg safe passage. The next, you must ferry Lil past bolts of electricity.
To that end, expect to die countless times, but that's part of the fun. These poor fellows will meet their end a variety of ways, getting crushed, sliced and electrocuted along the way while exploding into black goop. In fact, the designers proudly display how many times each character has croaked on their bodies, a feature that'll inspire hardcore players to complete the game with as few deaths as possible.
Meanwhile, the game benefits from a visually stimulating black and white presentation, complimented by a plethora of grays that give it both a retro and modern appearance Vita owners should dig.
On that note, be sure to put Escape Plan on your radar leading up to February, and expect more coverage in the weeks ahead.