Prison Break: The Conspiracy developed by Zootfly takes us into a place that most fans of the TV show will be all to familiar with, Fox River State Penitentiary. The plot of the game runs parallel to the first season of the show and puts players in the shoes of Tom Paxton, an agent sent from “The Company” to keep an eye on Michael Scofield and to make sure that his brother Lincoln Burrows dies just the way they set him up to. But as you will quickly learn, even the best laid plans of mice and men, well you know.
Even though Tom Paxton is character created especially for the game and never existed in the actual TV show, the overall story is true to the source material. As Paxton you will come across many of the TV shows familiar characters including Abruzzi, T-Bag, and C-Note just to name a few. In order to keep tabs on Michael and find out exactly what he is up to you will have to “barter” in order to get the intel you need to fulfill your mission. That will include beating down any punk who gets in your way as well as doing a lot of sneaking around to acquire things and information you can use.
The game’s most enjoyable aspects are the combat system and the stealth component. The combat system is a mix of heavy and light punches, mixed with some Quick Time Events (QTE). The fights you get in get your blood pumping and it is quite satisfying to beat the crap out of an enemy and then finish with a smooth power move. The issue with the combat system is that it feels a tad bit slow and even though as you work out on the heavy bag your attack moves expand it always feels limited. The fact that you can’t block an enemies’ heavy attacks combined with the limited attack and evasion moves available to the player leave in-game combat feeling somewhat stiff and quite honestly dated.
The game does feature a true stealth component in contrast to games that claim to be stealth and truly aren’t such as the highly acclaimed Assassin’s Creed franchise which we like a lot but it does not have true stealth elements but that is another story. To me the definition of stealth in a video game means that either by choice or design a player must be able to get by enemies on a consistent basis without being detected and in this game you will be required to do that a lot. The game provides several different routes to get to an objective and it is fun figuring out which way provides least resistance even if that means sometimes hiding in a closet or two. The stealth component of the game is fairly complete with regular movement and QTE, though there are sections where I wish you could choke out a nosy guard if they hadn’t seen you already, although I suppose since it is prison if something like that kept happening they would probably lock down the whole prison. Speaking of QTE, there are several sections in the game that will require players to think fast and press the right sequence of buttons. However, the onscreen prompts are not clear as to what type of action the player needs to take such as repeatedly pressing the button vs pressing it once and to make that even worse the transition time between buttons is completely insufficient. This means that you will find yourself redoing a lot of sequences because as you are doing one it will change and you won’t have time to switch to the next button and that will get frustrating, I suggest memorizing them.
The game really does have a very promising framework and great source material, unfortunately it consistently fails to deliver on any one thing completely. With most parts of the game you will find that for as much as you like the concept, the execution of it takes away from the experience. The game has lots of fun sections including the fights, stealth sections, QTE sequences, and platforming though none of them feel finished.
Let me be clear, Prison Break: The Conspiracy is by far not the worst game I have ever played, heck its not even the worst game I have played this year but it isn’t anywhere the best either. I do give a lot of credit to Zootfly for getting this game done by self funding it and to DeepSilver for getting it published after it was almost scrapped when the original developer Brash Entertainment shut down. This is the kind of game that you get when you have two different devs work on it though, more than likely there were architectural decisions that Brash made that by the time Zootfly got it were too late to change and if they had perhaps this game doesn’t come out till next year or maybe never. I really wish we could have seen what this game would have been like if Zootfly would have had it from the beginning but as things stand the game is just below par for what people will expect.
Fans of the TV show may be more apt to overlook all of the games shortcomings for a chance to relive the opening events of one of their favorite shows and for that reason I can see this game doing decent as far as the number of units moved in combination with the updated price point of $39.99 that the game will debut with in North America next week. It should also benefit from no other big titles on deck for about a month. The bottom line on Prison Break: The Conspiracy is that in relation to what gamers will be expecting from a gameplay, graphics and controls standpoint it just wont deliver. The fact that the majority of the TV show’s stars actually voiced their characters for the game and that Zootfly really tried to deliver a title that the fans of the show would appreciate even though they weren’t the original developers gives this one a few extra points with me but even so we give Prison Break: The Conspiracy 5 out of 10 stars.