No Escape (1994) Film
Over the weekend, as I was looking back at several old games, I remembered the Super Nintendo Entertainment System title No Escape. It was a movie game on SNES that I recollected fondly. I didn’t recall watching the movie, so I decided to check it out and revisit the game, and I am glad I did.
The movie was released in 1994 but is set in the year 2022…what a coincidence. It follows a decorated soldier, captain J.T. Robbins, played by Ray Liotta. After Robbins is ordered to kill innocent civilians, an act that he regrets and gives him nightmares, he murders his commanding officer. He is then court-martialed and eventually sent to the island Absolm by order of the Warden.
Absolm is an island located hundreds of miles from any form of modern civilization, covered in dense jungle, and crawling with the world’s worst criminals. Prisoners cannot escape from the island due to satellite monitoring, and any boat that tries to leave is destroyed by attack helicopters.
There are a few gangs on the island. The Outsiders is led by Walter Marek, an aggressive sociopath. This is the first gang Robbins meets after he is dropped off on the island. After realizing what kind of individual Marek is, Robbins steals his Ruger grenade launcher and uses it to successfully escape the camp. He is then welcomed into another group lead by “The Father.”
This second assembly of criminals, known as the Insiders, is more like a small society. They aren’t aggressive like the Outsiders, but operate as a more cooperative and productive community, and have a plan to escape the island. One of their mechanics has designed a boat capable of bypassing the islands satellite monitoring. The speed of the boat is also crucial to prevent an island informant from tipping off the attack helicopters by radio.
The escape boat is in need of an engine component, which Robbins knows is at the Outsiders’ camp. He makes a deal with The Father to acquire the necessary piece for a seat on the boat. While Robbins is stealing the component, he discovers that the Outsiders plan to attack the Insiders’ encampment. The Insiders set explosive traps throughout their encampment, and Robbins’ plan is to fight the Outsiders when they attack. He utilizes the grenade launcher he stole earlier to detonate the explosives throughout the camp, killing many of the Outsiders.
Sadly, the escape boat and its engineer are destroyed by the Warden’s island informant. Robbins finds the snitch and uses him to lure the Warden to the island in a helicopter. Robbins then, with the help of the insiders, hijacks the copter. He escapes the island with a few of the Insiders, leaving the informant and the Warden to the mercy of the ferocious, but leaderless Outsiders.
Overall, No Escape was okay action movie. There was nothing I really hated about it, but there also wasn’t a whole lot that was memorable. In terms of set design, it didn’t match Waterworld or Army of Darkness, but the Outsiders’ and Insiders’ villages did look pretty neat. The Insiders’ village was particularly interesting, appearing lived in for quite some time, with residents performing jobs such as silk weaving and blacksmithing to support their community.
The movie’s combat was entertaining, focusing on hand-to-hand combat as well as primitive weaponry, instead of just firearms. The movie received a Tomatometer score of 53% with an audience score of 41% on Rotten Tomatoes. To me, these scores are a little low. I give No Escape a 6/10. The movie also faired poorly on the big screen. Its estimated budget came to $20 million but only made $15.3 million worldwide at the box office.
No Escape (1994) on SNES
So, how does the game compare to the movie? Well, it is a good game with a few pitfalls. The game starts out with a cinematic of the first ten minutes of the movie.
Robbins kills his commanding officer and is sent to the island Absolm. He is then immediately chased by the Outsiders, just like in the movie. However, unlike Robbins’ ability to dodge Outsiders and perform like a super soldier in the film, the player is provided a fairly slow-moving, clunky main character.
The act of running in the game is finicky and difficult. It requires double tapping a single direction and holding it. At the start, I found this worked only half of the time. However, as I played more and became more invested, I got the hang of it.
Learning movement in this game is key. Throughout, running jumps are required to dodge the plethora of traps found at each level. These traps range from spike pits to falling boulders. Proper jumping technique is also the only way to avoid numerous instant-death drops. If the player cannot get a grip on the controls, he/she will run out of lives and continues quickly.
No Escape is broken up into four major locations. There is Marek’s Hotel, Mole Men’s Tunnels, Techno Warriors’ Camps, and the Tree Dwellers’ jungle. The whole point of escapades into these locations is to acquire items for trade and crafting at the Insiders’ camp. Some are vital for the escape from the island while others are used to craft weapons or fix the grenade launcher.
The trading in No Escape is actually pretty interesting. There are multiple Insiders to trade with and each desires different items in return for their goods. Even if the player trades away a key item, he/she can simply trade back for it. Sadly, the player can only carry a limited number of items at a time. However, extra scrap and weapons can be stored at their hut located in the Insiders camp. Sometimes you may find an item at the end of a level and must replay it due to being at maximum item capacity, inconvenient to say the least.
The combat is serviceable. The player’s main form of offense is a punch, a low-kick, and a high-kick. Usually, new players will trade blow for blow with enemies since most have the same reach and invincibility frames as the player. However, the key to winning is to come extremely close to enemies, even underneath them, and attack. This causes them to reposition or miss with a melee or projectile weapon. The player does not have much health, so if they do not rely on this technique, they will quickly die. While it does not work on every enemy, it does on many.
A major plus of No Escape on SNES is its world building. It is actually more interesting than its film counterpart. The addition of gangs, such as the Techno Warriors, adds a lot of lore. In the movie other gangs were merely mentioned. Their encampments on the island or what armor and weapons they used were never seen. The game has more depth than the movie in this regard. How the player is forced to craft and trade in order to win is also something I have not seen implemented in early console games, though I could have easily just missed them.
The graphics fit the theme of the game quite well. They aren’t the prettiest on the SNES, but they are also not the worst. The soundtrack for No Escape is terrible. Some tracks are uninspired and reused throughout multiple levels, making it quite monotonous. Another downside to the game is its cryptic nature. There is no handholding for the player. They are provided locations to explore, but not a lot of info on how to escape the island or what they must craft to do so.
The game features a few endings. I completed the radio ending during my playthrough. For this path to victory, the player utilizes scrap found throughout the island to construct a radio receiver. With it, they can call in a chopper with the Warden on board. After a short boss battle, the player is given text saying they highjacked the chopper by using the Warden as a hostage and have escaped Absolm—a similar ending to the movie.
No Escape has a few problems. If it had tighter controls and more dialogue explaining the possible paths to victory, I think it would have been considerably better. Tighter controls would make combat feel more strategic and made death pits and traps a little fairer. A short conversation with one of the Insiders about possible escapes routes would have easily fixed the games ambiguous victory conditions. The world of No Escape is a great game concept, and I believe the creators of No Escape for SNES saw its potential. However, its pitfalls keep it from being a masterpiece of a SNES title.
I recommend No Escape to gamers who don’t mind slightly clunky controls, moderate difficulty, and no handholding. However, in the end, it is incredibly rewarding to escape the island of Absolm. I rate No Escape a 7/10.
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