Inescapable – No Rules, No Rescue review

This interactive visual novel, henceforth just called Inescapable, is set on a tropical desert island. You find yourself kidnapped along with ten other seemingly unrelated individuals and forced to participate in a six month long social experiment. Think Love Island with a murderous Big Brother twist. At the end, as the last person standing, you’ll receive half a million Euro. There are no rules, and no laws are in force other than the usual reality TV impositions – such as messing with equipment. Other than that, pretty much anything goes.

The sadistic producers are keen for you to make your time on the island entertaining in whatever manner possible, offering incentives to sow as much chaos as possible. Everything is being live streamed on the internet, and the viewers need to be kept happy.

Cue me, expecting somewhere between Love Island and the Hunger Games, where we’d be double crossing and soullessly murdering our rivals all the way to the finish line. A couple of hours in rectified my expectations. I realised after a little while six months is actually a relatively long time, and to begin picking off your rivals from the get-go provides little entertainment in the long term. Also, killing everyone else only begets a bounty of 50K each, and I think more well-established hit men would likely expect half a million just for one in our island cohort alone. It turns out our hero Harrison isn’t quite as bloodthirsty as I am.

Indeed, our first few weeks are spent scoping everyone out, learning about the other islanders. The producers have given each contestant a smart phone with the ability to gather intel on their rivals – for now, at least. The characters are “a bunch” to say the least, with hours of voice acting sometimes bordering on anime levels of nerve grating, shrieking enthusiasm. Most of the cast are generic stereotypical caricatures – the terminally online social media influencer who talks with internet affectations, the mercurial misogynistic man, the sports bro, the busty maid lady who only speaks in third person as if she’s in an anime, the snobby heiress, and so on. Of course, they all have their flaws, layers, and secrets. As for our own character, Harrison, we know he is a bus driver and a bit of a loner, and dare I say even uncompelling. But clearly, he’s got some skeletons in his closet for him to be chosen as a contestant. I feel as though there are undertones of the Saw movies, where the victims are picked for specific reasons pertaining to their failures as human beings.

Each day is split into three sections where you can pick what you want to do, where you want to go on the island and who you want to talk to in each portion of the day. For one hundred and eighty days.

The producers want you to stir things up and make things interesting, sewing seeds of discord around the cast members, giving you the ability to uncover dirt or gossip on the others. But it isn’t clear exactly what earns you points to unlock these naughty nuggets. Even when you have unlocked something, there seem to be few opportunities to follow up on it. The producers would keep prompting me to use it, but I wasn’t sure if this was because I wasn’t using it enough even though I couldn’t. The only time I really felt like I knew what I was doing was when the producers would call in to make some outlandish request and keep interacting in the challenge area until completing the task.

It’s unclear for a while what you’re really doing when you’re interacting with people. Are you embarking on storylines with those people and if so, from what point, or are the interactions just fillers until certain dates? Does the location matter more or the character? One such example of this is running into the island machismo machine, Gio in the kitchen. In a private moment, he offers to swap information on the others with me. The next time I run into him alone at the dock, he tries to talk to me about sex. There was no opportunity to offer to trade secrets with him. Other times, Harri decides he’s staying in bed, or getting an early night which doesn’t make as big an impact on how long the game feels as is likely intended, but also removes player agency to do other tasks. Does this mean he has completed a storyline arc with someone?

And these incentives to be devious don’t seem to come to fruition, at least for our character. The producers “sneakily” give us a task where a Wordle type app is installed onto our phone only, and if we solve the puzzle every day until a certain date then we’ll win something. I don’t know if I missed a day accidentally, but nothing ever happened to tell me that I failed it, and I just gave up once I felt that the date had passed. The dialogue log only goes back so far, and there are no missions or quests as such to keep track of these things.

The presentation is polished, and the characters are well designed and stand out as a design strong point. I just don’t feel like the game is paced well enough to be entertaining for a considerable time. If I was an internet viewer of the show, I would have logged off long ago. The pacing is slow up until around the halfway point, with a lot of moments where I just felt like a lot of time was wasted with people who were unappealing. They all have their unique personalities and whatnot, but for me, to spend six months on an island with some of them would drive me mad. I struggled so hard to stay interested when so many of the characters felt almost insufferable. Of course, I want to kill pretty much everyone, and it isn’t until the beginning of the third month that someone eventually, finally, dies. The third month! I was five hours in at this point. That is far too long a time to waste “being a nice boy” and “making friends” and not scheming and building ourselves a fortified bunker in the forest. Clearly the others are wasting no time in their plotting.

Our squeaky clean good boy attitude must be worth something though as we’re put in charge of investigating the murder/s henceforth. Finally, after two whole months, we have something proper to do. Examining the scenes of the crimes, we can take photos and notes, using them to deduce the killers among us.

The investigations type puzzles are probably the strongest part of the game. Guessing the secrets early on, and the investigations are both engaging and intriguing, you can’t trust anyone. People will lie to you to throw you off the scent, and it doesn’t seem like you can rely on reactions to your questioning to be especially indicative of innocence as almost everyone is prone to blushing, flying into a rage or defending their privacy. It’s a big shame that not only are these types of puzzles spaced too far apart, but they become more engaging and with higher stakes much later on.

After 15 hours, I was awarded the Suspicious Ending, so there is replayability for alternative paths and storylines. It would help a lot to know at what point these paths begin diverging so you could be sure that if you start a new game, you don’t inadvertently set yourself on the same plots as before. Additionally, I never got to learn the reasons for abductions – ergo, what earmarked Harrison to be a perfect candidate for this social experiment? Maybe it’s my bad luck that my first play stumbled onto a slow burning storyline and potentially we’ll find out in additional playthroughs, but I am slightly hesitant to do so for a while given how drawn out the first half of the game felt before anything significant happened. Perhaps this was down to my choices, but as previously mentioned, I felt it was difficult to keep track of things.

I enjoyed Inescapable by the end, but it felt like a considerable slog to get to a point where I was engaged. For a social experiment, I didn’t feel too much like I experienced anything outside how I would expect most people to behave in such an environment. The methods of earthly departure are interesting, it’s amazing what you can pull together from the surrounding environment if you’re so inclined to use it murderously. Establishing rules to maintain chaos seems to just be a human thing to do and something we’ve done for thousands of years. The aftermath, how Harri changed or grew from their experiences feels barely touched upon and left me hanging considering I didn’t get a very good grasp of exactly who he is. Going back to his old life and job left me feeling like he learned very little that he could use to create a better life with or without his prize money.

I have mixed feelings about Inescapable: No Rules, No Rescue. I wanted to enjoy it but feel like I got something that isn’t delivering quite as described, and my initial experience makes me uncertain how soon I’ll be diving back into discover alternate endings.

Dreamloop Games’ Inescapable: No Rules, No Rescue is out now on all formats. Published by Aksys.