The first season of Prison Break was one of the most thrilling series I've seen on television. It was exciting, clever and different. Wenthworth Miller came from out of nowhere with his squinting face and played the pants of everything else on TV as the engineering genius Michael Scofield. Me, and millions of others, sat glued to our TV-screens every week.
But after that season, the flame went out of the series pretty quickly. Fox milked it mercilessly, the original 13 episodes that had been ordered turned to 81 and the fourth and final season was something of the most boring things I've ever seen. The audience had already given up on slimeball T-Bag, the lovesick Sucre and the mafio Abruzzi and Prison Break was allowed to finally die with a bit of honor left.
Or did it?
A game you say, could it really be? Well, yeah - it is Michael and his brother Lincoln that adorns the cover, and I am sure I saw the title Prison Break: The Conspiracy on there too. I fail to see the logic in releasing it, though. It's four years too late, nobody cares anymore - to release a game based on Prison Break in 2010 feels odd. But here it is, get the defibrillator. I used to be a bit excited about it, to be honest; the pictures that had been released from it in advanced looked pretty OK, after all.
Prison Break: The Conspiracy is set during the series' first season. Good, developers ZootFly at least took that hint and have concentrated on the series' heyday with the Fox River State Penitentiary as the game's setting. You shoulder the role as agent Paxton from the shady agency The Company. Paxton is working from inside the prison to make sure that Lincoln ends up in the electric chair. I feel uncomfortable in this role, I really wanted to help Linc and boys to escape. Do some gang signs, plan the breakout. That kind of stuff.
Instead I am on the other side and see the events from the other perspective. I work together with a guy called Mannix, who is curiously similar to The General from the series, which is most likely a deliberate but still confusing choice. Baldness, and a dash of psychopathy, is apparently the secret recipe for a respectable position in that organization. Honestly, it mostly feels contrived when these newcomers are supposed to be woven into the story.
Prison Break: The Conspiracy is mostly about stealth and dirty fighting. Since you are acting as a prisoner in a high security prison, you can forget about the guns and shoot-outs. Sadly, the fighting is unfortunately shallower than a puddle of rainwater and the controls feel as intuitive and fast as a demented cow. Because there's only two kinds of punches and a parry there's limited (as in zero) possibility to do any form of hit combinations. And it's slow, oh so slow. The game could have used a good measure of both Batman: Arkham Asylum and The Chronicles of Riddick: Escape from Butcher Bay; the fights are monotonous, boring and way too easy.
In order to get closer to Scofield and figure out his plans, you have to interact with prisoners and run various errands for them. Faces like Abruzzi and C-Note pop up, and we have to do everything from replacing medication against rat poison to grind a bolt into a usable weapon. In terms of narrative, Prison Break: The Conspiracy will hardly win any awards and usually the dialogue smells of old shoes. In some cases it's pretty comical, but most of the time it's just painful to listen to. Even if most of the leading actors from the series have lent their voices and appearance to the game, it's clear that it's a low budget production. Graphically, it is never better than mediocre either.
In addition to the story mode there is a versus mode where two players can pummel away at each other. Unfortunately, it uses the same fighting system as the single player mode, so there's absolutely no finesse to it.
Sometimes it can be quite nice to sneak around inside Fox River, and it's easy enough to not put any strain on your mental faculties - good when your brain needs to be set on stand-by. But the game's obvious shortcomings take the upper hand, and it feels like we can bury the license now. Once and for all.
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