What would you do when the rules of morale don’t apply?
- System: Nintendo Switch, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, PC (Steam)
- Publisher: Aksys Games
- Developer: Dreamloop Games
- Release Date: October 19, 2023
That’s the premise of “Inescapable: No Rules, No Rescue” from developer Dreamloop Games. Cast in the role of a young man surrounded by ten other strangers, your goal is to survive half a year on a seemingly unpopulated resort island while being watched by random people for entertainment.
As you can see, this game tackles one of the hardest questions known to man: How far would you go for money if you wouldn’t get in trouble for the actions you take to get it?
Akin to various visual novels and adventure games, “Inescapable: No Rules, No Escape” is one part reading and one part making your choice. Trapped on a resort island, you can explore various areas, talk with a diverse cast of people, and learn to either coexist with these ill-fated souls or side against them. Decisions need to be made, and each could fill your pockets or lead you to becoming a corpse. Learn about your ‘friends’ and enemies to survive and maybe come away with wealth and your life…
Harrison is a young man who’s quite unremarkable but is about to go through something that would test any man or woman. While on a trip to a strange, sudden meeting orchestrated by a possible friend, Harrison, alongside an entire bus of strangers, is gassed, kidnapped, and sent to an unknown island. There, two strange women contact them, claiming they are on a reality TV show of sorts where they can win $500,000 if they can survive on the island for 6 months. The catch? Depending on their actions, they may intervene by cutting their food supply off or forcing them to make ‘moves.’ However, if they don’t want to worry about that, they can play this ‘game’ in whatever way they feel, as there is only one rule: there are no rules. Can Harrison survive this strange situation he’s been thrown into, or will his demise be televised for all to see?
As Harrison, your role is simple, at first. For the first several hours—yes, it will be about several hours before anything major happens—players are tasked with meeting their fellow captives, learning more about the game, and discovering what makes each person tick and what they are hiding. One of the earliest unlockable features on your in-game smartphone is an app that shows you each “participant,” and with points awarded via not fully explained methods, allows you to learn about them. You can learn that some characters may love anime to extreme lengths and another smokes weed, but those are the sillier stories. As you dig deeper, you’ll uncover truths about family hatred, cynical ideals, and darker crimes.
“Inescapable” is a slow burn, but that is the strength of this game for those who really love fleshed-out characters; these are people who some might relate to! It can be very boring to just basically read text for hours with very minimal interaction, though. You will make choices occasionally, but it’s more about spending time with someone or playing the various mini-games. But it is when the game gets going that things become… dark.
Now, aside from just choosing paths, there are some other extra little pieces of the game to enjoy. Players will gain access to various mini-games and activities that can be quite distracting in a good way. They may seem pointless at times, but “Inescapable” has a creative way of making simple seem more relevant than you think.
Those who love multiple routes in a VNs will also be happy to learn that “Inescapable” has several endings depending on how you go about your island experience. Some are obvious, while others may need a guide, which can be a bit annoying but not a deal-breaker. We ourselves needed to look up some things to see if we were making the right moves or if we were ultimately going back to a previously seen route. We’re sure some won’t have this issue, though, and it can be kind of fun to just see what actions will lead to what consequence.
The biggest flaws of “Inescapable” are twofold: the slow burn, which we guarantee will turn many off, and the voice acting. Now with the former, it’s worth it to stick to the end. It may take time, but the slow pacing is done with purpose, and the payoff is amazing to witness. The voice acting, however, is another thing that makes sense but certainly will be an issue. There are 11 characters—more if you include some of the unseen ones—who each come from different backgrounds. Maria (aka Mia) comes from German descent, so her voice has a German accent, obviously, similar to Valerie, who’s French. Each character is voiced in English, and the actors clearly tried to give them their sound equivalent to their background, but some are way better than others. A Japanese option with English subtitles would have been nice, but ironically that would ruin a core element of “Inescapable”: the diversity. Yes, each character speaks English, but their accents and attitudes reflect their culture, and that is crucial for later segments! It may be a bit annoying, but you’ll live with it and kind of find their voices endearing after a bit.
A minor issue—one that is being worked on—is a slew of bugs that can be game-breaking. We’ve run into a few where our dialogue choice would shoot us back to a previous segment or reload a previous save for no reason. Online forums have other players expressing strange issues too that can impede progress. The developers, though, have been vocal on X and other sites telling people fixes are coming, so we think this is a minor inconvenience.
“Inescapable: No Rules, No Escape” will definitely be a title that many will regard as one of the best VNs ever made or one that is hard to love. There is a lot here that really shows the genre can never run out of original ideas that really make you think. However, don’t go into “Inescapable” expecting a game like “Danganronpa” or “999” because that will be a mistake. “Inescapable” works best as a slow burn that makes you invest yourself in the cast and watch as their pasts, weaknesses, and mentality begin to push them into dark realms that many of us fear we could do ourselves if thrown into a similar predicament. If you love the sound of that, good news, “Inescapable” will meet your requirements! However, those who need to be gripped by tragedy or deadly survival games from the start might want to pass.
This game should be played by all VN lovers, and while maybe some won’t enjoy it for the pacing, many will see a story that might be set in fiction but has some horror themes that could be linked to the real world.