Escape Plan looks like it should be a puzzle game. It has the level-by-level set-up of a puzzle game, the three-star rating system of a puzzle game, even the kooky and distinctive visual style that most modern puzzle games strive towards.
But itís not a puzzle game. And man, it really should have been.

Escape Plan is the Playstation Vitaís flagship offbeat title: while Uncharted: Golden Abyss anchors the retail blockbuster side of things, Escape Plan heads up the downloadable library. Itís the story of Lil and Laarg, two loveable little scamps who must escape the prison of the evil villain Bakuki, who throws all of the easily moveable platforms heís got in therr in order to stop them. The entire game is controlled with the front and rear touchscreens and the six-axis tilt controls, an attempt to prove that the Vita can hold its own on the competitive touchscreen market.
The game is a joy to control until itís not. Tapping a platform out from behind and listening to it shift out, squeezing the little character jazzed up by coffee, slamming the door on the evil villain Bakuki or just walking a character across the room all feel intuitive, responsive, and fun. And as long as the game stays easy, it is.
But as soon as the game starts asking much more than walking across the room, the lack of precision in the controls starts to rear its ugly head. The challenge is never in figuring out what to do, but in just executing the tap controls with the kind of precision the game demands. Especially considering how hard it is to aim the controls at the back of the console, a lot of the levels become frustrating for no reason at all. At one point, Lil gains the ability to suck on some helium and blow up like a balloon, after which you can control him by tilting the console. What results are a bunch of levels made difficult solely because the controls are unresponsive, a game design tactic on par with raising the difficulty by injecting the player with opiates.
The little guys will die, all the time. They splat in a pretty pleasing way when they do, but they wear the number of their deaths right their on their chests to remind the player of his or her shame. It seems a little much.
Thereís still a lot to love about Escape Plan. Itís the best looking game on the Vita so far, using crisp grayscale graphics to evoke shades of Edward Gorey and Limbo to a vaudevillian soundtrack. Itís the best reason to keep playing even after the game stops being fun: itís just a pleasure to watch. The easier levels that just require you to move a few sheep around or traipse across some platforms are still curiously entertaining, mostly because Lil and Laarg are some of the best characters in video games today.
And for all the frustration that comes from the use of the rear touchscreen, at least the developers are trying to use it in a way that makes sense ó a far cry from sliding your finger to move a sniper scope in Uncharted.
In the end, the control problems with Escape Plan get to the heart of the Vitaís mixed identity. Itís set up like it should have button controls, but plays out with the touchscreen, and in the end canít feel as precise as either control scheme should. Thereís the framework of a good game here, but to make it work, Escape Plan has to become the puzzle game it was clearly built to be.