Escape from Paradise 2:
A Kingdom's Quest
In the mood for more beach-themed Virtual Villagers-style simulation gaming? Escape from Paradise 2: A Kingdom's Quest is now available, and it delivers exactly what its predecessor did and quite a bit more. Instead of straightforward village management, Escape from Paradise 2 blends in mini-games to break up the action, and combined with a little hidden object finding and character stat upgrading, you have a game that will quickly sink its hooks in you.
Being shipwrecked isn't an easy life, even when you're on an island named Paradise. The first game was all about earning your freedom and sailing off into the sunset. As the second game reveals, however, the hero of Escape from Paradise wasn't so keen on leaving and decided to make this place his home. But the Great Chief of the local people was a suspicious and jealous man, and he banished our hero to the outskirts of the kingdom.
Depending on your character's chosen gender, you are immediately joined by Prince or Princess Perusah on the island. Their advice is to rise to the level of chieftain by helping the local tiki tribe build huts, wells, and other structures. As you fix up parts of the island, you earn the loyalty of more and more natives, slowly building your following as you go. The game plays out in a linear manner with challenges opening up each time you complete certain tasks. Sometimes all you need to do is build a few huts to gain access to a new part of the island. Other times you'll have a multi-step puzzle to solve. An inventory bar allows you to grab, store, combine and use certain items you find laying on the sand.
Escape from Paradise 2 is more than hut building, of course. Each member of your tribe has four stats you must tend to: thirst, hunger, social, and sleep. It's easy to drop a worker off by the well for a drink to raise the water meter, even though you won't want to take him or her off the job. You also have stats you can upgrade which, in turn, increase each character's speed at three basic tasks: cutting wood, gathering food, and building.
Mini-games play an important role in your success in Escape from Paradise 2. You earn food, wood and skill points by playing them, and they range from simple matching games to card games and more. There's also a strong hidden object theme in the main part of the game, as you'll catch a glimpse of several items while surveying the island. Click on them and see what happens!
Analysis: Escape from Paradise 2 takes another great stride away from Virtual Villagers convention, setting itself apart from the best-known casual village sim even more than the original Escape from Paradise. In doing so, it edges closer to Totem Tribe and its mixed-genre structure, which certainly isn't a bad thing.
Unlocking new challenges was my favorite part of the game, and each time something new became available my eyes lit up with excitement. The little mysteries scattered throughout the island — cracked stones, birds, gems, bumps in the ground, etc. — slowly become useful. I love that kind of progression in a game, and Escape from Paradise 2 handles it well.
One fault that continued to bother me while playing Escape from Paradise 2 was a lack of background tasking. The game requires a lot of waiting, such as waiting for wood to be gathered, waiting for huts to be built, waiting for characters to sleep so they'll work again, etc. You can disable auto-pause under the options menu, allowing the game to run in the background, but when you come back, the map will have moved because the game still tracks your mouse movement, even when minimized. The only aural clue you receive is a beep when you run out of food or wood, so if you don't check back frequently, you might return to see villagers dawdling or almost starving to death. You can always hunt the sands for hidden items or play mini-games with the monkey while everyone gets their chores done, but sometimes I'm more task-oriented and want to be productive!
More than just a village sim, Escape from Paradise 2: A Kingdom's Quest is a complete casual gaming package. It's got object finding, it's got puzzles, it's got over a dozen mini-games, and, oh yeah, there's some simulation stuff in there, too. Everything is balanced to keenly that no one aspect drowns out the other, leaving you free to enjoy every minute of game time.