As online gaming with friends becomes more popular every day, couch co-op seems to have been left in the dust. That didn’t stop Josef Fares from releasing A Way Out though; a game that not only features couch co-op, but encourages it.
In A Way Out, players take control of two lead characters, Leo and Vincent, in a Telltale style adventure. Leo has been in prison for months already and the game kicks off with Vincent just arriving to the prison for the first time. The two characters eventually start working together to find a way out of prison, but the game goes much further beyond high walls and iron bars.
Essentially, A Way Out is about forming a tight knit friendship or a brotherhood and seeing how it evolves throughout the game. This can be seen first and foremost in the fact that a friend to play alongside is required. Without a friend, there is no way to play, but the good news is only one player must purchase the game, while the other can simply join in. Once a friend is chosen, the game can begin. One player will then choose to play as Vincent and the other as Leo.
In almost any other game, the adventure would kick off and each player would see what their respective character sees. This is where A Way Out differs, and why it is so unique. The screen splits in half for the rest of the game, unless there is a major cutscene, and both players can see the other’s perspective. This feature allows for both players to see the separate perspectives of the narrative and it allows for a more coordinated experience. Much of the game requires coordination and team work from both players in a variety of situations, like using each other and the environment to transport a wrench without the guards finding it, or simply using one player as a support while the other scales an otherwise unclimbable wall.
As the game changes and progresses, so too do the environments and the mechanics. Each new chapter brings a fresh addition like stealth sequences, rowing down dangerous whitewater rapids, or get away chases in stolen cars. The game almost never allows players to get comfortable with a given mechanic, and new curveballs are thrown to create a genuine feeling of pressure in hectic situations. Most of the mechanics were fun and kept the game fresh, but the shooting and combat mechanics towards the end felt clunky and even rushed. They were needed for sure, especially where the narrative eventually leads to, but that doesn’t make them any less unwieldy.
The characters themselves in A Way Out are also some of the best aspects of the game. Vincent and Leo are both multidimensional characters with their own back stories and motivations that unravel as the game goes on. Though some of the voice acting can be shaky at points, the characters hold a genuine sense of realism and friendship through most of the game. Vincent and Leo start out cold and distant, but eventually they warm up to each other.
It’s an aspect of the game that A Way Out wants the players to feel as they are getting through the game together. Key decisions must be made together and there is a plethora of mini games littered throughout that allow for some smaller competition in-between tense moments. My friend and I would stop and play each other in Darts or start a button mashing arm wrestle that lasted for five minutes. The winner would then start trash-talking both in game and in real life. These smaller mini games, coordination in tense situations, and narrative decisions between the characters and the players all lead up to a compelling end. I can’t spoil the ending, but the culmination of the game feeds off of the team work and friendship that the game pushes for in the six-hour playthrough. My friend and I were both left in awe with the final act to say the least.
A Way Out tried something new with its required co-op aspect, and it definitely succeeded in making a worthwhile narrative driven adventure. Though the game could feel too linear at points or the dialogue could sound awkward, there was so much more that was done right. Coordinated co-op was a lot of fun and the build-up of Leo and Vincent until the end was what will make the game so memorable. The game doesn’t drag on for too many hours and the asking price is a fair $30, so if you have a friend with six hours to kill, maybe take them along on this prison escape adventure.