“Adventures are only interesting once you’ve lived to see the end of them. Before that, they are nothing but fear, and being too cold or too hot or too wet or too hungry, and getting hurt.” – Holly Lisle
Released: March 2019
Don’t Escape: 4 Days to Survive (formerly 4 Days in a Wasteland)is a point-and-click adventure and survival game in which players take on the role of David whose prophetic dreams of forewarning allow him to navigate (and hopefully survive) the post-apocalyptic world in which the game is set.
This title is a full-length evolution of a series of three shorter web-based games released between 2013 and 2015 (Don’t Escape Trilogy) all of which attempt to invert the familiar ‘escape-the-room’ formula by requiring the protagonist to secure themselves within the space instead!
The game begins in one of David’s predictive nightmares and sees him awake in a barren and expansive desert. Heeding the warning of his slumber he ventures forth in seek of shelter from the impending threat and soon stumbles across an abandoned farmhouse and each day is spent fortifying it against whatever danger the evening will bring.
As events unfold and new characters are introduced, a larger narrative emerges from the smaller stories of survival, unearthing the reasons behind the current events and revealing the game to be more than it first appears. The narrative spans multiple genres from the obvious survival aspects to horror and sci-fi as well as emotive interpersonal stories and interactions giving it wide appeal and some unexpected twists!
The gameplay in Don’t Escape: 4 Days to Survive consists mainly of familiar point-and-click mechanics, such as exploring fixed scenes, environmental and inventory-based puzzles and just generally finding, combining and using items. However, the challenge is added to by a strict item number and overall weight limit on what the player can carry and the fact that lots of actions, such as travelling and manual tasks, take time. Each day includes twelve hours of preparation time meaning that items must be thoughtfully selected and actions considered carefully as rectifying mistakes can be costly and disaterous!
When each day ends (this can be done manually), the game provides an evaluation and summary of how well David and his companions were able to fortify their stronghold and avoid harm. This is presented in a methodical way, outlining techniques and positioning and their effectiveness with percentages, detailing if and how the party survived. There are multiple possible threats each day and different ways of dealing with them, this randomness helps keep each playthrough somewhat unique and provides a lot of replayability.
At the end of four days, ‘Awakening’ mode will be unlocked, without spoiling anything, this is not a new game but a continuation that will provide a much more rounded and complete narrative. Following this, players can create a custom game, choosing which dangers they will face and whether or not previous playthroughs are ‘remembered’.
On the surface Don’t Escape: 4 Days to Survive has a fairly simple, pixel art style but this is used to create distinct environments, characters and objects with clever use of colour palettes and lighting and enough detail to give the scenes an authentic atmosphere.
This is further emphasised by the game’s soundtrack, which consists of a variety of melancholy and dramatic vocals and strings overlayed on sparse, desolate sounding beats. There is some repetition but this fosters familiarity rather than frustration. Sound effects are quite minimal but well implemented and add to the immersion in each scenario.
Overall, Don’t Escape: 4 Days to Survive is an engaging post-apocalyptic thriller that provides an original take on a range of classic game genres. The characters are interesting individuals who provide an entertaining group dynamic that adds an extra dimension to some satisfying and eclectic narrative design and atmospheric aesthetic and audio.
It will easily provide 15-20 hours of gameplay and still have remaining replay value making it easy to recommend to fans of story-focused survival and point-and-click games. As an added bonus it is currently on sale on Steam and will be half price until 24th August 2020!