Prisoner of War
The Great Escape, Castle Colditz and Hogan's Heroes, nothing is more appealing about WW2 (if anything about WW2 can be said to be appealing) than an escape from a prison camp, against heavily stacked odds. Of course the harsh reality was that many escape attempts were unsuccessful, but that didn't stop Wide Games from giving you the chance to break out of 5 prison camps, including perhaps the most difficult place ever to escape from, Castle Colditz.
You play the role of Captain Lewis Stone. At the beginning of the game his aircraft is shot down whilst carrying out a reconnaissance flight over occupied Germany. He and his partner are captured. Very shortly after being taken to your first prison camp it is not too long before you're thinking of escape. With a little help from two of your fellow captives, you soon pick up a few pointers that will help you organise a plan to escape. However unlike Hogan's Heroes there is no Sergeant Schultz to 'see nothing' and it's difficult work to carry out the simplest of tasks.
Throughout the game there is the concept of currency that can buy you items and information. Currency is not money as such, it is items of value that can be used to trade. Initially the first thing you'll need some 'currency' for, is some information and some boot polish in order to make yourself less conspicuous when prowling around in the evening. Make no mistake obtaining currency is imperative to succeeding in the game.
As you can imagine the secret to the game is strategy and stealth. Captain Stone is fully equipped to crawl and sneak about and with the occasional help of other captives he has a fair chance of succeeding. The game is nothing but difficult though and right from the off it becomes painfully obvious that it is not for those who like to play a quick five minutes here and there. You'll find yourself reloading your game again and again in an attempt to execute an operation without being caught. Of course you can elect to carry on your game if you are caught but it effects your overall score.
A game such as this needs a useful and easy to interpret interface and thankfully the developers have done a good job. There is a clock that shows when you next have an activity to do or place to attend, failure to attend will alert the guards. There is an onscreen map that helps you orientate yourself. The X and square buttons are context sensitive and change their function according to your situation, rather like in Legend of Zelda Ocarina of Time. The L2 and R2 buttons are used to lean left and right and the circle button is used to stand/crouch. The left analogue stick moves Stone around and the right analogue stick moves the camera around. I think overall the control scheme is very good and feels comfortable immediately.
Whilst the graphics are good they are nothing exceptional. The animations can be a little wooden from time to time, particularly with the guards and fellow prisoners. Slowdown also rears it's ugly head from time to time. You have to wonder if the Playstation 2 is sweating with some of the titles that have come out for it over the last year because slowdown (dips in frame rate) is an all too common appearance. Either that or a lot of games are not being optimised and surely this wouldn't be happening on such a wide scale. Don't get me wrong, the slowdown is in no way disastrous and nothing is spoilt as a result of it.
As you've probably noticed from the screenshots, the game is fully subtitled. Wide Games have done a tremendous job in making the game accessible for deaf gamers. The subtitles are on by default too. The text is clear and legible, something that can't be said for many games and the name of the person speaking is shown too. Conversations require button presses to progress so you'll always have time to read them.
Prisoner of War is going to need a patient gamer to fully appreciate the title. If you're the kind of person who likes to sit there for long durations and get deeply into a game then you're going to relish the challenge that this game offers. If you like short gaming blasts then you might become a little irritated by the games reliance on stealth and smart thinking. In recent years there hasn't been a title quite like this and overall it comes together pretty darn well. If you're prepared for the challenge that the game offers then you will not be disappointed.
Overall Game Rating: 8.9/10 Unique, challenging and ultimately enjoyable, Prisoner of War is well worth it for those who like a tough challenge.
Deaf Gamers comment: Pleasingly the whole thing is subtitled and a clear and easy to read text has been used throughout.