The idea of being trapped in a Nazi prison camp probably doesn't sound very good, but the idea of busting out of one possibly might. Escape is the goal in Prisoner of War, a short but original and often entertaining game that challenges you to free yourself from the clutches of the Germans during World War II. Prisoner of War features real-time gameplay and an open-ended mission structure, as well as a strong cast of characters, making it much better in some ways than your average game. On the other hand, some disappointing graphics and unconvincing artificial intelligence for your German captors, as well as the game's brevity, make Prisoner of War more intriguing than wholeheartedly recommendable.
You'll need the assistance of other inmates in order to hatch an escape plan.
The game begins as flight jockey Captain Lewis Stone, a rough-and-tough American with a slight Irish accent, is shot down. He's fortunate enough to escape with his life, but he lands right on top of his enemies, who take him to an internment camp for safekeeping. Impatient Captain Stone immediately starts planning his escape, and that's where you take over. The Nazis expect you to stick to a certain routine throughout the day, but to what extent you do so is for you to decide. Contrary to Stone's personality, this is a game about being patient. You'll have to observe your surroundings carefully. You'll have to keep your jailers from getting suspicious by being where you're supposed to be at the appointed times, and then sneak around through the compound when the guards aren't looking, procuring useful items and finding a viable escape route. The presence of an onscreen compass and what's essentially a radar display, which clearly indicates all guards in the vicinity and shows where they're looking, makes the sneaking a lot easier than it would be in reality.
By now, stealth elements are common in games. Many games expect you to silently move about and strike only when the enemy isn't looking, in an attempt to even the odds against a superior opponent. Prisoner of War is very different from stealth games like Metal Gear Solid insofar as it's completely nonviolent. Stone may look and sound tough, but he's not interested in snapping any necks, stealing weapons, or knocking anybody out. He's just trying to get the hell out of Dodge, and you'll help him do this by staying as far away from trouble as you possibly can. Even when Stone picks up something like a crowbar, he'll use it just to pry open padlocks.
As a matter of fact, the game goes so far toward being nonviolent that even if you're seen trying to escape and are shot by a German guard, you'll just end up in the infirmary, rather than the morgue. At any rate, because it forces you only to sneak and never to fight, Prisoner of War could be described as a thinking-man's game. Nevertheless, for a game that takes place in the notorious German prison camps Stalag Luft and Colditz Castle, the lack of any real violence in Prisoner of War seems rather bizarre. It's rare to find Nazis in a game where the goal isn't to kill them. Actually, if this game taught you everything you knew about World War II, you'd wonder why Stone was even trying to escape in the first place. Aside from some barbed wire and some armed guards milling about, nothing seems particularly unpleasant about the Nazi concentration camps in Prisoner of War, where you eat three squares a day, show up for afternoon exercise, and have free time in between.