The Artful Escape

The Artful Escape Review

There are certain games that reward you for pulling the proper levers, much like Skinner boxes do. Then there are those who are like slot machines, with their ding-dong serotonin receptors and their random wins. They can be as simple as a game of dodgeball on the playground or a fight club after school in the McDonald’s dumpster. “Partying on the mothership” or “I am mothership connection” or “Gettin’ down in 3-D or “Light Year Groovin” are examples of games I have never played.

The Artful Escape Review

The Artful Escape Review

To compare The Artful Escape to Funk would be unfair, as the game is about rock ‘n’ roll and a young prodigy’s journey to prominence as a guitarist, and not about Funk. Free association is an important part of The Artful Escape, so let’s indulge a little. When you ride the Artful Escape, you feel like you’re riding an elephant-sized moth toward the sun’s setting. It’s like sliding down a mystical forest’s limitless tree branches. On the other side of the world. All of these things are actually done in the game, but they’re also all metaphors, dude.

DeveloperBeethoven & Dinosaur
PublisherAnnapurna Interactive
GenreExperimental platformer
PlayersSingle-player

To compare The Artful Escape to Funk would be unfair, as the game is about rock ‘n’ roll and a young prodigy’s journey to prominence as a guitarist, and not about Funk. Free association is an important part of The Artful Escape, so let’s indulge a little. When you ride the Artful Escape, you feel like you’re riding an elephant-sized moth toward the sun’s setting. It’s like sliding down a mystical forest’s limitless tree branches. On the other side of the world. All of these things are actually done in the game, but they’re also all metaphors, dude.

As with David Bowie’s cosmic alter ego Ziggy Stardust, The Artful Escape follows Francis Vendetti’s hallucinogenic stage character as it develops throughout the course of the novel. In his little community, Francis is a sci-fi nerd, and his uncle was a folk music guru. Before his first performance, a tribute to his uncle, Francis is confronted by a series of extraterrestrial being who push him to confront his own mediocrity, as well as his own prodigiousness. As far as the general public knows, Francis is nothing more than the folk legend’s ghost. Manic-pixie laser light artist informs him, “You dress like a vagabond, yet you sound like a space opera. “Gray Matter Between the Lobes” is a dreamy acid journey into the “gray matter” between universe’s “lobes” that Francis must take on as his uncle’s heir. Francis exits his boyhood bedroom into the night and is met by a brain-in-a-vat extraterrestrial outside his home.

In order to embark on a sci-fi guitar journey, you must hold the X key. When it comes to his life, Francis must abandon his past ego and create a new plot based on a dimension-hopping, space opera character from his theatre. The Glamourgonn terrorizes Francis as he skates down ice mountains and bounces off melodic bubbles, and Francis jams with various intergalactic celebrities to save his life.

There is no difficulty in swallowing The Artful Escape. Light platforming around vibrant, kaleidoscopic landscapes filled with alienesque critters and greenery takes four to five hours. Playing for as long as you can keeps you entertained. The past of one side character is revealed in an interactive digital museum along a trail he once traversed, and instead of simple platforming Francis can create light pillars and swarms of fireflies by simply holding X and playing guitar, among other things. There is a guitar in the background of each zone, and it is always playing. When Francis performs a concert, a music-making mechanic appears—more Simon Says than Guitar Hero—that prompts the player to tap buttons or triggers, at whatever pace or rhythm, in conjunction with a prompt. The idea is to be expressive, not correct.

Saying The Artful Escape is about finding oneself would be clichéd. As a result, there are many startling messages throughout the game about what it means to be true (often merging truth and aspirational truths), to produce significant art (creating things that others don’t even realize they desire yet), and to defy others’ expectations of you (excellence cannot be prescribed). Contrary to appearances, The Artful Escape’s corniness can be found only in the guitar licks. Written simply but with a lot of impact it makes you want to keep reading.

There is a rule of thumb when it comes to impactful art, and The Artful Escape is no exception. It reminds me a lot less of other games and more of my own dreams. A lot of that has to do with Johnny Galvatron, former head of rock band The Galvatrons and current creative director at Beethoven and Dinosaurus (the name is a Transformers reference). ‘I started creating this game concept when I was seventeen,’ Galvatron told Shack. Musician life, he subsequently admitted to NME, wasn’t all that glamorous: A life of 10 people sleeping in the same hotel room in regional Australia with people throwing bottles at you and begging you to play old Australian rock tunes is not a life of grandeur and luxury. Everything about the band was appealing to him: the graphics, the packaging and even its mythology. Galvatron’s The Artful Escape captures the enchantment of space glam rock without becoming bogged down in the minutiae of music.

The story isn’t about Francis improving his guitar skills; it’s about him having the freedom to fully express himself by completely abstracting his entire existence. Francis is liberated from the constraints of particulars, allowing him to express himself and his fantasies. “We’re going on a ride across the dilated pupils of the cosmos”, one galactic entity assures him.

The Verdict

The Artful Escape9/10

The Artful Escape is a truly joyful musical journey through outer space. It’s not for those who’re after a traditional platforming game challenge. But if you’re up for an infectious mix of goofy good humour and brazen guitar worship, then there hasn’t been a musical adventure as excellent as The artful escape since Bill met Ted.

The Artful Escape

The Artful Escape
9 10 0 1
The Artful Escape is a truly joyful musical journey through outer space. It’s not for those who’re after a traditional platforming game challenge. But if you’re up for an infectious mix of goofy good humour and brazen guitar worship, then there hasn’t been a musical adventure as excellent as The artful escape since Bill met Ted.
The Artful Escape is a truly joyful musical journey through outer space. It’s not for those who’re after a traditional platforming game challenge. But if you’re up for an infectious mix of goofy good humour and brazen guitar worship, then there hasn’t been a musical adventure as excellent as The artful escape since Bill met Ted.
9/10
Total Score
Amazing
The Artful Escape Review

Pros

  • A sensory feast
  • Engaging story
  • Brilliant music

Cons

  • Performance issues

The Artful Escape is available on PC and Xbox.

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