I remember watching the worldwide reveal of The Artful Escape during the Microsoft Xbox E3 2017 press conference live at the Galen Center. I was astounded by the beautifully vibrant art style and animation sequences set across an exhilarating folk and rock-inspired musical soundtrack. As the lead character traversed through various landscapes and planets, I got a vibe that this imaginative title is equivalent to taking a journey through a living, breathing space opera.
After completing The Artful Escape this past weekend, I feel confident in saying that this experience is exactly what I described above and so much more. Here are more of my in-depth thoughts on the upcoming platformer and why you definitely should consider joining one of the galaxy’s most enticing jam sessions.
Developed by Australian-based studio Beethoven & Dinosaur, The Artful Escape revolves around teenage musician Francis Vendetti (voiced by Michael Johnston) on the eve of his first public concert. Having always been viewed solely as the nephew of deceased folk music legend Johnson Vendetti, Francis feels an immense amount of weight on his shoulders to continue down the same path of creating folk music. However, he is incredibly talented on the guitar and daydreams of establishing himself as a rock and roll legend. What follows next is a captivating story about self-discovery and unlocking one’s true passion and potential without bending to the expectations of everyone else.
The Artful Escape is the brainchild of The Galvatrons lead guitarist and founding member Johnny Galvatron. Having toured throughout Australia and the United Kingdom from 2007 to 2009, Johnny knows firsthand what life is like as a rock band musician and finding time to pursue other passions such as the fine arts. When the band went on a hiatus, he ventured deep into the world of game development and formed Beethoven & Dinosaur to create awe-inspiring games such as this one.
While I don’t want to dive into any spoiler territory, I will say that this game has a profoundly deeper meaning than what you might be expecting. It doesn’t just tackle the theme of self-discovery as I mentioned above, but it also gives players insight into what the creative process can be like for someone in search of a greater purpose. Everyone isn’t born into this world immediately knowing what they were meant to do and therefore a thought-provoking journey is necessary to get some answers. In the case of a musician or artist, there may be a personal desire to reinvent themselves from one project to the next in order to maintain a certain level of success. The fun parts lie within the journey it takes to get to this point and in those regards, The Artful Escape succeeds in capturing these moments gracefully from start to finish.
Gameplay consists of exploring various different locations across the galaxy, interacting with both human and alien creatures, and participating in cool jam sessions with bosses and allies alike in an effort to gain notoriety and inch closer to Francis’ destiny. You can press the A button to jump, the Y button to observe areas of interest, the X button to play sweet rifts with your guitar, and any button to participate in certain conversations. As you get deeper into the game, there are instances where you’ll be able to customize your persona including both your appearance and name which carries you through until the very end of your journey.
Some of the most fun aspects of the entire gameplay experience take place within the cool jam sessions that you are required to participate in. These typically start when you come across an ally, boss, or obstacle that instantly tests your musical abilities. Once the performance begins, button prompts pop up on the screen as various colors that you’ll have to quickly study and repeat. You end up using a lot of the same key buttons that I mentioned previously along with the right and left bumper. Even if you don’t nail the performance the first time, the game is very generous in letting you repeat the scenario until you are successful. In a way, studying these patterns feels very reminiscent of learning a new musical instrument for the first time and the player gains a great sense of accomplishment as he or she continues to explore.
As I mentioned above, The Artful Escape is a visually breathtaking marvel of a game. The picturesque environments, fascinating creatures, and wide array of color schemes succeed in pulling you even deeper into the world. If you have a 4K TV and you’re playing on a PC or an Xbox Series X, then I can guarantee you’ll walk away enamored by this world’s beauty and immersion.
In addition to the visuals, the musical score, and voice acting also elevates the game to another level. Memorable performances by Carl Weathers, Caroline Kinley, Lena Headey, Jason Schwartzman, and Mark Strong really aided in making the journey even more fun. You can tell that they are all fully committed to this project and when everything is clicking on all cylinders from the artwork and animation to the music and voice acting, then it is hard to resist just how charming and creative this game actually is.
The Artful Escape has 28 short story chapters and took me roughly 4.5 hours to complete. There are a total of 12 achievements to unlock that you can get by simply playing through the game from beginning to end. It’s also worth noting that you can go back and replay any individual chapter after completing it on the first go-around. The overall experience was an absolute blast and definitely worth playing again for those who enjoyed the characters, atmosphere, and musical score.
The Artful Escape launches on September 9th for Microsoft Windows, Xbox Series X/S, Xbox One, and iOS. The game will also be available on Xbox Game Pass on the same day.
This review was written based on a digital review copy of The Artful Escape for the Xbox Series X provided by Annapurna Interactive.