The Artful Escape is a weird game, but in a brilliant kind of way that also explores the theme of living the life that YOU want to lead. Sure, the gameplay might not offer enough depth for some players, but the memorable journey ensures that your time is well spent embarking on this fantastical musical journey.
Check out a gallery of screenshots down below:
Players take on the role of Francis Vendetti, a young musician who just so happens to be the nephew of the legendary folk musician Johnny Vendetti. Johnny is much-loved in Francis’ hometown of Calypso, so much so that a celebration has been organised to commemorate the anniversary of one of his most famous albums. Francis has been booked to play at this show too, though with the expectation that he’ll only play Johnny’s classic folk tunes.
It turns out that this isn’t the life that Francis wants to lead though. Instead, he wants to shred riffs and jam out with some psychedelic beats that transmit electrifying blows through their sound waves. He wants to be enigmatic, he wants to be colourful, and he wants to be captivating. Instead? He’s a fairly normal dude in a pair of glasses playing folk songs.
This all changes when he meets Lightman, an eccentric musician that sends Francis on a musical journey through the cosmos to not only see many weird and wonderful sights, but also discover who he is as a musician. Players get to re-invent Francis’ look in an array of vivid and wacky ways, and embark on one heck of a memorable adventure along the way.
“Behind all the glitz and glamour is a young man who is struggling with his identity, which is something I’m sure a lot of people can relate to.”
The Artful Escape’s tale is silly and outrageous, but it can also be heartfelt and meaningful. Behind all the glitz and glamour is a young man who is struggling with his identity, which is something I’m sure a lot of people can relate to. That doesn’t mean that his journey of discovery can’t be a fun one though, with the outrageous locales you visit, the rocking beats you hear, and comical interactions you share with the various inhabitants of the cosmos all coming together to make for a unique and enjoyable experience.
At its core, the best way to describe The Artful Escape is as a platformer, but it doesn’t feel like platforming is the crux of the experience. Sure, you’ll run and jump around, but there are no challenging jumps to pull off or any enemies to bop on the head. It’s can feel more like a walking simulator in these moments than anything else, though being able to play guitar as you go along or slide on the ground on your knees does add a small rock ‘n roll twist to proceedings.
What you will do though is jam with the other creatures of the cosmos, with the action taking place on a fantastical stage where players will have to mash buttons to follow the rhythm of the beat. It’s like a mixture of Simon Says and Guitar Hero, with the beat getting faster and more intricate as the song plays on. Whilst simple, these segments are always a lot of fun to play through and complement the musical nature of the experience.
“You can just expect an array of catchy tunes spread across all sorts of genres throughout the adventure, with each one not only sounding wonderful but also fitting the vibe of the game perfectly.”
I have to give a shout out to the game’s soundtrack, because it really is awesome. I mean, the main menu theme alone got stuck in my head from the get-go and I begrudged even starting the game just so I could listen to it. That consistent quality continues throughout the whole of the game, especially in those aforementioned rhythm sections that featured some of the best songs of the entire experience. You can just expect an array of catchy tunes spread across all sorts of genres throughout the adventure, with each one not only sounding wonderful but also fitting the vibe of the game perfectly.
The voice acting is great too, with famous names including Carl Weathers, Mark Strong, Lena Heady, and Jason Schwartzman lending their talents to the game. Between the stellar cast and the brilliant soundtrack, it’s clear throughout that the sound design of The Artful Escape is top notch.
You’ve only got to look at the screenshots to see that the game is a thing of beauty too, with all sorts of mesmerising and vibrant sights to be seen during your journey. Whilst locales like Calypso are more peaceful and tranquil to explore, the more extravagant places across the cosmos almost feel neon-lit with all of the bright colours and wacky wonders they exhibit. It all adds to the character of the game, with the world of The Artful Escape certainly a unique one that’ll stay in my mind for a long time.
“Whilst locales like Calypso are more peaceful and tranquil to explore, the more extravagant places across the cosmos almost feel neon-lit with all of the bright colours and wacky wonders they exhibit.”
The Artful Escape has a lot of strengths that ensure players will appreciate its adventure, but those looking for a deep gameplay experience might be a little underwhelmed. As mentioned, the platforming is simple and lacks challenge, whilst even the rhythm sections won’t push your skills too much – in fact, I don’t think it’s possible to fail them. You do get to choose how to respond to characters throughout the narrative to add your own personality to Francis, but even these won’t really affect the story all that much outside of a few different responses. It shows that whilst The Artful Escape encourages creativity, it doesn’t always embrace it throughout its gameplay.
Still, it didn’t stop me from enjoying the game a lot. The allure comes from experiencing the journey, embracing its wonderful sights and sounds, and seeing Francis discover himself as a musician. It won’t take long to beat at around four hours or so, but the payoff is definitely worth it – even if there isn’t always a whole lot to do from a gameplay perspective.
I played through The Artful Escape on the Nintendo Switch and primarily in the handheld mode, and I’m happy to report that it all ran pretty well. I did suffer a few frame stutters here and there, but it was nothing that made the game feel unplayable, whilst the visuals hold up well too. Of course, it’s not going to look as pretty as its PlayStation 5 or Xbox Series X counterpart, but the game still looked like a piece of art regardless.
The Artful Escape Review
The Artful Escape wowed me with its wonderful sights and sounds, with the wacky musical adventure of Francis Vendetti sure to keep a smile on players’ faces. Sure, it might not offer a deep gameplay experience, but there’s enough on offer between exploring the bizarre yet beautiful world, uncovering the surprisingly heartfelt narrative, and simply sculpting your own unique Francis to ensure the adventure remains a memorable one.
Developer: Beethoven and Dinosaur
Publisher: Annapurna Interactive
Platform(s): Nintendo Switch (Reviewed), PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4, Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One, PC