The studio responsible for The Artful Escape (O The Artful Escape of Francis Vendetti, his original name) is not known in the world of video games, but its members, and mainly its founder, has not suddenly appeared from the galactic emptiness to make a niche for himself in the industry’s agenda: who laid the first stone of Beethoven & Dinosaur, Australian team responsible for this project, was Johnny Galvatron, lead vocalist and guitarist for the rock group The Galvatrons. After the band’s disbandment, its leader decided to seek out new creative horizons that he had already explored on the side and plunged headlong into the troubled waters of video game development.
Thus was born the work that concerns us, a title that is easier to define by its history than by its playability: Francis Vendetti is a young local talent haunted by the long shadow of his uncle, Johnson Vendetti, a legend of the folk who died leaving behind a legion of fans who now hope that his nephew is the reincarnation of that style he loved so much. Before his first big concert, Francis finds himself involved in a space odyssey through the recesses of the cosmos, an adventure throughout which the musician will try to find out who he really is beyond the legacy imposed by his uncle’s success.
Goodbye hometown, hello Extraordinary Cosmos
If you had to put a label on The Artful Escape perhaps we could use that broad of ‘narrative adventure’, a genre that encompasses almost everything that involves giving more importance to what is told than to what is played. We add the last name of ‘musical’ and season it with some platformer and surreal style in two dimensions to have a complete image of this interesting video game that is also published by Annapurna Interactive. During the eight hours that lasts this galactic pica we will live all kinds of situations on unknown planets with unpronounceable names in which deformed beings inhabit, although what is in the background is a human history about insecurity, identity, family legacy, creativity and ambitions for the future.
Throughout this cosmic journey we will discover a irreverent universe in which music moves everything; This will lead us to star in concerts in forests that light up to the sound of our holographic guitar, in the corridors and skyscrapers of abandoned cities in the middle of the desert, or in the shell of a giant tortoise while we escape from a stubborn ruler obsessed with fashion. Nothing that happens in The Artful Escape makes more sense than to amaze the person at the helm by offering a succession of beautiful and spectacular scenes in which Francis expresses himself without fear, exchanging American folk for electronic rock accompanied by lasers, smoke and a stunning staging; quite the opposite of what his uncle represented.
De Bob Dylan a Ziggy Stardust
When we look out at references that have served as the basis for the premise of The Artful Escape we find great names of which, in effect, the residue is noticeable in the final game: David Bowie is the most obvious of them all, especially with his album The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars in which he unveiled Ziggy Stardust, his alter ego. Eventually this game will ask us to do the same, to unleash our personality to turn Francis Vendetti into who he truly is, creating a new character with his own name and style, albeit with an extravagant musical style reminiscent of the glam rock.
There are more influences, of course (Johnson Vendetti is clearly inspired by Bob Dylan), but not just in music: great dialogues of the game and the situations we live in remind us of those that can be read in Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, a novel by Douglas Adams, and its excellent film adaptation. Next to his quirky art style (It is visually impressive, during the game we have taken almost 100 screenshots) and the good interpretation of its characters (it has texts in Spanish, but voices in English with a cast that is brought to life by actors like Michael Johnston, Caroline Kinley o Lena Headey), all these aspects achieve that The Artful Escape become an exceptional atmosphere video game, with a charismatic one-of-a-kind style, enjoyable from start to finish.
Follow the beat your way (sort of)
Another thing is that in terms of gameplay The Artful Escape get to find your site. As we said before, focusing on its interactive facet is rather difficult because it is not something in which it seems that it intends to excel. Basically what we do throughout the game is talk, run and jump on side stages and playing concerts with a rhythm mechanic similar to Simon, the famous musical toy. Here there are no challenges, really, only moments in which we are asked for certain actions to continue advancing in the galactic epic.
There are points where it seems that The Artful Escape wants our interaction with his world to be creative, that while we jump through their platforms we are more concerned with playing the guitar than with calculating the jumps; that’s something that’s there, though not quite well exploited. In concerts, for example, we have to follow the rhythm set by other characters, but we can do it with the tempo and intensity we want. There is a point of artistic freedom there, but it does not end up being well managed; if we miss a note we have to repeat, and between sequence and sequence we cannot express our music, for example.
That does not mean that sliding down the colorful slopes of exotic planets while waking up luminous beasts is not quite a show. What the riffs guitar help to jumpstart the jump is a fantastic idea that reinforces those moments of showmanship. But in the end it all seems much more driven than we would like. It is almost a 2D platform on rails in which our actions have some effect on the stage, but they hardly ever know how to make us part of it. It is not that it is an automatically bad game for not having managed to offer that creative freedom to improvise songs while jumping platforms, but that we miss an extra point in that sense, one more step towards the expression without barriers of the people who are in charge. in the hands.
The Artful Escape It is a cosmic marvel, a great space adventure in which we travel the length and breadth of a peculiar cosmos to discover who Francis Vendetti really is. We could ask him for some more interactive freedom so that, as he seems to pretend, we can be part of this odyssey more clearly and creatively; but the deficiencies in the playable, an aspect in which it does not stand out especially, are made up with its wonderful story, some delusional and surreal dialogues, a great voice performance (with a tall cast) and, of course, with a spectacular art section that makes the first work of Beethoven & Dinosaur an essential for those who want to delight their eyes with beautiful two-dimensional scenery and ones psychedelic character designs. In reality, this title is neither more nor less than what we expected it to be when we see its fascinating trilers, so it is difficult for it to disappoint anyone who already had a prior interest in the project.
We have performed this analysis on PC with a code for Steam provided by Fortyseven Communications.
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Analysis The Artful Escape, two-dimensional space opera (Xbox Series X / S, iPhone, Xbox One, PC)