The Artful Escape game review: Jamming with celestial beings

Robby Bisschop
by Robby Bisschop
Robby lives and breathes videogames. When he's not playing them, he's talking about them on social media or convincing other people to pick up a controller themselves. He's online so often, he could practically... Read more
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  • The Artful Escape is a dazzling journey into visuals and sound
  • It tells a story of rediscovering who you truly are
  • It's not so much a platformer as it is a narrative adventure

The Artful Escape is a musical platformer with a strong yet whimsical narrative. It tells the story of Francis Vendetti, a teenage guitar prodigy who everyone expects to become a famous folk musician, just like his legendary uncle before him.

On the evening before his first big performance, you can clearly see him struggling with this laid-out path that others have made in his stead. But an opportunity arises that will take Francis to new cosmic reaches and allow how to truly discover himself.

Onwards to the Cosmic Extraordinary

Don’t *fret* your future

When Francis reaches his home in Calypso and is about to turn in for the night, he is approached by a strange being that looks like a floating brain-in-a-jar with tentacles. He’s surprisingly unphased by this appearance and agrees to join it and a few humanoid characters on a trip across the dilated pupils of the cosmos.

They promise him a journey of self-discovery and experiencing sights and sounds he could never dream to fathom. But first, he’s got to sign a little contract. Wouldn’t want to be liable when he melts his brain or gets lost drifting into space now, would we…

“Please sign the laserwork”

Now getting to this point takes about a little under an hour and the non-patient players may tune out, but they’d be missing out on the mind-blowingly stunning visuals that follow as soon as we start traveling through the Cosmic Extraordinary and beyond with our holographic guitar.

This is where the “platforming” comes into place that I’ve seen mentioned in a lot of short copies on the game or when it was teased before release. But I don’t find that description to really fit the bill.

Not a platformer

You see, I think The Artful Escape is as much a platformer as Super Mario games are narrative adventures. Sure, you have to jump a few times, but it’s used more to drive the story somewhere while showing us all the pretty things the game has in store.

Francis can double jump and use a mid-air strum to float a bit further, but it’s rarely difficult to make the jumps, and even in the off chance that you plunge into the depths of a level, you’ll just respawn mere feet away from where you perished.

There are three good reasons why you should play The Artful Escape though, so let’s go over them.

The writing is bold and fun

Bold like this outfit. It’s like he put on a full-body Nintendo Power Glove

The story takes Francis to interesting locations and lets you talk to even more fascinating creatures. Usually, it’s just a back-and-forth you navigate through by pressing a single button, but The Artful Escape gives you a choice every time it dives into personal territory.

This is a journey of rediscovery after all, and Francis is redefining who he really is, or rather, who he wants to be. You get to pick a new name for yourself, write your own backstory, from your place of origin to the most important feat you’ve ever performed, but it’s all make-believe and the options range from mildly credible to insanely far-fetched.

Sadly, his lies were not worth a shot

Now, people familiar with indie favorites by Night School (Oxenfree, Afterparty) may do a double-take when they see a screenshot with speech bubbles like the one above. The style is certainly similar, as is the silly dialogue, but make no mistake; this is the first game by Beethoven & Dinosaur, and they rocked it!

The visuals will melt your eyes

Now this is Flower Power!

Rarely do you see a game with such a distinct aesthetic. From colorful handpainted backgrounds to dazzling laser shows, The Artful Escape is sure to wow you with the visual spectacle on show. No two environments look alike and it feels as if what we’re seeing was recorded from an LSD-powered lucid dream.

From luminescent planet musea and purple snowy mountainsides to vibrant pink jungles, there is no wonder every single character in the game wears a set of glasses, their eyes have had much to endure.

And it’s not just environments, but the “action” setpieces are downright stunning as well, one of my favourites being a race on the back of a dimensional turtle and using your jams to speed it up.

Cowabunga!

When the only visual negative in the entire game is “the characters move weird” then you know you’ve got a work of art on your hands.

The soundtrack rocks!

When a game revolves entirely around music, it’s only obvious that a lot of attention went into the playlist and the sound design. Now fair warning, you’ll be hearing electrical guitar riffs pretty much throughout the adventure and if that particular sound is not to your liking, the game may not be for you.

I could really appreciate how the game started with a Bob Dylan-like song (that was pretty catchy) and moved into full-on electric rock and over-the-top light shows.

And it will come as no surprise that the gameplay is rhythm-based as well, with 5 buttons each representing a different riff. You’ll simply need to play a game of Simon Says to open portals, extend bridges or compete with beautiful gelatinous moths.

Now you’re just asking for treble

No need to worry if you’re not much of a rhythm hero or if your memory isn’t the best. You can play the notes as you see them light up in the example, and if you make a mistake you can try again with no negative consequences. The Artful Escape WANTS you to reach the end of the journey, so it won’t be throwing anything in your way to prevent that.

The voice acting is also top-notch, but I do have a single complaint here: it may have happened only 4 or 5 times in the entire game, but some of the voice lines were missing. It’s only really noticeable because the rest of the game is so well-polished and bug-free though.

Completion and Achievements

The Artful Escape isn’t a very long game, but it certainly is memorable. Completing the game will take around 4 hours, maybe 5 if you’re allowing yourself to take in the sights.

Most of the achievements will be unlocked simply by playing the game, with a select few possibly requiring some assistance to unlock. If you still need some help, be sure to check our Achievement Guide!

Final thoughts on The Artful Escape

Pros
Amazing story that goes to the far reaches of the galaxy and back
Simply stunning visual design
Great sounds design and voice acting
Cons
Some missing voice lines
Francis' animation looks weird

Final Score: 4.5/5

The Artful Escape is a gem of an indie game. It delivers on all fronts and makes for a lasting memory of witty one-liners, gorgeous sights, and spine-chilling sounds. From the inspiring coming-of-age story where you get to help a teenage guitar prodigy redefine himself to the creative new places you’ll visit and species you’ll interact with, this is four hours of your time well-spent!

The Artful Escape costs $19.99 and is available on Steam, Windows, and Xbox consoles and is also included in Xbox Game Pass. It’s developed by Beethoven & Dinosaur and published by Annapurna Interactive.

*Disclaimer: Played on Xbox Series X through Xbox Game Pass.