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The Artful Escape Hands On Preview

Trippy doesn't begin to cover it.

One of the stand out games for me at the Microsoft E3 press conference was a unique little indie game called The Artful Escape. The papercraft graphics and emphasis on jamming on an electric guitar made me think of some heady melding of Gitaroo Man from the PlayStation 2 and last generation’s indie darling Journey. I knew it was one to watch, and I was happy to be able to try it out on the show floor.

The Artful Escape is…well, eclectic comes to mind. You assume the role of Francis Vendetti, a musician and son of Johnson Vendetti. Francis’ father was a musical icon, and Francis is trying to follow in his father’s footsteps. However, Francis appears to be experiencing an existential crisis of sorts; in my time with the game, Francis was musing on what it means to be an artist and trying to come to grips with his place in the musical world.

If that sounds like a lot to take in, it is. Dialogue is text based, and you can choose different responses for Francis that range from sarcastic wit to naval gazing philosophy. Francis is guided by the ethereal image of his girlfriend, although the game makes it unclear if she is dead, communicating telepathically, or if this is all some gorgeous fever dream.

Gorgeous this game is, at times hauntingly so. In the demo the environment quickly changed from a typical neighborhood street to snowcapped vistas awash in pink lighting. The use of color in this game is breathtaking, and it should truly pop on a 4K display if you’re using an Xbox One S or planning on purchasing the Xbox One X. Complimenting the stunning visuals is a soundtrack that swells and ebbs based on what is happening on screen.

I didn’t get the sense that The Artful Escape is intended to be a particularly challenging game. It does feature some light platforming elements, and Francis is able to perform a double jump and then float by jamming on his electric guitar. However, when I missed a jump there wasn’t any real penalty; it seems that this is an experience that developer Beethoven & Dinosaur want people to have from beginning to end.

The only real challenge for me involved performing a bit of guitar “Simon Says” with a giant spider. The spider’s eyes would light up one by one, and each eye was a different color that mostly corresponds with the Xbox face buttons. Performing the notes in the correct order would cause the spider to give the next sequence, and so on. However, in a rather odd design choice, the green note is not played by the A button, but instead is performed with the left bumper. This caused something in my brain to break a little bit, and it took me longer to pass this sequence than it probably should have. It’s something I can get used to, but the use of color for three out of the four face buttons threw me off.

I came away immensely impressed with The Artful Escape. Although the demo was only about ten minutes long, I remember every moment vividly. At this time it is of course difficult to say if this game will be satisfying and have people talking, but for my part, I am eagerly anticipating following Francis Vendetti on his psychedelic endeavor. 


 

Comments

Super Step

07/06/2017 at 08:25 PM

I remember this from the Xbox press conference. Didn't realize it was playable on the show floor. 

The color coding on Rocksmith already handicaps me on songs I can play in real life, so mismatched color-coding would be a nightmare for me, but otherwise I love the mix of platforming and rythm-action.

It's funny how you said it's a game intended to be played from beginning to end. It brings to mind comedians referencing the fact your skills don't determine whether you can enjoy a full book, movie, or musical album. I guess that's the philosophy driving the easier gaming difficulty lately. 

Julian Titus Senior Editor

07/07/2017 at 04:57 PM

I think we're in a great place now where there are a myriad of different types of game experiences out there. That's why I enjoy day in the life games, because they are focused on a narrative, while something like Nier is way more mechanics driven. Even though Dragon Ball was my favorite game that I played at the show, this was the one that grabbed me the most, if that makes sense.

Super Step

07/07/2017 at 08:46 PM

I love slice-of-life games like Life is Strange for that reason: I know I'll get to see the narrative through. 

Does Nier get more colorful as it goes on? I was impressed by its myriad gameplay styles, but the grayed out factory in the demo was a huge turn off.

Julian Titus Senior Editor

07/08/2017 at 01:08 AM

No idea. I died on the first boss and had to start from the beginning, so I said goodbye to Nier. I'll play it some day, but that turned me off.

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