The Artful Escape review – A wondrous trip down the rabbit hole
The Artful Escape thrusts you down the rabbit hole into a whimsical wonderland overflowing with creativity in every facet. If you’re seeking a gaming experience wholly unique or just want something a little out of the ordinary, this lively indie title is not one to miss.
At a glance, The Artful Escape is a simple side-scroller with narrative focus at the forefront. Though what transpires as this visually stunning escapade gets underway is unlike anything else you’ll play this year.
The places you’ll go, the characters you’ll meet, and the sights you’ll see, will all stick with you long after the credits roll.
While the gameplay itself is nothing particularly memorable, it’s the breathtaking designs and endless creativity that will keep you hooked from start to finish.
In an industry that too often rewards repetition, The Artful Escape is perhaps the most aptly-titled release in recent years. It affords an escape from the traditional gaming experience, daring to experiment in entirely unique and rewarding ways.
The Artful Escape – Key Details
- Price: $19.99 (USD) | $29.95 (AUD)
- Developer: Beethoven and Dinosaur
- Release date: September 10, 2021
- Platforms: Xbox Series X | S, Xbox One, & PC
The Artful Escape trailer
A gaming drug trip without comparison
Assuming the role of Francis Vendetti, a hometown musician struggling to escape the shadow of his legendary uncle, it’s your job to help the budding rockstar discover not only his purpose, but his passion.
What begins in a small American town quickly evolves into a grand, cosmic adventure. From the quietudes of his neighborhood the night before a big show, to the loud, unrelenting locales you’ll visit in pursuit of Francis’ identity, The Artful Escape moves from one beautifully rendered scene to another.
No matter how small or seemingly insignificant an area may be, creativity can be felt bursting at the seams of every frame. It’s the type of painstakingly detailed game where pausing in any given moment could land you a gorgeous new wallpaper.
Each new environment is distinct from the last, giving you something completely new to drool over with each chunk of the three-to-four-hour experience. This boundless ingenuity extends to everything from character design to dialogue as well.
You’ll mingle with incomprehensible creatures, stumble upon mind-boggling architecture, and float through dream-like landscapes, all with a guitar in hand.
It’s this phenomenal design, backed by a star-studded cast featuring the likes of Mark Strong and Lena Headey, that will draw you in and keep your eyes glued to the screen.
However, not everything is sunshine and rainbows throughout the unapologetically original title.
A far cry from the bog-standard gaming experience
Arguably the greatest strength of The Artful Escape is its creativity. This emphasis on the audiovisual stimuli does come with its setbacks in terms of actual game design, though.
There was one particular moment that stood out early into the experience as a prompt appeared on screen, asking me to hold a button down in order to “jam with the environment.”
That’s a real function and surprisingly one of the only tasks that repeats throughout the game. Unfortunately, the game doesn’t ask much of you beyond simple inputs of that variety.
Core mechanics in The Artful Escape boil down to moving from left to right, occasionally jumping, and shredding through a handful of guitar battles. These quasi-combat sequences are the pillars of each region, but they’re effectively nothing more than simple bouts of Simon Says.
Once you’ve ventured through the first area and knocked off your first musical challenge, you’ve all but played everything the game has to offer.
There’s nothing new in terms of physical input beyond this point. Therefore, it’s easy for the remainder of the journey to grow somewhat monotonous.
Rather than properly engaging with the title and feeling as though you’re playing an impactful role, it can come across as more of a playable art gallery at times. Walking across the screen is often the only thing you have to think about while watching the wonderful artwork come to life.
It left me wishing there was a little more game to the game. Obviously overdoing it with proper combat, XP systems, or even a death feature would have an adverse effect and more than likely ruin the flow.
But the occasional puzzle, platforming challenge, or the like, would have gone a long way to keep it all engaging.
The Artful Escape certainly won’t tick all the boxes for everyone that comes through. It’s an abstract title that isn’t afraid to go against the grain in every capacity. From the visuals down to the actual mechanics, it’s unlike anything else on the market.
But for that exact reason, it’s absolutely an experience worth your time.
Creativity to this degree is rare in the modern gaming industry and therefore, The Artful Escape shouldn’t go amiss.
Reviewed on Xbox Series X