At final there’s a brand new Guitar Hero recreation, solely this one doesn’t require you to mud off the pile of plastic peripherals you’ve lengthy since stashed on a shelf in your storage. A musical voyage of private discovery for its axe-wielding star, Francis Vendetti, The Artful Escape is a narrative-pushed platforming journey that weaves in gentle rhythm recreation mechanics as you blaze fiery riffs by way of cosmic rifts throughout the universe and again once more. Inspired intergalactic environments, a charmingly quirky solid, and a few sparklingly grandiose guitarwork propel The Artful Escape into what turns into a genuinely magical thriller tour.
Although it options quite a few beasts from different worlds to confront alongside the best way, the most important villain in The Artful Escape takes the type of a demon that I discovered way more relatable than any evil alien risk; Francis’ personal sense of self doubt. With the shadow of his profitable people singing uncle looming giant over his nascent musical profession, Francis struggles with the stress of making an attempt to be one thing he’s not as he prepares to make his onstage debut at a musical competition in his hometown of Calypso, Colorado. He isn’t turned on by the humdrum of the common-or-garden strum; for him, the most effective tonic is a freshly shredded pentatonic. The sense of catharsis is palpable as you ‘press X to shred a sci-fi guitar odyssey’ throughout The Artful Escape’s opening moments and rip some sizzling licks on a hilltop that make the Rocky Mountains rock even more durable.
From there, it felt as if I’d been whisked away into the pleasantly peculiar within a Wes Anderson movie, albeit one with considerably extra aliens. The Artful Escape doesn’t simply characteristic the placing lateral digicam monitoring photographs and delightfully deadpan line supply from the likes of The Grand Budapest Hotel or The Darjeeling Limited, it additionally includes a splendidly offbeat Jason Schwartzman-style character… who simply occurs to be voiced by Jason Schwartzman. It’s his character of Zomm, successfully a floating mind in a jar from outer house, who visits Francis in the midst of the night time, equips him with a holographic guitar and matching Tron jumpsuit, and sends him on his first interplanetary steps towards his transformation from awkward espresso store shoegazer to Ziggy Stardust-like musical trailblazer.
Over the course of the ensuing four-hour rock opera I met an assortment of fantastically flamboyant interstellar beings, from a likeably carefree cosmic entity voiced by Game of Thrones’ Lena Headey, to an extraterrestrial jazz club owner who only speaks in saxophone. My favourite of them all was Francis’ musical mentor, Lightman, a cross between Chuck Berry and Doc Brown who’s voiced with real verve by ‘80s action star Carl Weathers. The perpetually baffled but always endearingly enthused performance of Francis himself, voiced by Teen Wolf’s Michael Johnston, served as the perfect foil to the contrasting eccentricities of each oddball character I encountered.
Despite no shortage of hilarious dialogue options, Francis isn’t on an intergalactic journey just to chat, and indeed outside of a couple of key hub areas The Artful Escape mostly lets his fingers do the talking. A dedicated shred button allows him to solo away as you stroll through each alien world, performing mid-air split kicks and triumphant knee-slides with enough youthful exuberance to make Angus Young seem positively Angus Ancient. Francis’ ongoing fretboard frenzy is buoyed by shimmering sci-fi synths and driving drum beats that keep The Artful Escape’s soundtrack at a persistent level of air-punching ‘80s arena rock euphoria.
Annapurna Interactive Showcase 2021 Screenshots – The Artful Escape
There’s no real gameplay advantage to any of this six-string showboating, since you can quietly saunter your way through each simple platforming section if you’d prefer and not get penalised, but to do so would be to completely ignore what makes The Artful Escape so special; it’s a platformer that emphasises performance over precision. Francis’ electric guitar playing literally lights up the world around him, illuminating every neon street light he duckwalks past and awakening alien fauna that pulse to the music like they’re some kind of organic graphic equalizers. Impressive audio trickery means that even if you stop playing for a moment, Francis’ shredding remains perfectly in sync with the underlying soundtrack when you pick it back up, which helps maintain a seamlessness to the ongoing spectacle.
I found myself in a near-constant state of bliss, whether I was taking an on-rails boat ride through a day-glo diorama like some sort of widdly-widdly Willy Wonka, or being chased by an airship along the top of a psychedelic cityscape seemingly ripped straight from The Beatles’ Yellow Submarine. In The Artful Escape, each new world’s a stage and every level is a laser-powered light show, and there wasn’t a single wailing wander that I took through it all that didn’t make my jaw drop and my face melt as though I’d just taken a quick gander inside the Ark of the Covenant.
Admittedly, The Artful Escape’s gameplay isn’t given the same amount of development as Francis’ evolving onstage persona or the ever-changing pyrotechnics around him. Often, you have to indulge in call-and-response musical duels with certain characters, turning back-and-forths with giant, interdimensional moth monsters into a game of Simon Shreds. But these rhythm-based mini-games, which require the memorisation of sequences built around five different button presses, don’t really scale in complexity from the opening tutorial to the spectacular final performance. Their simple nature certainly keeps the whole thing flowing, but while The Artful Escape’s dazzling musical showdowns look and sound unique, they also feel a bit samey.
But for the most part, I was too busy enjoying the sweetly picked notes to start picking nits, and I was content to just course along the surging waves of boundless hypercoloured creativity without really caring about the absence of any traditional increase in challenge. At one stop along the journey, Francis finds himself in an alien recording studio with a producer named Stargordon, who offers to provide a more “mountainous” reverb on the guitar observe. At that time, all of the partitions fall off and the studio is rocket-propelled into the air above an alpine expanse the place each observe you play is accompanied by beams of sunshine blasted out of the mouths of a marching herd of dinosaur skeletons. It’s as breathtaking as it’s completely bonkers, and it was simply considered one of many sequences in The Artful Escape that left me feeling utterly giddy.
That’s along with the various smaller particulars, from the outlets in Calypso which have in-joke names like ‘Plant & Page: Exotic Flora and Books’ to the quantity sliders within the audio menu that every go to 11. The creators of The Artful Escape have a reverence for rock and roll, and it’s evident in nearly each side of the expertise.