The Artful Escape

released on Sep 09, 2021

On the eve of his first performance, Francis Vendetti battles with the legacy of a dead folk legend and the cosmic wanderings of his own imagination. In this 2D adventure platformer, Francis, a teenage guitar prodigy, sets out on a psychedelic, multidimensional journey to inspire his stage persona.

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The Artful Escape is a weird game, but I enjoyed it. There's not much to the gameplay. Which is fine. Every game doesn't need to have complex controls to be good. The story pretty much boiled down to a young teenager trying to find himself and make his own lane in life. Something a lot of us can relate to. This game is an easy recommend as long as you don't go in with the expectations of being blown away.

The electric guitar is the best instrument

Have you ever felt like you couldn't met expectations of the ideals projected on you? Do you find yourself wanting to express yourself, and you don't know how? Well, The Artful Escape gives a neat little rock opera vibe to these questions in a fun no stakes rhythm platformer.
While ultimately The Artful Escape is all about the journey, and none about the performance, it does give the player enough tools to express themselves in a subtle way. From the overall pacing to how often you strum on your guitar to eventually dressing your character up and naming them. The Artful Escape really is all about the vibe of it all, and while sometimes you need to do some Simon Says type mini-games, it's vastly there to show you a bigger world and express how a person should find their way.
The Artful Escape is also brimmed with fantastic visuals, and colorful dialogue. Often what the game lacks in challenge is made up for by the visuals the game has to offer. From the way various characters are designed to how levels are fashioned through out; it really just makes you want to play the game more to see what kind of neat and weird thing come next. If there is really one thing that can described this game, it's a fever dream, and I think that makes it worth the experience.

"Is This Really What We Settle For?"
"The Artful Escape" did not give me a good first impression from its trailer - it felt immature, too whimsical to provide a coherent plot point, and looked to have a far too simplistic gameplay loop. Alas, trailers can indeed mislead, so I decided to forget all of that and try the darn game out myself...and I absolutely loved it! Well, for the first hour or so...
This game is not good. You're likely already seeing the effect this game had on my sanity throughout the introduction of this review, but I pretty much felt like I was being subjected to torture through the medium in a way I haven't really experienced before. See, the game misleads you with its marketing in order to make you think it is cliche, then it runs you down with a GREAT opening sequence. You'll think to yourself, "This is something special! The art is really solid, the characters aren't too shabby, and listening to guitar solos rules!".
And then it gets pretentious.
Look, this game says a whole lot of nothing about what it means to be an artist, what the depths of a life-changing journey can do to a person, and what individualism at its core really is. Characters have no real reason for existing, the narrative AND plot both lack a sense of seriousness, and the humor is lazy and surface level without exploring the medium of music with much depth. All this is going on while in the background, the gameplay literally devolves into holding the right stick in a direction, occasionally talking to a character, and playing a f*ckin Simon Says guitar game.
Without its albeit pleasing aesthetic, this game would be a dumpster fire of contrived character interactions, lazy worldbuilding, and piss-poor repetitive music. Yet even the art style is shallow and soulless. Sure, it LOOKS good, but there isn't really a sequence where the game utilizes its art style for deepening the plot, showcasing its universe with nuance, or really painting anything as truly alive (at least in a somewhat believable sense). It's basically all spectacle without a sense of substance.
Now if you enjoyed the game or enjoy games like this, don't worry - I'm not here to demean you (even though internet opinions ignite pseudo proxy wars every five minutes). I'm really more concerned with why people criticize and analyze games as art so harshly in general, and yet when a game presents itself as something "deep" or "artful" (I mean it's in the friggin' title), there's a massive lack of analysis for its message, game design, and overall presentation besides the fact that the player "found it fun". It's just a question that I guess will haunt me forever while being in love with the medium...
...just like this game will sort of hover over me for a long time in a sort of Freddy Krueger type of way. It haunts me in my dreams, it makes me question reality, and it darn well tried its best to put me to sleep in order to murder me. Well, maybe not so much the last one, but I bet with more time I might uncover more about this "escapist" experience.
Yeah, I don't recommend it.
Final Verdict: 3/10 (Poor)

A fairly nice adventure game that is let down by its muddled message and music that's ironically just not as good as is demanded of a game that lives and dies by the ROCK