The Artful Escape | game review
Wailing while wandering weird worlds.
Game summary: In an attempt to escape the musical legacy of his uncle, a teenage guitar prodigy embarks on a psychedelic journey to inspire his new stage persona, searching for who he isn’t in an adventure spanning stolen opera houses, melodic alien landscapes, and the impossible depths of the Cosmic Extraordinary. (Xbox.com)
The Artful Escape is a game I would've almost certainly passed over if it wasn't on Game Pass, but ended up having a fair amount of fun with it, even if it does feel quite limited at times despite it's strange sights. I would still say to either give it a go on Game Pass or get it on sale otherwise, unless you're someone who does prefer more casual games to experience rather than look for a challenge.
First things first, I really the visual style of the game. The animation is quite limited, but it fits with the exaggerated, cartoony art style and never feels like a drawback - in fact, more realistic animation would've been a real mismatch when taking into account some of the stranger places you visit and characters you meet. Going for realism in games isn't a necessity, after all - just look at how well Nintendo keep doing.
But the real standout has to be the music, with a slight caveat of me not knowing much about music other than whether I like it or not - and I love the music in The Artful Escape. Running along while playing on a super-powered electric guitar, lighting up the environment which prompts further bursts of music to add to your own can be great fun at times.
It is a good thing that the audio-visual aesthetic of the game are both great as the gameplay itself is incredibly simple, most often being little more than running from left to right and jumping over gaps or obstacles. Then there are 'Simon Says'-style boss battles, which are only challenging thanks to the art style sometimes being a little too bizarre and making it difficult to figure out which buttons you should be pressing.
And that artistic excess is another criticism for The Artful Escape when it comes to the game as a whole - it does occasionally feel like the game is trying a little too hard to be bizarre, strange, weird or any other synonyms for those words. It all works well enough ninety percent of the time, but that last ten percent can be grating at times and make you wish you could skip over some sections.
The story is also a little at odds with itself, even if I do think it's well executed - figuring out who you are and who you want to be rather than trying to be what other people expect of you is a theme that I don't feel games explore all that often, but it does feel weird centring the story around someone making choices for themselves in a game that is entirely linear and where choices are cosmetic at best.
I really do think that The Artful Escape could cause some polarising reactions, albeit entirely unrelated to the bizarre array of beings, creatures and places you encounter. Instead, it's the incredible simplicity of the game that I think might put off a lot of people due to an almost complete lack of challenge, while also proving a positive for those who just want to have a fun time in a wacky world.
The Artful Escape is an audio-visual treat with a story of following in a famous family member's footsteps, which isn't a subject videogames explore that often, if ever. The (very) simple gameplay will most likely put off those looking for any kind of challenge, although it does make the title highly accessible for non-hardcore players, although the 'wackiness' can feel a little too 'try-hard' at times.