Around an hour into The Artful Escape, we were absolutely in awe of what was on display. It was an assault on the sense, both visually and through its audio, absolutely engrossing us in its musical odyssey. It was a moment that was perhaps our favourite of the entire year, perfectly encapsulating the reason why we play games. Annapurna Interactive's latest published effort is one of the most unique adventures you'll go on all year, despite its shortcomings.
The story sees you in the role of Francis Vendetti, a folk singer who is trapped under the shadow of his late uncle, someone who was considered a musical legend. In all honesty, Francis isn't interested in performing folk music, but instead has a love for sci-fi and the strange sounds that accompany it. What ensues is a magical, cosmic journey across the galaxy as he discovers himself and attempts to step out of the shadow that everyone has cast over him.
It's a beautifully told narrative, one that plucks the heartstrings and is easily relatable towards. It's humorously told, with likeable, strange characters that you meet across the cosmos. It's further enhanced with stellar vocal work from the likes of Lena Headey and Mark Strong. While it doesn't necessarily land every beat and loses some momentum occasionally, it reaches some of the highest highs we've seen in a game all year.
The Artful Escape is less a game and more of an experience. At times it feels like a music video that's come to life, and honestly, it works. Our favourite moments, which we won't spoil, involved no dialogue and instead allowed the music to tell the story. There's a few, what we consider, setpieces, which throw absolutely everything at you with loud, orchestral music and stunning visuals that you're jaw will drop with what's on display. It's also perhaps the prettiest game we've ever played.
Where The Artful Escape falls short is its lack of providing anything truly engaging for the player to do. While we absolutely loved the experience as a whole, we did come away hoping for a bit more in terms of its gameplay. Outside of talking to people, walking around and doing a few jumps, there's not much to it. You compete in music battles against enemies, but all this comes down to is copying the button prompts on the screen. With some more engaging gameplay beats, The Artful Escape really could have been something special, but it just falls short.
It's also worth mentioning there are some substantial performance issues. The frame rate dropped considerably fairly often, pulling us out of its gorgeous world. There were also a few occasions where dialogue on the screen was not voiced, which felt very odd. However, these issues aside, The Artful Escape is absolutely an adventure worth taking. It contains some magical moments, an engaging narrative and the best soundtrack in a game all year. It doesn't always hit the mark, but when it does, it smashes it out of the park.
I wasn't really thinking about trying this one out, but this review has made me think it might be right up my street (given I loved Last Stop which doesn't really have much gameplay either!).
@Flurbdurb was this reviewed on an XSX / XSS or Xbox One? Guessing the former, but hoping the performance issues are minimal for the newer consoles...
As @Xenomorph_79 says though, hopefully these will be patched soon - so maybe I'll just take it slow to start with.
@Widey85 This was on Xbox Series X unfortunately 😕 hopefully they’re sorted ASAP! Not sure about it’s performance on other Xbox consoles I’m afraid!
@Flurbdurb thanks for confirming - I'm on XSX too.
Fingers crossed its sorted soon, I'll probably give it a go anyway and take it slow till they patch it
Psychonauts 3 looks dope af.
Thanks for the tip, will check it out later
Looks quirky, I'll check it out!
@Widey85 I actually had a good time with Last Stop too. It just was something different, which was a good thing. I wiil look at this one as well ...
@Pusher2021 Yep I thought I'd prefer Paper Dolls over the others and not like Meera due to her behaviour, but it made me care about all 3 stories by the end and I felt genuine emotion in many parts - ranging from happy and really enjoying the pub jam with Jack and John to devastation for some other bits.
The TV series format worked well - swapping stories kept it fresh, and they were bitesize enough to keep you hooked for just one more...
Maybe Xbox could give it a bit more of a push. After reading this, I went to download it, but it wasn’t in the ‘recently added’ bit and I only found it in the complete game pass list.
It looks like a must-try at the very least and Game Pass is perfect for that.
I'm up to the first achievement atm, and yes so far it's very stylish, very different and pretty cool
I just fired this up and I love it already, just sitting here listening to the title song 🤣 I love Gamepass for at least giving us different and varied games to play like this.
9/10 from me. Really great experience. Really great work by the artists. The musicians, the designers, the voice actors.
I just adore this “experience” Its more like an interactive movie than a game. But one that I enjoyed from beginning to end. Perfection
I'm going to have a short opening in between games between Mass Effect 2 and Kena on the PS5, so this could fill that void that I will likely need until Tuesday since I'm almost done with Mass Effect 2 and this is pretty short. Downloading it now.
Just finished this and what an amazing experience!
Just finished it now - great game, the "repeat the button sequence" music bits were forgiving as were the odd jumps you had to make (and I say this as someone who hates actual platformers, has zero coordination and poor response times!) and the music that plays when you jam is pretty cool.
The story is nuts but surprisingly draws you in and you're invested by the end, the characters are great (with some major voice talent) and the art style is beautiful
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