Welcome to the next chapter of the “indie game spotlight,” where this time, we’ll be taking a look at yet another gorgeous indie game. Before we start, if you weren’t aware, indie games are small-budget games developed by mostly independent studios. These games are, in a way, the bread and butter of the industry. They’re short and offer some of the most unique experiences you’ll come across, with a ton of heart and creativity poured into them. Today’s game is “The Artful Escape.”
What Is ‘The Artful Escape’?
Developed by Beethoven and Dinosaur, “The Artful Escape” is a 2D platformer that takes the form of a cosmic musical odyssey across the galaxy. Here, you play as Francis Vendetti, a young aspiring musician living in the quaint and fictional mountain town of Calypso, Colorado. Calypso is known for the legend surrounding one person, the now-late Johnson Vendetti, a folk music legend from back in the 1970s. The town is holding a concert on the 20th anniversary of his debut album, where Francis is expected to make his musical debut and cement his legacy as a legendary folk musician as well, just like his uncle.
There is a problem, however: Francis is not into folk music and is pressuring himself into believing that he is while he gets burdened by the weight of expectations that everyone has put on his shoulders. Less than a day away from the concert is where the game begins, and Francis can be seen on a hilltop, contemplating his decision to perform, where he meets a woman named Violetta who challenges him to dare do the things he is afraid of doing. Before they part ways and Francis goes back to his house, Violetta asks him to go to Lightman’s in Calypso, and Francis, who has spent his entire life in this town, doesn’t know of a place called Lightman’s that exists in Calypso.
We learn that Francis is into rock and roll and is not too fond of folk music like his uncle, and he gets epiphanies or daydreams about the wonders of the cosmos. Later that night, Francis is visited by an alien named Zomm, who introduces him to Lightman, who isn’t a place but a person. Lightman informs Francis that he’ll be his opening act for the Glamourgonn, and they embark on a journey across the cosmos. I know all of this sounds incredibly weird and all over the place, but that’s what it aimed to be, and good lord, it’s a journey you’ll remember.
The game is a 2D platformer, as I mentioned, but it’s unlike any you’ll ever play. The 2D art style and character models come to life thanks to immaculate and stunning lighting and incredible dialogue, and voice acting. Francis wields a cosmic guitar throughout the journey, which you can shred for as long as you like with just the press of a button, and the environments light up and come to life as you move across them, playing your tunes. The general gameplay is nothing to write home about, with simple movement that takes you from the left side of the screen to the right, and that’s about the extent of it. Everything here looks like it was ripped straight out of an acid trip, with its flashy colors, weird yet cool and funky art, and incredible lighting. The highlight of the gameplay will have to go to the jam sessions, which act like games of Simon says where you get button prompts that the person you are jamming with is playing so you can match them and harmonize with their melodies and make a wonderful song. It’s all hard to describe but very simple in practice.
The cast for this game is also extremely star-studded, with the likes of Lena Headey, Jason Schwartzman, Carl Weathers, Courtney Taylor, and more delivering incredible lines throughout. I can’t emphasize enough how gorgeous this game and its art style are. Everything looks so stunning, the environments you visit are all one of a kind and spectacular, and the lighting is the creme de la creme bringing it all together. It goes without saying that since this game is all about music, the music here is fantastic, with incredible rock and roll tunes throughout the journey. The story in question is all quite fun to unravel as you see Francis starting from a timid and unsure boy to becoming a rockstar of the cosmic scale. I just wish there was more to its gameplay other than just crazy visuals and a fantastic soundtrack, but I digress, this game delivers what it promised, and it works.
This is “The Artful Escape” in a nutshell. A stunning 2D platformer with incredible talent, a story that you dare not question but simply enjoy, and simple gameplay that works in the context of this game. That brings the question:
Should You Play ‘The Artful Escape’?
Absolutely, 100% yes. The greatness of this game lies not in its gameplay but in its presentation, which still leaves me awestruck. How someone can make something so simple yet so beautiful is beyond me. Everything here is incredible, and the voice acting deserves special praise if you ask me.
As for the completion, the game will take you roughly 4-5 hours to beat, and if you wish to 100% it, then fret not; you’ll get around 90% of its completion just by beating it, with only a couple of missing but simple achievements that you can easily go back and get using the chapter select. The only thing holding this experience back from being nigh perfect is how minimal it is in terms of gameplay, as they went all out on presentation, but then again, that’s what the game wanted to be, and that’s what it is, and there’s nothing wrong with that.
“The Artful Escape” is available for $19.99 for the PlayStation 5 and 4, Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One, and PC, and was part of Xbox Game Pass until recently. Short, sweet, and charismatic—that’s what this game is, and you should totally check it out.