Long years after the announcement, The Artful Escape of Francis Vendetti by the Australian Beethoven & Dinosaur is finally among us and this is without a doubt another sensational example of how the indie side of this industry can be its most creative. Definitely the most unpredictable. This is a platform game in which you basically run, jump and play guitar, a gameplay proposal that is different from practically anything you’ve played before. However, despite such an injection of cosmic adrenaline in his veins, The Artful Escape is another one of those cases where he ventures into the videogame concept and which can be more easily seen as an interactive experience.
Born from the mind of Johnny “Galvatron”, a musician with experience in computer animation, The Artful Escape is a mixture of his two passions, music and video games, and it’s easy to see why this game has such a specific aesthetic sense and a sonic irreverence that focuses on the release of music and its ability to make you travel. According to him, the game was inspired by the concept of imagining David Bowie leaving London in a special spaceship to meet the Ziggy Stardust personality and his sound, creating the iconic album from there. This is basically what happens in the game, an unknown musician named Francis Vendetti, who has the burden of carrying his family’s Folk legacy, but in his soul lies an irreverent spirit of cosmic guitars.
On the eve of his first concert, Vendetti is visited by a cosmic creature who calls him to embark on a memorable journey through the cosmos, to find his sound, his personality and play to crowds spread across the galaxies. Your role will be to accompany the guitars through which Vendetti releases his true personality and triggers his hyper music in the universe. In the meantime, while trying to discover his sound and find within himself the strength to assert his personality in cosmic rock, Vendetti will face mythical creatures that only a few have personally encountered and these boss battles promise to shake the stars.
This masterful cosmic journey is accomplished through incredibly simple gameplay, so simple that you can put The Artful Escape in the batch of interactive experiences if you like. The focus was on the audiovisual experience and it demarcates itself precisely for that reason. This is a highly simple side-scrolling platformer where for the little more than 3 hours it takes to finish it you’ll be running through the scenery until you reach the next point where the narrative advances. In between you can jump and play guitar to transform the scene with galactic riffs and enhance the visual experience.
Even boss fights, where you have to repeat the sounds played by creatures that need to be convinced of your talent and rebellious spirit, are simple and easy. The button patterns (5 buttons) are very easy to repeat and we can say that The Artful Escape is devoid of any sense of difficulty. That is not its purpose.
Following the surreal narrative, following the transformative journey of a mere human who traverses the cosmos trying to escape the Folk family legacy and find an electrifying and cosmic sound, and watching the transformation of scenarios in real time is what helps differentiate The Artful Escape . The atmosphere, soundtrack, locations and gameplay moments reveal an excellent level of sonic and artistic knowledge that helps keep you entertained from the first to the last minute. In addition, you have universal themes, such as self-discovery, trying to escape a pre-determined destiny and the search for a higher purpose. Elevated to a cosmic level.
The Artful Escape is a game, an interactive experience, if you like, short, extremely simple and without any difficulty, but in return it gives you a spectacular audiovisual journey. Following Francis Vendetti’s journey is almost mesmerizing, from the first to the last minute. I felt that few games can boast such a sense of style and sound manipulation as part of their essence to convey an artistic tone. If boss fights were really boss fights, it could be an even better title, but it’s still a feel-good game with a crazy personality.