In The Artful Escape, by Beethoven & Dinosaur, you play the role of Francis Vendetti, a guitarist looking for a muse to inspire him on the night before his first performance.
I will downright admit that I had little-to-no context as to what is going on within Francis’ musical (and often alien) universe when starting the demo at PAX South 2020 this past weekend. There were creatures amidst water-drenched environments that were as beautiful as they were interesting, each reacting to the strum of my guitar. If this musical journey is meant to be just a dreamlike scenario in Francis’ mind, I want to buy front row tickets to his first show.
Gameplay comes down to simple platforming, such as running, jumping or double-jumping and doing mid-air dashing with the help of a blast of energy from your glowing electric guitar. As you move through each colorful and awe-inspiring environment, painted with both a physical brilliance of light, a creative representation of life and a hint of madness that all good musicians have, you discover a defining song that reverberates throughout every atom of this world. You can certainly choose to play or not play your guitar as you move through the level, but doing so amplifies the world around you and brings it to life both in sound and colorful reaction.
At various checkpoints, you will come across intriguing behemoths that will play in accord with your own instrument, offering a call and response mini-game where you use the controller to shred specific notes that activate sequences and unroll a melody from their humble assembly. As you continue your play, the song comes to a crescendo and crashes through the sound barrier, offering a triumphant ending to each ballad. If you happen to misstep and play a wrong note, you are given an opportunity to correct your mistake with a repeat of that last ‘call’, offering no fail states that I noticed and quickly bringing you back to constructing your musical masterpiece.
The music itself caters more to the classical genre, while obviously offering a rock-leaning take on such exemplary works. I didn’t experience any vocals that I recall in the demo, and even though the aliens I concerted with belted in synthesized notes, there weren’t any lyrics to speak of. The experience of the music alone, controllable by your actions, makes for a large part of what makes The Artful Escape so transcendental. While it would be hard to describe the game at first take to a friend, once the controller is in your hand, the music washes over you and offers you a unique journey, unlike anything I’ve ever played before.
If wailing on a guitar through several mysterious and ‘artful’ worlds whilst enveloping yourself in a musical embodiment of visual splendor seems like your kind of thing, then be sure to check out The Artful Escape, anticipated to launch later this year.