The Artful Escape transported me to a strange snowy wonderland of glittering pink trees and strange, musical monsters.
I sat down with a short demo at E3, and thorough enjoyed my time with this simple, artistic platformer. It tells the story of a teenage boy who is trying to get out from under the shadow of his folk singer uncle — who developer Johnny Galvatron described as a Bob Dylan figure.
“Everyone in the town has these different expectations for Francis, and it’s why he goes off on this journey.” That journey is one that he described as David Bowie discovering his stage persona: Ziggy Stardust.
“Something that interests me a lot is the peripheries of art,” Galvatron told me. “Which is, like, not David Bowie’s music, but the world he created, and the story he created to inform and elevate his music. Or Andy Warhol — not his art, but the scene that he created around his factories.”
The Artful Escape certainly creates a scene. Sometimes it was hard to keep my eyes on the character I was controlling, because all I wanted to do was take in the beautiful layered backdrops.
Galvatron drew inspiration from films that use lateral tracking shots, such as the work of Wes Anderson. As you run through these alien landscapes, ambient music sets the stage.
The main character, a boy named Francis, can summon a fantastic glowing guitar, which he strums to power his jumps over larger obstacles. The electric wail of the guitar seamlessly accents the background music. It’s a trick that could only be pulled off by a musician. Fortunately, Galvatron is one, and he’s joined in development by Josh Abrahams, who co-produced the Moulin Rouge! soundtrack with Baz Luhrmann.
‘It’s tricky to make, because nothing can ever be dissonant, and you always have to have the guitar be pulled out at any time,” Galvatron said. In the level I played, I soon encountered a multidimensional creature, a ball of eyes and legs and fur, who wanted to play a duet with me.
It was a simple “Simon says” sequence, where the creature’s ... parts would light up, corresponding to buttons that I needed to press on my controller. Francis whaled away on his guitar when I did. At points, the creature would join in with harmonies.
The gameplay that I experienced couldn’t be called challenging, but it felt satisfying and looked really fucking cool. I was left wanting to meander my way through the world of The Artful Escape, and take a lot of screenshots along the way.
Check out the video at the top of the post for my impressions of The Artful Escape, and make sure you don’t miss anything else on our YouTube channel!