The Artful Escape is the wonderfully magical narrative-based game from developer Annapurna Interactive that has helped put them back on the map. Its heartwarming narrative about being yourself coupled with its glorious soundtrack and host of colourful and charming characters makes it a truly mesmerising experience.
However, this game about travelling the cosmos, flying a ship called the Cosmic Lung, leaping and bounding through the Cosmic Extraordinary and being interviewed by an alien about your insecurities may seem a little overwhelming at first. Fear not, as with a few tips and tricks, know-how and fun pieces of advice you'll find yourself swept along for the ride in no time.
5 It's Very Story Heavy
The Artful Escape is predominately focused on delivering a meaningful and impactful narrative and as a result, doesn't offer much in the way of gameplay. You can play your guitar at practically any moment, and occasionally have to play a repeat-after-me style game, but for the majority of your experience, you'll be talking to NPCs or told the story visually.
However, the game's lack of gameplay is not to its detriment. In fact, its focus on conveying a strong and heartfelt narrative ensures that it never gets bogged down by mindless gameplay conventions. You'll get to explore fantastical worlds and meet interesting characters, especially in the latter stages of the game, and often enough it more than makes up for any missing gameplay features. However, it is worth mentioning that the first hour or so could be considered slow. While strumming your acoustic guitar to play folk songs about depressed miners isn't as fun, it does add considerably to the story. But fear not the aliens and electrifying guitar solos are on their way.
4 Keep Playing That Guitar
One of the main gameplay components of The Artful Escape is exploration. Throughout its relatively short runtime, you'll get to visit a number of fantastical and visually stunning locales. While exploration is entirely linear, simply going from left to right with some minor platforming in between, there is the option to start riffing on your guitar the moment you start walking. You can do this with a simple button press, and by holding it down you'll start playing in tune to the ambient score.
There isn't any form of penalty to just wailing on your guitar the entire time, and while the ambient score is fantastic on its own, it feels as if it has been written with your guitar solo in mind. While there are definitely some moments that perhaps require some quiet contemplation, for the most part, you should be playing your guitar as much as possible. It'll greatly heighten your experience and will make it that much more electrifying.
3 Just Be Yourself
The Artful Escape's hero, Francis Vendetti, is by far one of the greatest indie game protagonists. His journey of self-discovery, of learning who he's not to discover who he is, is incredible. However, despite the game's narrative being incredibly focused and impactful, it offers plenty of opportunities to players who wish to insert themselves into the story. Its varied and moving themes are relatable and the plethora of options it gives you allows you to shape the story in the way that means the most to you.
The Artful Escape is best enjoyed when you're treating the wonderful Francis Vendetti as yourself. While of course the narrative can be enjoyed with some distance between you and the protagonist, by inserting yourself into the narrative through the game's many moments of reflection and choice you'll have a more heightened experience.
2 Timing Is Everything
When you're not exploring fantastical worlds or relaxing in the Cosmic Lung's lounge, you'll likely be tackling the game's boss fights. While the term "boss fight" does feel a little inaccurate, you will be facing off against certain characters in a repeat-after-me style game. Your opponent will play certain notes in a specific order, and it's your job to memorise it and play it back. However, timing is everything in this mini-game. While you may play the correct notes in the correct order, if you rush a note too soon you'll fail.
Fortunately, you can't really fail this mini-game as your opponent will just replay the same notes until you get it right. You can also wait as long as you want, and there's even an achievement tied to doing so. However, making sure that you not only hit the right notes but in the right tempo is incredibly important. It will save you from having to repeat the same part and will ensure that the song continues to flow.
1 Get Ready To Take A Lot Of Screenshots
The Artful Escape has some truly scenic views. So many of its varied locations are masterfully brought to life through its gorgeous art style. Its lavish design and impressive set pieces are what makes it one of the best indie games to play on the Xbox One. However, if you're not quick enough, it'll flash by in an exhilarating spectacle.
While during most sequences you could stop and capture a screenshot, in doing so you'd ruin the flow of the music and scene. Having one finger hovering over the screenshot button is a good idea if you plan on capturing a lot of what The Artful Escape has to offer. There's so much beauty here that you almost certainly will want to snap a screenshot or two.
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