The Artful Escape review (PS4)

When The Artful Escape launched on Xbox and PC last year, it was met with critical acclaim. Now, Annapurna Interactive has brought it to PlayStation as well, and we’re taking a look at the PlayStation 5 version of the game, which was developed by Beethoven and Dinosaur – clearly one of the best developer names yet.

Interestingly, the game’s director also happens to be the lead singer for the Australian rock band The Galvatrons, so it’s no surprise that The Artful Escape has a strong music theme to it. You play as a talented guitar played called Francis Vendetti, and as a teenager you’re just getting ready to play your very first show and start shaping your on stage persona – though you’re nervous about living up to the reputation of your famous uncle, a folk music legend.

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And while that could be the setup for a game in a number of genres, perhaps something like Life is Strange, we didn’t expect this narrative-driven adventure to be full of aliens, travels across the galaxy and even some platforming elements. Yet that’s what you get here, as Francis is invited by extraterrestrials to go out and play at venues all over the galaxy in a journey that’s as much about traveling the stars as it is about self-discovery and feeling confident about one’s own identity.

Despite that serious undertone, and the fact that this is a story with a message to share, The Artful Escape doesn’t forget to be a fun gameplay experience as well, and it has plenty of well-written comedic scenes in addition to Francis’ more personal journey. All of that comes alive thanks to the voice talents of an excellent cast, which includes Carl Weathers (Rocky, Predator and The Mandalorian), Lena Headey (Game of Thrones) and Mark Strong (Zero Dark Thirty). It’s an impressive cast, and they all put in great performances here.

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The Artful Escape is relatively low on “traditional” gameplay though, and from that perspective it’s a blessing that the game has a somewhat short runtime of only four to five hours. For much of the game you’re just walking to the right to progress, engaging in light platforming or battling – which are really fun guitar duels that you’ll come across at regular intervals. But as much fun as these sequences are, if you were to strip away the narrative elements and the excellent audiovisual design work, then this would be a rather bland experience.

Luckily, it is far from that, and across the game’s runtime you’ll see a stellar display of creativity in alien designs, great set pieces and beautiful landscapes – and that’s not even mentioning the soundtrack, which as you’d expect is full of music, ranging from subtle mood-setting tracks to powerful rock music. Add a memorable cast of characters and engaging storyline, and you’ve got an intergalactic adventure well worth exploring, especially when you consider the budget-friendly price point at which it’s being sold.

Score: 7.8/10

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