Quick Look – The Artful Escape (#JustOnePercent 84/100)

Developer: Beethoven and Dinosaur
Release Date: September 9, 2021
MSRP: $19.99

Going into The Artful Escape, I really had pretty much no idea what to expect. If I had a million years to make guesses, however, I don’t think I ever would have come up with anything close to what it is. It’s part coming of age story, part psychedelic platformer, with musical Simon-style mini games. Even after an hour of play, I still have no idea how to feel about it, because for me, none of the elements are strong enough to recommend the game by themselves, but when you put it all together, it’s really something rather strange and lovely.

Since I’m playing this one through XBox Game Pass, I’m playing with keyboard & mouse at my desk. However, it’s a “controller recommended” game, and it’s easy to see why – some of the key press combinations you do pretty frequently are a bit awkward on keyboard. Unfortunately, the game is currently listed as being Unsupported on the Steam Deck (which, I think for me would be the absolutely perfect vehicle for it), although there are reports of it working well on ProtonDB.

While the opening tutorial section of the game is outright dull, it picks up pretty quickly. And by picks up, I mean gets super duper weird but in all of the best ways. Both the writing and the voice acting is very well done, but the art is where The Artful Escape really shines. In fact, I’m grateful that most parts of the game aren’t too challenging, because I’ve lost count at the number of times I’ve stopped to just gawk at the scenery.

I think I’d like to go back and play more of this one – it will likely take less than five hours to finish – but it’s days on Game Pass are limited, as it’s already listed in the Leaving Soon section. At that length, it doesn’t bother me much that it feels very gameplay-light, but if you’re looking for something that has stimulating or challenging game play, you should probably give this one a pass. However, if you’re intrigued by the trippy aesthetic and a bit of an exploration of strange worlds and personal identity, this one might be worth putting on the wish list, or playing through on Game Pass before it’s gone.

SteamDB estimates that The Artful Escape has sold between 19,400 and 53,500 copies on Steam. Reviews are almost all positive, with the few negative reviews primarily focusing on lack of game play elements. It is ranked 341 out of 10,967 games released in 2021.

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